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Applying the Pathways to Nature Connectedness at Societal Scale

Finding Nature website

Posted on November 17, 2020 by Miles

The climate emergency and crisis of biodiversity loss show that the human-nature relationship is failing. The scale of these inter-related issues requires a new relationship with nature. Bringing about that new relationship with nature requires interventions and approaches that effect large changes at scale across society. In our latest paper we propose an approach to creating a new relationship with nature at a societal scale based on improving nature connectedness using a framework called the ‘pathways to nature connectedness’. The paper published open access in Ecosystems & People suggests how the pathways can be applied at various leverage points across policy areas such as education, health, housing, arts, health & transport. It’s a long read at around 10,000 words, so this blog presents a summary of some key aspects.

What is nature connectedness and why does it matter?

The psychological construct of nature connectedness describes an individual’s relationship with nature. It can be increased through carefully designed interventions to prompt engagement with nature – such as noticing the good things in nature. Nature connectedness matters because it brings benefits for both humans and nature; it is a causal factor in improved mental wellbeing, increased pro-environmental behaviours and pro-nature conservation behaviours. The evidence of the benefits to wellbeing is such that it is argued that nature connectedness is a basic psychological need. The importance of the construct is further illustrated by proposals for its inclusion in the Gallup World Poll (GWP) which has an international reputation as a tool for global decision-makers.

Calls for ‘reconnection with nature’ have increased, but have been vague, with fragmentation around what nature connection is and with little concrete guidance towards achieving societies that are more connected to nature. The psychological construct of nature connectedness helps with the current diversity of approaches to understanding people’s connection with nature. It provides a measurable focus within this fragmentation, with an evidence base of benefits to the wellbeing of both people and nature.

Introducing the Pathways to Nature Connectedness

The pathways to nature connectedness provide a typology of activities that provide a methodological approach for improving human-nature relationships through targeting and increasing nature connectedness – you can find a summary of the 5 pathways (sensory contact, emotion, beauty, meaning and compassion) on this postcard, but briefly they are:

·       Senses: Noticing and actively engaging with nature through the senses. Simply listening to birdsong, smelling wild flowers, or watching the breeze in the trees.

·       Emotion: Engaging emotionally with nature. Simply noticing the good things in nature, experiencing the joy and calm they can bring, and sharing feelings about nature with others.

·       Beauty: Finding beauty in the natural world. Simply taking time to appreciate beauty in nature and engaging with it through art, music or in words.

·       Meaning: Exploring and expressing how nature brings meaning to life. Simply exploring how nature appears in songs and stories, poems and art, or by celebrating the signs and cycles of nature.

·       Compassion: Caring for nature. Simply thinking about what we can do for nature and taking actions that are good for nature, such as creating homes for nature, supporting conservation charities and rethinking our shopping habits.

Rather than a detailed model, the pathways present five overarching types of relationship involved in improving nature connectedness. They can be applied at various points, from individual activities in nature, to nature engagement programmes, to the design of infrastructure and school curricula and beyond to improve relationships between humans and nature on a larger scale. In sum, the pathways provide clear direction of the types of relationship for society to foster.

The pathways research was based on Kellert’s (1993) nine values of biophilia. Five of the nine were pathways to nature connectedness, four were unrelated to nature connectedness. These were fear of nature, dominion over nature, utilitarian use of nature and a purely scientific relationship.

Nature is often seen as a resource (utility), or a source of challenges to conquer (dominion), or nature is presented in terms of facts and figures (science), or as a threat (fear of nature). These types of relationship are common, often emphasised within capitalistic societies and can be seen as essential pathways for human survival and progress that, unchecked, have led to nature’s decline – as shown by the red arrow in Figure 1.

The five types of relationship which form the pathways to nature connectedness are included in the green arrow which points towards improved nature connectedness and its benefits: pro-environmental behaviour, pro-nature conservation behaviour and mental wellbeing. Greater focus on the types of relationship with nature that promote nature connectedness can lead to a new, more sustainable, relationship with the natural world.

