The next workshop saw us transform this information into a more ‘arty’ format. We chose a newspaper style article from 5 years in the future. In civil engineering (my undergraduate background) there’s a strong perception that the public don’t know anything about engineering and that they demand only bottom-up management towards their own interests; and this was definitely present in my article. Regardless of the truth or fallacy in this assumption, taking this attitude will not gain you public support for your project and, importantly, you will very likely miss out on important information that stakeholders could provide you with.
Each group began work with a Somerset artist to create art out of their topics and ideas. Our group is currently putting together a ‘flood survival kit’ containing items which aim to bring together ideas about the impacts and mechanisms behind flooding. Putting this together has been constant interplay between engineers looking to add purpose to items and our artist looking to reduce purpose with a much heavier use of metaphors/symbolism. Items include purpose-heavy hand-made water filters (from drinking bottles and sand!) and metaphor-heavy sponges and boats (made from Somerset clay).
Additionally our group will be inscribing rocks around Somerset with a text-number which will provide flood relevant proverbs or information when a message is sent to them. This was inspired by tsunami warning rocks in Japan!
|An original tsunami warning rock in Japan|
courtesy of the Huffington Post, 4th June 2011.
Our most valuable return on these projects are the skills in working with the public we will gain. After all, even capital projects designed with a stakeholder’s desires and demands in mind won’t work if the stakeholder rejects them. The pre-industrial history of the Somerset Levels illustrates this perfectly as drainage works in the region have typically been vandalised and prevented from working due to public opposition (an interesting contrast to the present dredging-heavy mentality!).
This blog has been reproduced with kind permission from the Bristol Doctoral College blog. It is written by Barney Dobson and Wouter Knoben who are currently studying engineering PhDs at the University of Bristol.
Read part one of this blog.
More about Land of the Summer People
This event was organised by Cabot Institute members Seila Fernández Arconada and Thorsten Wagener. Read more.