This is a blog of early thoughts on my dissertation on art, science and impact in public policy, as part of my MA in Art and Science.
Early dissertation title: The role of art in public discourse(s) around science (alternative: what role is there for art in the use of science in policy-making?)
- An interesting starting point could be situations where we know that science has not been used well in decision-making, for example climate change denial, rejection of MMR vaccinations in the UK. What is the social and political causes of such rejection of evidence?
- Pew Research Center's analysis shows how trust in science is influenced by politics and socioeconomic positions, yet the extent of the variation is depends upon the scientific issue: there is much more variation in attitudues towards climate science than there is, for example, towards space exploration.
- There are useful theories on the role of evidence in policymaking, especially the politics-evidence-delivery framework. See Hallsworth, M. (2011) Policy Making in the Real World: Evidence and Analysis for a fairly traditional analysis, or Kimbell, L. (2015) Applying Design Approaches to Policy Making: Discovering Policy Lab for an analysis which includes the role of design.
- Are there 'known' examples of where art has changed society or resulted in changes in decision-making or policymaking? Is there any analysis of this?
Eliasson, O. and Rosing, M. (2015) Ice Watch, exhibited in the streets around the 2015 Paris conference on climate change. Essay by the authors here. This is a good case study of a large piece of public art aimed at influencing the audience on a particular issue (climate change) which scientists have identified as requiring public policy action. The fact the artwork is outside the art gallery gives it another dimension - doesn't just rely on people finding their way inside an institution which could be viewed as elitist.
Goatley, W. (2017) Breathing Mephitic Air. Wesley Goatley recently produced an installation at Somerset House which used data on local air pollution as the input signals for sounds, visuals and water vapour pumped into the gallery. A good case study as it actually uses air quality data in the formulation of the art work, as well as communicating an important science-public policy issue in itself. In some respects it is a data visualisation, albeit a beautiful, intriguing and engaging one!
Orta, L. and Orta, J. (1995-ongoing) Antarctica World Passport. A long-running project with a number of strands including the ephemeral Antarctic Village, the portrayal of the Antartica flag and then the Passport itself. The Passport was first printed in 2008, and is a impressive artefact indeed. To own a real or virtual Passport and become a 'World Citizen' requires signing up to five principles, including "To act in favour of sustainable development through simple, daily acts", "To defend natural environments under threat, as a global public resource" and so on. As of 17 July, 18175 individuals have signed up. This is an impressive - the question for my research is whether such reach translates into policy and public change?
Beckmann, S. (ongoing) Sistemas Efímeros. Is it an artwork? Or more an art-research collaborative project, at Joya in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Andalusia (also see first image shown). Beckmann's observations, drawings and cultural research have laid the platform for an improved understanding of the headwaters of the ‘Rambla del Cajar’ catchment area in Cortijada Los Gázquez, and specifically past land management processes. These land management processes both retained rainwater in the area and prevent flooding downstream (where urban areas are located today).
Beuys, J. (1982) 7000 Oaks. Perhaps in a similar conceptual space to the work Beckmann is doing in Cortijada Los Gázquez, Beuys' 1982 piece is notable in it literally has an impact on the environment - there are oaks living today which his work is directly responsible for (although it is impossible to say whether they would have been planted otherwise). Interestingly Beuys notes there is both a direct ecological impact of planting the trees, but also a normative element: "planting these Oaks is necessary not only in biospheric terms, that is to say, in the context of matter and ecology, but in that it will raise ecological consciousness; raise it increasingly, in the course of years to come, because we shall never stop planting’.
NASA (1968) Earthrise. A photograph taken by astronaut William Anders, as Apollo 8 emerged from behind the dark side of the moon. Some have credited this photo with the start of the environmental movement, as the public for the first time could see the lonely and fragile earth surrounded by the infinite darkness of space. The Independent presents a helpful timeline which contextualises this. The newspaper argues that the very first stirs of the environment movement can be found in Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring. Earthrise did feed into the burgeoning concept of Spaceship Earth, a term coined by British economist Barbara Ward-Jackson in 1965 to suggest Earth’s resources were limited. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth formed in 1971, the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and Defra in 1972. How connected are these events with the original photograph?
- Minouche Shafik's speech on the role of expertise in society. Here's the full speech.
- A brief analysis of the TV programme Cosmos, and whether it can save public support for science.
- Chris Tyler's blog Top 20 things scientists need to know about policy-making.
- A paper by Regan, T. et al (2015) on Designing Engaging Data in Communities. Relevant as it analyses how communities engage - or don't engage - with data. Bourriaurd's Relational Aesthetics is also possibly relevant for this point.
- Richard Dawkins: "memes": how ideas generate and spread: "Memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation". Good intro article via the Smithsonian mag.