Figure 1. A graphical summary of the types of human-nature relationships, nature connectedness and their outcomes. Key: Pro-env. = pro-environmental (carbon & resource use reduction); Pro-nature = pro-nature conservation (wildlife habitat creation).

Societal relevance of the pathways approach

The application of the pathways has informed a successful large-scale campaigns (e.g. 30 Days Wild) and visitor experience programming (e.g. at the National Trust and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust). However, a paradigm shift in human-nature relationships is required at a larger scale. But which of the five pathways have greatest societal relevance? The full paper discusses this in detail, but here’s a brief summary.

Figure 2. Types of positive relationship with nature and scale of relevance and leverage. The statistical importance for nature connectedness identified by Lumber et al (2017) is represented by the solid oval. The proposed scale of relevance is represented by the dashed oval.

The relevance of the pathways for individual and societal connectedness to nature, and their potential for application at deep leverage points (more on that later), is represented in Figure 2 which considers the location of connection/leverage points (X-axis) and scale of relevance (Y-axis) for the five types of relationship with nature found to be positive pathways to nature connectedness. Let’s consider the societal relevance of each pathways in turn.

Meaning is related to cultural aspects of our lives that have great resonance at a societal scale. This pathway relates to deeper relationships, the symbolic use of nature to represent ideas, and provides an opportunity for societal change. Cultural programmes could be focused on developing these deeper relationships with nature on a large scale – through the cultural celebration of our relationship with nature and renewed appearance of nature in cultural products – and fundamental societal systems such as health care for example.

Emotions can, and have been, targeted on a large scale (e.g. consumerism) and brought societal scale changes. Emotions are fundamental features of human function. As far back as 1928, Edward Bernays targeted people’s unconscious desires in order to manipulate people towards items they didn’t need – creating modern public relations through appealing to people’s emotions. These ideas helped develop consumerism and self-absorption in Western society.  Edward Bernays recognised the scale of relevance of emotion, using them to mould public desire, shaping a consumer culture and shifting social norms at a societal scale. Through public relations campaigns, emotions could change social norms to a situation where a good life is seen as a nature connected life, rather than a consumerist life. The recent shift from the desire for experiences rather than consumer goods provides an opportunity to promote pathways focused experiences, rather than basing them on dominion and utilitarianism.

Compassion. Although care for nature is an overall goal of a new relationship, Figure 2 suggests that the compassion pathway doesn’t necessarily present opportunities for deep leverage. This is because it is likely that other changes are required first. Those engaged with pro-nature conservation behaviours typically have higher levels of nature connectedness. So before engaging people with pro-nature conservation behaviours that can require personal commitment, there could be a need to increase connectedness through meaning and emotion. However, humans are a social species, our capacity for co-operation emerged from social connectedness and emotional bonds. Therefore, focusing on the similarity of people with nature, rather than focusing on developing concern for nature directly may function as a more effective societal leverage point. For example, research shows that anthropomorphism can drive nature connectedness. The similarity of people and the rest of nature as a common discourse, rather than consumptive and dominance frames are required together with the provision of more opportunities for people to care for wildlife everyday, for example through access to places where people can easily engage in pro-nature conservation behaviours.

Beauty is a strong theme when people are asked to notice the ‘good things in nature’ – however we know that the beauty pathway works together with other pathways, such as when deriving meaning or evoking emotions. So, it is likely that this pathway doesn’t lever transformational change on its own. Rather, beauty needs to be available for sensory contact and wider meaningful engagement with nature.

