Embracing an interdisciplinary approach to plastics pollution awareness and action
This paper considers how an interdisciplinary approach to the “wicked problem” of plastics pollution offers unique and important collaborative possibilities. Specially, the paper considers the approach of the Synthetic Collective, a group comprising artists, humanities scholars, and scientists. Considering first how artists and scientists might respond differently to tracking, mapping, understanding, and representing plastics pollution, we then look for potential points of commonality across disciplinary difference. In respect to the urgent and multifaceted problem of marine plastics pollution in the Great Lakes region, we ask what are some of the successes and pitfalls of bringing together diverse approaches and interests? The paper concludes with a clear strategy: a set of instructions geared towards building successful interdisciplinary collaborations. Ultimately, we conclude that a strong relationship amongst scientists and artists is possible, fruitful, and indeed warranted when shared goals are the driving principle of the group.
KeywordsArts Humanities Interdisciplinary Plastics pollution Sciences Wicked problem
We would like to acknowledge the funding support received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). We also thank the many researchers who have contributed to the mission of the Synthetic Collective, especially Drs. Lorena Rios, Paul Helm, Max Liboiron, Sara Seck, and Elizabeth Gillies. Lastly, we are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions that improved the paper.
- Alliance for the Great Lakes. 2018. Adopt-a-Beach. https://greatlakes.org/get-involved/adopt-a-beach/. Accessed 29 May 2017.
- Corcoran, P.L., K. Jazvac, and A. Ballent. 2017. Plastics and the Anthropocene. In The encyclopedia of the anthropocene, vol. 1, ed. Dominick.A. DellaSala and Michael.I. Goldstein, 163–170. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
- Davis, H. 2015a. Toxic progeny: The plastisphere and other queer futures. PhiloSOPHIA 5: 232–250.Google Scholar
- Davis, H. 2015b. Life and death in the anthropocene: A short history of plastic. In Art in the anthropocene: Encounters among aesthetics, politics, environments and epistemologies, ed. H. Davis and E. Turpin, 347–358. London: Open Humanities Press.Google Scholar
- Higgie, J., 2012. Shouts and murmurs. Frieze Magazine Art As Activism, 149.Google Scholar
- Huutoniemi, K., and I. Rafols. 2017. Interdisciplinarity in Research Evaluation. Oxford Handbooks Online. New York: Oxford Univeristy Press. https://ssrn.com/abstract=2818321.
- Jambeck, J.R., R. Geyer, C. Wilcox, T.R. Siegler, M. Perryman, A. Andrady, R. Narayan, and K.L. Law. 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science Magazine 347: 768–771.Google Scholar
- Kane, G.C., R.G. Fichman, J. Gallaugher, and J. Glaser. 2009. Community relations 2.0. Harvard Business Review 87: 45–50.Google Scholar
- Kühn, S., E.L. Bravo Rebolledo, and J.A. van Franeker. 2015. Deleterious effects of litter on marine life. In Marine anthropogenic litter, ed. M. Bergmann, L. Gutow, and M. Klages. Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
- Liboiron, M., F. Liboiron, E. Wells, N. Richárd, A. Zahara, C. Mather, H. Bradshaw, and J. Murichi. 2016. Low plastic ingestion rate in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) from newfoundland destined for human consumption collected through citizen science methods. Marine Pollution Bulletin 113: 428–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2005. Facilitating interdisciplinary research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/11153.
- Pate, A., and E.E. McKinnon. 2016. A citizen engagement approach to water advocacy: Experiences from “eXXpedition Great Lakes”. Maritime Affairs: Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India 12: 99–108.Google Scholar
- PlasticsEurope, 2017. Plastics—The Facts 2017. https://www.plasticseurope.org/application/files/5715/1717/4180/Plastics_the_facts_2017_FINAL_for_website_one_page.pdf. Accessed 13 Mar 2018.
- Robertson, K. 2016. Plastiglomerate. E-flux Journal 86. http://www.e-flux.com/journal/78/82878/plastiglomerate/.
- Stutchbury, T., C. Gibson, L. Moxham, C. Schofield, and G. Spinks. 2015. White paper: Challenge-led interdisciplinary research programs. Global Challenges. University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, pp. 1–17. https://globalchallenges.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@gc/documents/doc/uow201256.pdf.
- Turra, A., B. Manzano, R. Jasa, S. Dias, M.M. Mahiques, L. Barbosa, D. Balthazar-Silva, and F.T. Moreira. 2014. Three-dimensional distribution of plastic pellets in sandy beaches: Shifting paradigms. Scientific Reports 44: 1–7.Google Scholar