Reimagining Water Futures is a King’s Cultural Institute project based on scientific ideas evolving from Dr Naho Mirumachi’s newly published book ‘Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World’. The reflection below was written by two of King’s Water’s 2015-16 postgraduate students, Rebecca Peters and Jack Bathe.
Reimagining Water Futures, an interdisciplinary, exploratory workshop held 29 October at King’s, intertwined insights generated by academic institutions with the creativity of partners across arts sectors including photography, film, and literature. The workshop created an opportunity for participants to speak not just as academics or artists but as individuals interested in communicating and sharing water issues across disciplines. As current MSc candidates in Water: Science and Governance, we found the workshop to successfully unite the traditionally disparate angles of science, academia, and arts.
Given the intensity and diversity of water issues – floods, droughts, drinking water quality issues, environmental pollution, and potential conflict in the context of climate change – broad social engagement is critical. The theme of the workshop, water futures, is a nascent approach to considering the potential of water studies. Therefore, it requires unique imagination, creative power, and intense aspiration. The purpose of the workshop is to go beyond the heavy language typically found in inaccessible textbooks written for academic audiences. Panel and workshop participants, including MSc candidates in Water and Aquatic Resources Management, reflected on what motivates them. Through these reflections, we developed collective critical thinking about how to communicate complex scientific issues not just to each other but to ‘the public’. This reflection is based on an understanding that public engagement is a primary vehicle to affect widespread social change, rather than just speaking to colleagues or to students.
This workshop was conceived of as one way to further critical thinking about these ideas in an open, frank conversation regarding methods to convey complex messages across science, academia, and arts. Ultimately, the collaborators for this workshop embodied their deep care for innovations in public engagement and communication by examining the challenges for art (media, film, journalism) and science to ‘talk to’ one another. This care extended to a consideration to what this public engagement achieves, and what might be criteria of success. We decided upon #reimagineH2O as our hash tag for Twitter, and this may be followed as our work continues.