Sensory contact is a pathway that relates to interaction, therefore there is a need for engagement with a wide variety of nature – which is provided in accessible and everyday places. Of course easily accessible nature does not have to be engaged with, so there is a need to design places, campaigns and activities to prompt that engagement. Nature contact can have a large scale of relevance and bring societal impact on nature connectedness if the engagement is fostered – through cultural programmes for example. When sensory contact is prompted, for example, through noticing the good things in nature or campaigns such as 30 Days Wild, there is evidence of a positive and sustained impact on nature connectedness. These interventions and our other work also highlight that the pathways to nature connectedness rarely work alone. Sensory contact involves noticing beauty, it elicits emotions, brings meaning and can involve care for nature.

Nature Connectedness, System Characteristics and Leverage Points

A truly sustainable future will challenge basic assumptions on the organizing of a society. Leverage points (Meadows, 1999), consider the parts of the system where maximum impact can be gained from small changes. Meadows (1999) describes twelve leverage points from shallow places where interventions are relatively easy to implement, but less impactful on system behaviours, to deep places where interventions are difficult but can deliver transformational change. Abson et al. (2017) note the twelve leverage points fall into four broad groups:

  • The shallowest are system parameters, for example standards.
  • Next, interventions can target feedback loops, the interactions between system elements.
  • Third are social structures that manage feedbacks and parameters.
  • Finally, the deepest group are intentions, the underpinning values and goals that shape the emergent direction of a system.

Where can nature connectedness have greatest leverage? Where can the pathways approach be applied for maximum effect? There’s a more detail in the full paper, but here’s a few examples.

System intentions: values and goals

The values and goals of the system are the deepest leverage points and therefore most important – often simple to write, but most difficult to change. For example, take a look at the priorities of the UK Government’s Department of Education (Sept. 2020):

“We’ll develop world-class education with the following principles:

  • ensure our academic standards match and keep pace with key comparator nations
  • strive to bring our technical education standards in line with leading international systems
  • ensure that education builds character, resilience and well-being”

Standards and well-being are important – but there is no wellbeing without nature’s wellbeing. Revising these principles to include a goal for a sustainable relationship with nature would be a simple change of wording, but very difficult to achieve. Being a deep leverage point, it would though have a great impact on schools, curriculum and teaching.

More widely, facts and research evidence can help establish goals. For example, nature connectedness being four times more important for living a worthwhile life than socio-economic status could help make it a goal for some. However, values come from meaning, which can come from experiences, but also how nature is reflected in society, such as in our models of human well-being.  Formally recognising the value of a right to a close relationship with nature would be very powerful. For example, a close relationship with nature could be considered as a universal human right, similar to the right to family life and social connections. This deep leverage is difficult to achieve, but would be a major contribution to embedding a new relationship with nature through wider society.

System design: institutions and social structures

Social structures manage feedbacks and system parameters – these rules, incentives and constraints create the social environment. Given the climate and biodiversity crises, policy and organisational goals should acknowledge the need for a new relationship with nature. Nature connectedness can be coupled into structures as an institutionalizable target – it is measurable so the nature connectedness of the people an organisation works with could be a strategic priority with associated Key Performance Indicator (KPI). A strategic plan and intention to improve nature connectedness can adopt and apply the pathways to nature connectedness.

A strategic plan for nature?

System feedbacks: the extinction of experience

A key reinforcing feedback loop in relation to human-nature relationships is ‘extinction of experience’.  The on-going reduction in experience of nature permeates culture and society such that social feedback helps reinforce a social norm of reduced experience of nature. Increased urbanisation, especially when poorly designed, reduces the opportunity to engage with nature – reducing positive feedback. This is then reflected in cultural feedback, for example, the decline of references to nature in cultural products – which all adds to loss of orientation to engage with nature. There is potential to shorten feedback related to the five key relationships identified by the pathways, while disrupting feedback loops related to the four non-pathways relationships. This can include measures to strengthen feedback regarding the positive links between people and local nature and on the health of the natural world.

System Parameters: standards, policy and infrastructure

Standards, policy and infrastructure provide valuable but weak leverage points. Infrastructure is slow to change, however, policy can help show what is valued and also turns on or off the taps of funding. Policy change may be relatively ineffective in influencing behaviour, but can send a clear message on the types of behaviour that are favoured. Therefore, policy changes can contribute to the deeper paradigm shift required for a healthier relationship between humans and the natural world.

