The Open University, United Kingdom (UK) has curated the ‘Creative Climate’, a long term web-based diary project in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The project aims at informing, motivating and networking people around the complex issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, urbanisation and resource depletion through dynamic and diverse human narratives. Twice a year, the project will prompt individuals and institutions to update an online diary about how they understand and act on these issues. It is hoped that this mix of professionally produced material and user-generated content will grow into an unparalleled online resource. An inspiration for the project is the earlier Mass Observation project of the 1930s and 1940s, which had sought to generate an ‘anthropology of ourselves’ whereby lay observers across Britain gave accounts of everyday life.
One of the central assumptions of Creative Climate is that human creativity is the key to meeting the environmental challenges facing the world today. Across the world, the website will collect thoughts and stories from doorstep to workplace, from lab to garden, from international conference to community meeting. The project will require people to update their diaries twice a year in the run up to the shortest and longest days. Though some guidelines are provided, people can make a diary in whatever way they choose, as individuals, a group or an institution. In addition, they can start a diary on behalf of something or some place: a street, a glacier or an insect. There are interesting possibilities – school and university students can compare their own cohort with the opinions and plans of past years or with others around the world.
The diaries on the website hold exciting potential to unlock the power of volunteer observers who can help to capture snapshots of opinion. Just as citizen science has resulted in some creative and valuable new knowledge, the proponents of the project want to introduce the concept of ‘citizen social scientists’ within the Creative Climate project.
The body of diaries lies at the core of the project, but these are supplemented by the offer of free online learning resources, radio and television programmes and new web content. The project will run a competition that will see students and other film and gaming talent make 10 two and a half minute films on environmental themes. The Open University plans to work with partners to produce compelling case studies in text, audio, video, figures and stills that will be regularly updated and can be used in formal learning or informal personal development.
The project is experimental in terms of its scope, its approach to environmental communications and in its use of media with an openness to learn and change with the medium that the project inhabits.