End Game, Part One: Possible Cost of Complacency is the result of conversations Todd McMillan and I had while tinkering in a research studio at UTS. Todd was pairing excerpts from science fiction with photographs taken on a recent trip to Antarctica, while I created collages based on descriptions of landscapes in Australian novels. As we worked we talked about what we were reading at the value of fiction as a way to think through environmental issues. In Antarctica, someone pointed up and said to Todd, ‘that’s the hole in the ozone layer’. An actual hole. We discussed widespread apathy toward climate change and the possibility that where science communication is failing to engage the public in this matter, science fiction may have more success. I decided to look at the two science fiction novels Todd was referencing in his work – Nevil Shute’s On The Beach and George Turner’s The Sea and Summer – to see where they would lead me. Research-through design often starts with a hunch.
The two diagrams I exhibited were conceived of and created between March and May 2017. During this time I was tutoring a group of honours students in the Visual Communication degree at UTS. I often wish I had the time to do the briefs I set students. I decided to make time, and follow the syllabus as I taught it, using the two novels as my starting point.
Over six weeks (the first half of the semester), I took notes in lectures (delivered by Jacquie Lorber Kasunic and other staff, including myself), analysed readings and performed the assessment tasks. The work exhibited comes directly from this process. Below are pages from the process catalogue which accompanied the work in the gallery:
At a recent research talk, Cameron Tonkinwise stated that one of the most important outcomes of academic research is our teaching – we feed what we learn through our own research into how and what we teach. The process document I created alongside the exhibition is a demonstration of what I ask my students to do, and shows how my teaching and research are interdependent.
These are not finished works. They are part of an iterative design process which I have been brave/foolish enough to share publicly now, until I find the time to keep working on them. In particular, the mushrooms are wrong. Here is a more recent (2018) iteration of the mushroom diagram with more ‘mushroomy’ representations of the nuclear tests and additional text:
Scholarly context for the research driving the work:
Johanna Drucker (2014) identifies a need for scholars to develop critical languages to explain how information visualisation can generate knowledge, and calls for experimental, qualitative approaches to information visualisation that aim to reveal nuance, absence and subjectivity. ‘End Game: Possible Cost of Complacency’ is a suite of “speculative diagrams” about climate change created by Dr Zoë Sadokierski in response to Drucker’s provocation. Sadokierski’s overtly interpretive and subjective diagrams combine scientific data with science-fiction writing to bridge the gap between climate science and climate fiction, in ways that challenge viewers’ understanding of visual rhetoric.
Drucker, J. 2014. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.