We present more details and recommendations in the full paper, there’s also some ideas in our New Relationship with Nature Briefing here.

Summary and Recommendations

The pathways to nature connectedness provide an important framework to help deliver solutions toward a new relationship with nature. It is proposed that the meaning and emotion pathways to nature connectedness can provide the deep leverage required to increase sensory contact. These three pathways have a large scale of societal relevance and the potential to provide solutions across a range of leverage points to foster closer human-nature relationships. Resulting interventions can also encourage people to engage with the remaining two pathways, to engage with nature’s beauty and to care for nature.

As a basic psychological need, nature connectedness should inform the values and goals of our systems for maximum impact on the human-nature relationship for a sustainable future. The pathways to nature connectedness provide a structured means to inform new societal and institutional goals. Using new narratives to highlight the meaning of nature to humans, such as models of health that unite wildlife and human wellbeing, can provide new values and desirable ‘system goals’. Approaches from mass-consumer persuasion through appealing to people’s emotions can also play a role in influencing values and goals on a large scale.

Changes in system values and goals inform the design of institutions and social structures for a new relationship with nature. As a measurable construct, nature connectedness can be a key performance indicator for institutions, such as those delivering health and wellbeing. Targets can be set and the pathways used to inform strategic plans. For example, including the enjoyment of nature in health and social care delivery.

To help create new social norms, a closer relationship with nature can be integrated into social structures with incentives, such as funding for cultural products and urban design informed by the pathways. More sensory contact, sharing of positive emotions, and structures that shorten system feedback along pathways to nature connectedness can counter the extinction of experience and renew the human-nature relationship. Feedback regarding the positive links between people and local nature for wellbeing, and on the health of the natural world can also be enhanced.

Standards and policy provide weak leverage points, but many opportunities to apply the pathways to nature connectedness. For example, education curricula can be informed by the pathways, transport policy can be used to promote pathways relationships and planning policy can help turn public spaces into places that prompt sensory contact, celebrate nature, and elicit positive emotions through engaging with nature. Arts policy should recognise the close links between cultural expression and the pathways to nature connectedness.

In sum, as humans we are deeply affected by emotions and stories with meaning. We want to believe our lives are worthwhile and meaningful. The power of emotions and trust in shared stories have been used to bring millions of people together, to create consumer culture and ultimately disconnect us from nature, damaging the natural world in the process. However, as a species, our story is nature and for a sustainable future, nature needs to re-emerge as the human story through societal values, social structures, feedback and policy. The pathways to nature connectedness provide a framework for improving human-nature relationships within that context.

Enjoyed this blog? Try reading A New Relationship with Nature: what it means and what we can do.

M. Richardson, J. Dobson, D. J. Abson, R. Lumber, A. Hunt, R. Young & B. Moorhouse(2020) Applying the pathways to nature connectedness at a societal scale: a leverage points perspective, Ecosystems and People, 16:1, 387-401, DOI: 10.1080/26395916.2020.1844296

Artfully Grieving

Adam Zucker

Artfully Learning

It is incredibly difficult to develop socially, emotionally and cognitively in a culture that experiences daily doses of trauma and unrest. Over the past several decades, educational environments and public spaces have been increasingly rife with disruption and anxiety. From consistent worries about physical safety (see: The Kent State Shooting was 50 Years Ago) to the anxiety and mental duress caused by disruptions to physical learning and daily activities; our culture at large has had to manage extraordinary pain, and learn to make space for grief. 

