Earth in vision: BBC coverage of environmental change 1960 - 2010
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Has principal investigator Joe Smith
Impact Earth in Vision aims to have positive impacts for: general publics; learners and teachers; industries working with digital media, and cultural institutions. The choice of advisory board has been strongly influenced by these objectives, and we will be supplementing it to further enhance impact if we are successful with the bid. For the general public: We aim to show that historical resources, specifically digital broadcast archives of environmental programming, can open up the public and policy imagination about humanity's environmental futures. We will pursue this goal with a website of free and adaptable resources, a free, scholarly but engaging e-book with options for user-generated journeys through the content, and a pop-up exhibition (with supporting print materials) that will appear at cultural venues and events (e.g. Eden Project, Hay Festival, music festivals). Smith will apply his media contacts and experience to win general media attention for the project on e.g. magazine format radio and TV shows, and in features journalism. For learners and teachers: The website, e-book and print resources will support more dynamic engagement with environment, development and geographical education by allowing students and teachers to engage with the way that environmental understandings have been produced. Even in advance of the release of more substantial digital broadcast archives by media institutions these resources, including some clips, but also extensive scripts, reviews and samples of source content (key texts, images, science findings and events), will give learners and teachers more ownership of the making and remaking of environmental histories and futures. In designing these materials we will draw on the team's extensive experience of working in formal and informal distance learning for large-scale audiences. This includes our work on large population OU courses (e.g. 2000 students per year upwards) but also in generating materials for informal learning supporting major primetime BBC series such as Attenborough's climate change season (2006) and Coast with audiences of over 5 million. For cultural institutions: Digital broadcast archives present both opportunities and challenges to public service broadcasters, museums, libraries, archives and film/TV related bodies. We aim to support their medium and long term thinking through our work with our body of 'proxy publics'. By making intelligent use of the opportunities presented by the BBC and OU's exclusive agreement around archive usage we can overcome obstacles presented by restrictive rights regimes and gather unique insights into the practices and expectations of archive users. Our research design for this aspect of the project is based on a co-production model suited to emerging relationships between cultural institutions and users. The primary paths to impact are the two workshops and end of project conference, the concise industry-focused report and some targeted media work with trade/sectoral media. For industries working with digital media: The first speech by the BBC's new Director General George Entwistle confirmed the ways in which media production is moving towards more integrated generation of content across platforms. Archive content has long been important in TV production, but the prospect of its wider release, in the context of easy public access to digital media production and publication tools, and the rising prominence of social media, make for a heady and novel mix. The workshops, end of project conference and industry focused report will all nourish debates at this intersection. For research funders/publishers: We believe collateral benefits will flow to research funding agencies and publishers through following our experience of experimenting with: an e-book as monograph, including access to non-linear experiences of qualitative research data and a pop-up exhibition and printed content as a form of outreach and impact.
Status Active
Identifier AH/K006363/1
abstract The next decade will see the release of very large bodies of digital broadcast archives in parallel with the generation of new tools that allow richer use of media on the web. These developments will have consequences for any field of contemporary history, but are of particular significance for the environmental field. Framings of environmental change issues have typically been narrow and static, and have reinforced a policy field around these issues often unable to address the complexity and uncertainty of long term questions. Archive and web developments could combine to allow for more imaginative future responses to environmental change issues. However without a self-critical and open consideration of the 'digital ideologies' embedded in the tools and practices that mediating institutions develop for users' work with these enormous bodies of cultural content, there is a danger that the narrow and unproductive repertoire of environmental framings that is currently dominant will become further reinforced. This proposal responds directly to this urgent challenge. The project focuses on the archive of environmental programming collected by the BBC since the mid 1950s. Using a sample of programmes drawn from the archive it will critically examine their potential as resource for the making and debating of environmental histories in the context of imagining and planning for environmental futures. It builds on principles of co-production and social learning, and aims to support more plural and dynamic accounts of environmental change. Informed by a pilot study, which selected annotated and cleared limited use rights for approaching 100 programmes, amounting to 50 hours of programming, this study addresses the following question: How can digital broadcast archives inform environmental history and support public understanding of environmental change? This is broken down into four sub-questions: 1. In what ways does engagement with digital broadcast archives serve to revise and pluralise accounts of environmental history and politics? 2. What uses and expectations do publics have of digital broadcast archives, and how will they impact upon the way they engage with and act on environmental change issues? 3. What technical and cultural challenges and opportunities are presented to institutions that will be expected to have responsibility for, or will work with, online environmental digital archives (schools; universities; museums; media organisations)? 4. How can deeper knowledge of the production of past and present environmental understandings support more plural and dynamic imaginings of environmental futures? These research questions will be explored by means of three overlapping pieces of work. Firstly, a history of broadcast media and environmental change, drawing on the broadcasts, interviews with makers and presenters, and working with scripts, paper archives and sources. Secondly, a series of focus groups with a sample group in order to explore the practices and expectations of archive users; and thirdly, a series of working group meetings and interviews with professionals and institutional representatives working with digital broadcast archives. A series of outputs are designed to meet popular, policy and academic audience needs. A monograph, Earth in Vision, is offered as a media-rich and freely available e-book that revises contemporary environmental history with reference to the archive, and opens up a more plural and dynamic sense of possible environmental futures. It will include 25,000 words of linear text, but will also offer reader-chosen routes through the material, drawing on script content, programme descriptions, source materials and reviews. In addition to academic journal articles, a resource-rich public facing website, podcasts and a pop-up exhibition, we will draft a report for professional and policy audiences advising on digital broadcast archive planning.
Type Project
Label Earth in vision: BBC coverage of environmental change 1960 - 2010
Title Earth in vision: BBC coverage of environmental change 1960 - 2010

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