Imagine that voicemails are falling to our time from the future, a future where climate change has had disastrous results. This was the premise of Futurecoast, a digital participation event that useda fictional scenario to compel interactive users to change their real lives. Participants confront the problem of climate change by participating in the evolving scenario, recording and receiving messages and developing the online debate.
In 2014 two media studies researchers at the University of Brighton Dr Sarah Atkinson and Dr Julie Doyle, joined with the project by game designer Ken Eklund. Sarah, who moved to Kings, London in 2015, is an expert on new narratives and audience participation, and has written on Ken Eklund’s work, while Dr Julie Doyle is an expert on the portrayal of climate change. Later, in 2015, Julie used the work on this project to expand the university's work on climate change into the schools and young people's communities in Sussex. Helen Kennedy further informed these projects through her expertise on play and game theory,
Ken Eklund is renowned for his critically acclaimed World Without Oil, a massively collaborative imagining of the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis. Participants in his multi-media narrative projects embed game scenarios and fictional ideas within their own real-world lives, making changes to their own behaviour that contribute in turn to the story-world as it evolves. This in turn illustrates new ways to confront the world's shared problems.
Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, but is often the most difficult to communicate and to engage people with. FutureCoast Youth is a collaborative research project that seeks to address this problem by using creativity and play to explore young people’s perceptions of climate change. Funded by the University of Brighton’s CUPP (Community University Partnership Programme) Seed Fund Award, Dr Julie Doyle along with media colleague Helen Kennedy are working with Onca Centre for Arts and Ecology and Dorothy Stringer High School (Brighton, UK) on the project. FutureCoast Youth aims to empower young people – the generation who will be most affected by climate change, but who are often given the least voice – to imagine and explore their responses to climate change, through participatory storytelling, play and performance.
FutureCoast Youth extends the FutureCoast storytelling project developed by US games designer, Ken Eklund, in collaboration with the PoLAR Institute at Columbia University: an international online digital storytelling project which asks audiences to imagine and create voicemails from a range of possible climatically changed futures. FutureCoast Youth builds on this participatory imaginative premise to bring climate change to young people in Brighton. Through a series of workshops that use play, storytelling, ideas of time and of how to relate climate change to the everyday, Doyle and Onca (led by its Creative Director, Persephone Pearl) are working with Dorothy Stringer’s Environmental Science GCSE students to explore their responses to climate change.
As members of the FutureCoast Youth team, the Dorothy Stringer Environmental Science students were introduced to the project through a participatory and immersive play event at Onca Centre for Arts and Ecology in September 2015 . Doyle, along with Pearl and Jack Darach (independent arts facilitator), played in character as members of the fictional FutureCoast HQ Brighton, representing a network of grassroots organisations all around the world addressing climate change through positive action and personal agency. Through interactive play, which included dissenting voices and humour, the students were able to engage with the issue of climate change in a playful way and go on to create their own voicemails from the future.
Subsequent workshops at Dorothy Stringer School have used elements of play to help students become more confident and to enable them to explore and develop their own creative research projects related to climate change. With topics ranging from renewable energy and geo-engineering, to food miles and species extinction, students are currently preparing to present their creative projects in role as members of the FutureCoast Youth Climate Delegation at Onca on 30 November 2015, to coincide with the opening of the UN Climate Conference, COP21 in Paris. Educational resources from the project are being shared via the project website.
Special thanks to Dr Dan Danahar (Biodiversity co-ordinator) and Mr Rob Sandercock (GCSE tutor) at Dorothy Stronger School for enabling the collaboration to take place, and to the 12 students taking part. Workshop facilitators are Persephone Pearl (Creative Director of Onca), Keith Ellis and Jack Darach (independent arts facilitators).