Tomb of the Triclinium. Photograph by Sailko – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75415644

Art can teach us a lot about grieving. In addition to being a model for how we might understand each other’s feelings and exhibit empathy (see: Exhibiting Empathy), art portrays many stages and concepts of the grieving process. Art also depicts a plurality of ways civilizations and individuals respond to tragedy and loss. Since the dawn of humanity, artists and architects have been making marks and monuments to mourn and revere members of their society. Some of the most prominent and vibrant examples come from the ancient Etruscan civilization. While historians know far less about the culture of ancient Etruscans (they left no written record) than their Greek and Roman contemporaries, they have been able to map out significant aspects of Estruscan life based on their art. The Tomb of the Triclinium (c. 480–470 B.C.E) features an elaborate fresco inside of a single chamber tomb within a major Iron Age necropolis. The fresco gives us succinct indications regarding their collective culture. Etruscans believed that the afterlife would be very similar to their life on Earth, therefore, Etruscan funerals and burial rites exhibited elements of joy and their tombs were constructed for pragmatic purposes. Funerals involved games, banquets, music and dancing. Burial chambers had furniture and other personal necessities that the deceased could use in the next life. The adorning wall frescoes presented narratives of their life and status. Many of the tomb paintings depict a door, which served as the transfer between the physical and spiritual world. 

Paa Joe, Kane Kweis’ former apprentice, with a sandal coffin. Photo by Regula Tschumi, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons

In Ghana, funerary customs honor the distinct identity of the individual whose life is being celebrated and mourned simultaneously. Art has a large role in communicating the personal narrative of the recently deceased. This is especially evident for the contemporary Ga people. Seth Kane Kwei was a prominent Ga carpenter who created fanciful coffins for members of Ga society. His workshop, led by his former students, has been an awe inspiring source of custom designed coffins since the 1950s. The common name in the Kwa language for these creations is Abebuu adekai, which means “boxes with proverbs.” The sculptural coffins signify characteristics that were meaningful to the deceased during their lives. Coffins are paraded throughout the community to the burial site, forming a performative funerary procession that adds a lighthearted component to a heavy emotional moment. Like the Etruscan civilization, dancing, singing and art making is a foundational part of Ga burial rites and customs. 

Jon Henry, Untitled #44, Crenshaw Blvd, CA. Courtesy of the artist. 

In addition to having panache, art is a means of achieving emotional catharsis. Images by contemporary American photographer, Jon Henry, communicate the pain of losing a loved one and make space for grieving to take place. Henry makes portraits that are an underlying commentary on Western culture and the enduring suffering and grief that the white supremacy has inflicted on Black bodies. This is especially true of his Stranger Fruit series. Taking inspiration from Western iconography, Henry creates modern day pietà scenes of Black mothers holding their grown sons in their arms. The title refers to the civil rights song, Strange Fruit, famously sung and recorded by Billie Holiday. In the song, references of racist brutality, specifically lynchings, speak to the the blatant disregard of Black bodies within the American culture at large. Henry’s photographs are in response to modern day lynchings, most notably in the form of police shootings and unchecked institutional racism. The photos symbolize a community’s grief while experiencing racist violence and oppression. Henry explains: 

“I set out to photograph mothers with their sons in their environment, reenacting what it must feel like to endure this pain. The mothers in the photographs have not lost their sons, but understand the reality, that this could happen to their family. The mother is also photographed in isolation, reflecting on the absence. When the trials are over, the protesters have gone home and the news cameras gone, it is the mother left. Left to mourn, to survive.”

This kind of art is powerful. The trauma of a mother losing their son is so poignantly expressed in these reenactments. These photographs are symbols of the grief that is part of the vicious cycle of systemic racism. They are a fantastical representation of a very real experience. Black men enter into a world that is antagonistic towards them. While Black people made up only 13% of the U.S. population in 2005, they were victims in 15% of all violent crimes and almost half of all homicides. In studies around violent crime, young Black men were found to be disproportionately impacted and more vulnerable to acts of violence (see: Harrell, 2007). Black mothers have to worry each time their Black sons leave the sanctuary of their presence (see: Shoots, 2018). 

