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The University of Southampton
Intelligent & Resilient Ocean Engineering – Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging TechnologiesNews and Events

Testing the Waters of Ocean Narratives

Published: 16 September 2022
Ocean Narratives Workshop

An Ocean Narratives Workshop, an interdisciplinary event arising from the first phase of the Ocean Narratives Project, based at the University of Southampton was held on 14 September 2022. Ocean Narratives is a pilot research initiative launched by multi-disciplinary team Susan Gourvenec (Engineering), Stephanie Jones (English), Bindi Shah (Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology), Dina Lupin (Law) and Les Carr (Electronics and Computer Science), following a recent institution-wide Sandpit on Narrative and Storytelling. The project is supported by the Higher Education Innovation Fund, the Web Science Institute, the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute, and the Southampton Institute for Arts and Humanities, with seed funding from the Sandpit enabling global collaborations with Jacqui Ayling, (University of Southampton), Buhle Francis (Rhodes University) and Jiswin Joseph (Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, Kerala, India).


Ocean Narratives Workshop

The aim of the workshop was to share exploratory work towards:

  • the development of new projects relating to disparate data sets; interdisciplinary methods, particularly those related to narratives of any kind; and/or the ocean.
  • next steps for the project teams’ investigation into public narratives and stories about the ocean; how these shape policy and activism; the kinds of narratives that are excluded from policy and law-making processes; the relationship between how the ocean is narrated, and social and environmental justice. 

The pilot study had addressed the question “What ideas of the local and global ocean emerge from comparing social media narratives with a sample of community narrative?”, with a view to deepening the exploration to consider “How could narrative and storytelling about the ocean shape law and policy towards greater social and environmental justice?”

The morning comprised presentations on the various threads of the project. Testimonies about the role of the ocean in 2 Keralan fishing communities and their observations of changes in use of the ocean and ocean health they have witnessed due to for example tourism were presented by Bindi. Case studies from South African communities illustrating ways in which fishing communities characterise and relate to the oceans, and the effects of lack of consultation with local coastal communities in the national and international development agenda, particular in the imposition of marine protected areas (MPAs), was presented by Buhle remotely from South Africa. Jaqui then presented the results of the data mining of digital sources illustrating how the ocean is represented by the main stream media and on the internet, highlighting the corporate dominance of this narrative.

Break out sessions in the afternoon explored additional questions:

  • What (and who) do we mean when we talk about narrative?
  • What is the difference between a narrative and a testimony?
  • How do we continue to bridge the differences in disciplinary approaches and methodologies in projects relating to the oceans.You can read a fuller write up on the workshop on the artful scribe blog?

You can read a fuller write up on the workshop on the artful scribe blog here.

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