Pilot Workshop and Digital Narratives

#OurChangingClimate began as a pilot supported by the University of California Humanities Research Institute’s (UCHRI) and the University Office of the President’s (UCOP) 2014 Public Partnerships in the Humanities: Community Engagement initiative and in collaboration with the Oakland-based community organization, Institute for Sustainable Economic, Education, and Environmental Design (I-SEEED). In the pilot phase, researchers conducted two half-day workshops with youth groups affiliated with I-SEEED in the spring of 2015. Workshops were led by 3 university faculty members with expertise in environmental design and participatory methodologies. The first workshop introduced participants to environmental science perspectives on climate change, the methods for reading and interpreting urban landscapes in light of change, and brainstormed ideas for additional indicators relevant to their experiences of their communities.  During the six week period between workshops, participants and the researchers contributed representations of climate change through their own social media accounts. Contributions were aggregated through the use of the hashtag OurChangingClimate. In the second workshop, participants and researchers reconvened to analyze themes and meaning in the content they had created and to reflect on the impact of the project on participants. As a final component of the pilot workshops, participants developed digital narratives that exposed the evaluation of their own communities as either resilient or vulnerable to climate change.

Camille’s project

Camille’s project creates an analogue version of ‘viral’ story sharing through the use of a simple, hand-made bracelet. The bracelet is worn by workshop participants to remind them of the everyday ways that climate change impacts them and they can impact it. If questioned about the bracelet, the wearer is meant to share a story about their personal relationship to climate change, pass on the bracelet, and encourage the new wearer to do the same. Learn more about Camille’s project and her story here

Wildfires at Top’s Yogurt

Nicki was a participant in the first of the two 10-week Davis workshops held in fall of 2016. Like many of her fellow participants, Nicki believed that human-induced climate change was ‘happening,’ but ‘nowhere near me.’ She didn’t believe she was experiencing any of the impacts of climate change personally, and likely wouldn’t until a very distant future. Through a re-scaling of global impacts to their local manifestations, Nicki and the other participants began exploring new indicators of vulnerability or resilience in their communities. Fall of 2016 marked the end of the five-year drought in California and was a frequent topic of conversation throughout the workshop. The topic of drought broadened through participant in-person and social media dialogues to include other related impacts such as wildfires, poor air quality, and finally public health risks. By the end of the 10-weeks, Nicki recognized that repeated fires occurring in vacant fields in her own neighborhood were potentially related to climate change. Her personal narrative explored the relationship of global environmental change to personal experiences of its impacts which included conditions such as ‘traffic jams,’ ‘smoky air,’ and ‘having nowhere to walk my dog,’ in her very own neighborhood. Nicki published their narrative as a WordPress blog, but had little interest in other forms of social media. Nicki was a painting major and instead used a series of oil paintings to document the wildfires which were discussed as part of their painting studio critiques (as well as within the seminar) and later displayed in her home community.

I know guacamole costs extra


Nicci was one of our first participants in our pilot workshops in Oakland in spring of 2015. She expected to contribute posts of severe weather and drought when asked to participate. She thought flooding and dried lawns would be how she saw evidence of climate change. However, in the six week period she was asked to contribute posts, she found herself indoors more often than not; she already had a habit of photographing and posting images of her meals to Instagram, but following her workshop participation she started asking herself what role these meals played in her resilience or vulnerability to climate change.

Nicci was particularly a fan of avocados (and photographed them often), but she also started to notice avocados almost always cost extra. She started to question this and learned that avocado’s cost extra due in part to their shipping from regions near the equator or their need to be grown in greenhouses. Nicci noted her love of avocados and consumption of them out of season could be contributing to climate change. She also realized that future climate impacts could make avocados (and coffee and chocolate) luxury items and cost prohibitive. Her digital narrative, ‘Where does your garden salad grow,’ starts with the prompt, ‘I know guacamole costs extra,’ and goes on to describe the potential impact climate change has on food choices and vice versa.

Shared by @niccivision