Kairon Liu, The Portrait of Tree #1, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

Taiwanese contemporary photographer, Kairon Liu confronts and transcends grief and stigma around HIV/AIDS via his portrait series titled Humans as Hosts. Liu’s conceptual photographs seek to turn grief and trauma into collective understanding by humanizing a diverse global population of HIV-positive individuals through portraiture and storytelling. Humans As Hostsprompts viewers to develop empathetic responses to the experiences of people living with HIV. It also provides solace and empowerment for the individuals he photographs, including himself. 

Liu’s impetus for Humans as Hosts has autobiographical roots, which signify the cathartic nature of his artwork. He expresses this sense of abreaction through the depiction of his alias, a man named “tree,” who overcomes heartbreak and betrayal to persevere, rebuild his self-esteem and inspire others to value themselves despite the odds stacked against them.

All of the subjects of Humans as Hosts assume the role as hosts on a social and emotional level. By participating in the project, they are inviting the viewer into their personal lives. This hosting process includes their agreement to have their photographs taken, their stories told and their intimate lives displayed to a public audience. They are each hosts to the virus, although it has affected them in different ways. Their stories, which are the culmination of interviews conducted by Liu, are both heartbreaking and inspiring. They remind us that humans have an inclination to survive and persevere even when things around them or inside of them seem bleak. This is not just the narrative of survivors, but the story of courageous fighters. The resulting images are intended to expose and dismantle the stigma around HIV/AIDS, and implore us to consider how we treat one another and display compassion.

Everyone has moments of mental and physical duress. However, we may not truly know who is suffering until we open ourselves up to understand other people’s feelings. Part of this process can include providing a safe space where we are able to check in with one another, listen carefully to the emotions and problems being expressed and consider how we can show up and give support within our means and ability.

Art helps us notice deeply and be empathetic responders (see: Educating Through Art). While learning to become artists, we are reminded to take our time, embrace the process, consider multiple approaches to aesthetic and conceptual issues and engage in a critical dialogue with our peers. A big part of being artfully attuned is honing all our senses. Attentively listening to what others are telling us, while withholding judgement or advice, is a fine art by its very nature. Being active listeners makes us more aware of what others are experiencing, and in turn, makes conversations more mindful and meaningful (see: Artful Learning Through Active Listening). When someone is grieving, active listening goes a long way by showing compassion and a commitment to understanding what they are experiencing. 

It is not always easy to verbally communicate deeply profound feelings of bereavement. Sometimes visual art can take the place of words. Expressing emotions through artistic gestures is beneficial to confronting and coping with grief. Creating a work of art gives the artist personal agency to build a narrative around their grief. This can take the form of a composition that symbolizes a relationship with a loved one or a process-based aesthetic exercise that enables the artist to make tangible connections between their emotions and who or what they are grieving. Works of art that address grief serve as mementos for exploring difficult feelings and managing emotions. They are not only cathartic for the bereaved artist. Displaying these works makes them accessible to viewers who in turn become empathic participants, experiencing and developing understandings about the grief being portrayed.


References, Notes, Suggested Reading:

Harrell, Erika. “Black Victims of Violent Crime.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2007. https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/bvvc.pdf

Lederman, Doug. “The Shift to Remote Learning: The Human Element.” Inside Higher Ed, 25 March 2020. https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2020/03/25/how-shift-remote-learning-might-affect-students-instructors-and

Shoots, Danielle. “The Worry of the Black American Mother.” The Mama Sagas, 2 May 2018. https://www.themamasagas.com/the-worry-of-the-black-american-mother/

Mapping Sensation

Livingmaps Network ran an online event yesterday.

DRAWING MAPS, IMAGINED LANDSCAPES AND PANDEMIC STORYTELLING

A LIVINGMAPS WEBINAR

It looked at the impact of Covid on our lives and ways that mapping as an artistic practice could help. Quote…

‘Drawing, or perhaps more broadly speaking – mark making, is a deeply subjective tool that we can use to enter into other spaces beyond the here and now, perhaps into memories or imaginations of a possible future or as a form of visually representing emotional states.’

Lots of really good arts projects about mapping and imagination, of better futures and utopias, great and small. The idea of using mapping to express feeling and the imagination was very interesting and changed my way of thinking about mapping.

A place I visit called Walton Moss, and seek to make a subject of my art has evaded my skills for a long time. It is too big to photograph, or paint, and capture it’s magnitude. It is not particularly scenic in a classical landscape way, but is very impactful to visit. It seems to exist at two scales of sensation, the very big and the very small.

Walton Moss Sensation Map

So I did the header image as map of the sensations it evokes, show above. What was useful was the way the map, as a form that expresses a large scale object through a smaller scale object worked really well. The idea of mapping feeling freed me from being trapped with figurative depictions of a magical but enigmatic place, difficult to express figuratively.

I used charcoal crayons, felt tip pens and watercolour pencils, then scanned it.

Native Americans occupy the plinth once occupied by Columbus.

It has always struck me as odd when people talk about the value of their home and then quote the price of their property without realising this tacitly tells me something about their own values.

Berger gets to the heart of the difference between place, a located set of values, and space, a location without values. We fill space with values and make it place, but the actual space does not matter. We acquire space and perform place. A theatre is an empty space until it is filled with people acting together, including the audience. Then the empty space becomes a place full of people just being together. But an audience is never passive.

Whilst this does not apply to just to the underprivileged, the street, like the web, is an easily accessible and very public space to enact theatre. Theatre and performance help us rehearse making place out of space. This process of theatre as making place has always taken place on the street, like BLM, but now includes the web, social media, TV, Netflix, Facebook, TikTok, Animal Crossing etc and as such new places will be made.

Middle Men - Poetry

Middle Men by the Sleafod Mods. Jason Williamson’s lyrics cross the line from lyrics to poetry for me. Not all lyrics should or can do this. In a totally different genre, Joni Mitchell’s lyrics do the same. Here we meet the men of our time, who want their cake and eat it, and hook up with all the greedy voters who want likewise. All the while they are middle men they are fronting for some other unspoken thing, or person, or corporation or idea. A free Facebook account is a perfect example of the cake, Zuckerberg the middle man, and the company as a front for greed.

Williamson and Sleaford Mods are not middle men because they are up front in what they represent, take it of leave it.

Quote - Thoreau on freedom and disobediance

 All good things are wild and free. 

Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”

Also a very interesting insight into Thoreau as a political commentator and activist in the current state of the union.

About that stroboscope in the attic.

Creating an image showing thinking, doing and making art.

This week two things happened at the same time, potentially in the way Jung talked about Synchronicity, an idea brought to my attention by that Police album of the same name.

  1. I found a need for a single image for my blog which showed thinking, doing and making art. A Google image search for <thinking AND doing AND making> complete with search operators drew a blank. And…
  2. I went into the attic and saw the old stroboscope I got from a car boot sale.

As a 60yrs + person I remember frequently having strobes in discos before their connection to seizures was noticed and they were banned or controlled. For people who don’t know, strobes in discos were seriously cool. When switched on in a darkened room everybody appeared to be moving very slowly and your eyes tendency to retain an image for a few milliseconds and produce traces, made people look like they had many arms and legs.

Using the strobe at night in my garden I had an image of me, mysterious in black, moving in the dark through space highlighted by a series of frozen frames from a strobe.

This image could show thinking, in that I would need to think about how a stroboscope could be used with my camera and a long exposure, it would show doing as I could do this at night in my back garden (hoping the neighbours would not see it and call the police), and it would show making as I would make a photographic image.

A plan was formulated and family warned and I felt sure that if the police were called they would understand as they did do that album called ‘Synchronicity’ in 1983 and they could quietly play a bit of it to placate the neighbours should the need arise.

The camera was set up on a tripod, the strobe connected to the mains, as dusk came tests were done to give a sufficiently long exposure. I dressed in black and did a few test shots and what became apparent was that even at dusk, a person dressed in black was invisible to the camera. Kind of obvious in retrospect but hindsight always gives you perfect vision. The strobe had to be much closer and I needed to dress in white to be seen.

A shorter exposure was used with the strobe closer but my expectation that the strobe would be like a flashgun showed that it was not bright enough. Also the rate of strobing had to be increased assuming doubling the speed would double the level of illumination. I had hoped for a set of clear seperated exposures but with a faster rate of strobing the effect was more like that of a non-strobing light. I look like somebody walked by with a vape and blowing a cloud of smoke.

This image is later, so it is darker. The strobe is fast enough now it appears to be a continuous light and is much closer to me. This is a 30s exposure at f8 and I time a walk across the space to fill the 30 seconds of the exposure. Here the image is more dense the slower I go.

After some experimentation, I can use the speed at which I move to deepen the density of the image recorded. I use the 30s exposure at f8 and a 10s delay for the shutter firing so that I can control my start point and count 30s to control the point at which I finish in the frame. The review screen on my camera provides feedback on what the effect of what I do has on the final image. The image is the review in this experiential learning process.

A powerful and simple function of a photographic image is that it is a re-viewing of experience but also a significant catalyst of director of the experience. The making of the image is the experience and the re-view and as such influence thinking about how the image is made.

After about 50 exposures and an hour and a half of playing around and experimenting with using my movement to control the exposure, I got to a couple of images I was happy with.

This one has an interesting contrast between different parts of the image of the moving figure. This has some cropping and some modification of the image with dodging and burning to control highlights and darkness. To me this best showed thinking, doing and making.

This image was most interesting and was made by simply raising my arms fast at first them slowing down over the 30s exposure. As a preview, it looked otherworldly, like an angel was landing, but as a full sized image it was less otherworldly. I did quite a lot of modification to make the full-sized image look like the pleasing impact of the preview.

Summary of this as art as experiential learning.

  • This was all situational. Experiential learning is founded on learning in the here and now.
  • I had an intention and an image in my head of what the final form could look like. This did not happen but something else did, not better, not worse than the original intention, just different.
  • It was a journey of uncertain outcome. I had to change what I did over the time I was working on this. The path emerged from the walking.
  • It was an active process that emerged from an active physical experience.
  • I made something. Poiesis occurred. An image or series of images existed after this that did not exist before. Each image was witnessed by me and through each witnessing, the ideas for the next image emerged. Art is witnessed by an audience in the end but it is witnessed by the artist or maker before this.
  • Making each image was the process. The image is the experience and witness to the experience. Experiencing and reviewing are the same thing.
  • The whole thing could be understood as a form of research in which a hypothesis is formulated and tested, but each iteration of this changes the direction of the research. This makes it different from quantitative and qualitative research and can be best described as performative research. The outcomes of this research are situational, subjective, emergent and personal. This, done as research by someone else, somewhere else would produce a different outcome.
  • Thinking, doing and making art is shown in one image. An attached description or exposition helps clarify this. But without an exposition, each viewer would see a different thing. Words used to describe doing are more objective and more universally understood. But the experience was personal and subjective. The image is closer to the experience but more open to subjective response. The image is more a accurate representation, but more subjective. This is a paradox of how we do and how we show experiential learning.
'Where there is no struggle there is no progress' Frederick Douglass

Great BBC Radio 4 repeat of an ‘In our Time’ programme about Frederick Douglass an astonishing man, born a slave in the USA in 1817. Self educated, self made, companion to Abraham Lincoln, what is covered in this programme shows us the historical background to BLM, and thus shows us that when Michelle Obama stated, ‘When they go low, you go high’, this appeal has a long history. Respect due. Entrepreneur, orator, statesman, part of British and US history, how can this man not be a role model to all?