Team members Noëlle Boucquey, Kevin St. Martin, Sarah Wise, and Lisa Campbell presented and discussed our project this month at the 2017 MARE Conference in Amsterdam. Our project’s panel, “Performing Community and Environment in Marine Spatial Planning: Exploring the U.S. Approach,” included an introduction to our work, three papers in prep, and some time for discussion.
Unfortunately, I (Luke) had to miss this conference (and beautiful Amsterdam…), but the rest of the team tells me it was a excellent gathering of oceans social scientists from across disciplines, and a great opportunity to (re)connect with colleagues, hear about new research, and learn about similar (and different) issues at sea. We’re excited to take those conversations and insights with us as we move forward in this work!
Panel Description and Presented Papers:
- Conference Panel: “Performing Community and Environment in Marine Spatial Planning: Exploring the U.S. Approach.” 2017 MARE Conference, Centre for Maritime Research, Amsterdam, NL — Click for panel description
This panel presents the work of a multiyear study (2012-2017) on the development, implications, and human dimensions of marine spatial planning (MSP) in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Driven by federal policy, partnerships of state, federal, scientific, and other actors have recently completed ocean plans and ocean data portals for both regions. This involved extensive stakeholder engagement, geographic data synthesis and use, and government and public coordination for U.S. oceans governance and decision-making. The process has raised many questions about oceans governance and its relationships with human communities, oceans spaces, and marine environments in the U.S. The project and the papers presented in this panel critically examine these issues and are united by two overarching research questions: (1) How are communities and environmental actors constituted by MSP practices? (2) What are the roles of community and environmental actors in the constitution of MSP itself? Informed by ideas and theory drawn from geography, political ecology, anthropology, and studies of environmental governance, the project explores several aspects of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. MSP programs, ranging from how communities are enrolled and engaged in the planning process, to how new (and existing) geographic data projects, products, and portals influence and inform planning and human-oceans relationships more broadly.The panel is designed to generate discussion about critical analyses of MSP and marine governance, the possibilities and pitfalls MSP might offer, and MSP as a process of science, policy, and social engagement. The panel is organized as follows: (1) An introduction of the Community and Environment in MSP project; (2) A series of three brief (15 min) paper presentations on different facets of the project; and (3) A concluding discussion (30 min).
- “Metrological Struggles: How an Algorithm Constitutes Community in Marine Spatial Planning.” 2017 MARE Conference, Amsterdam, NL (K St. Martin presenting author) — Click for abstract
Marine Spatial Planning is emerging as a process which coordinates a wide range of marine interests, quells conflicts and controversies, and fixes marine space and use rights. The techniques by which MSP will achieve its goals include the development of geo-coded data, modeling approaches decision making, as well as the coordination of planning bodies, state and federal agencies, and local stakeholders. The political struggles which animate MSP and determine its trajectory are not, however, limited to those sites where representatives or appointees make decisions. We focus on an algorithmwhich produces a metric of fishing communities and their territories. The “communities at sea” algorithm is associated with an increasing number of MSP projects where it informs, for example, impact analyses of wind energy development. We trace how this algorithm performs an ontological politics where “community” is recognized and its capacities enhanced. We suggest that it might also provide a space where community knowledge, community-based resource management, and community economies can be actualized. Intervening in MSP to produce more just outcomes for communities will require being attentive to not only sites of traditional politics but also those sites where the ontological struggles manifest in algorithms, data, and modeling unfold.
- “Beyond the Map: The Process of Marine Spatial Planning and the Work it Does.” 2017 MARE Conference, Amsterdam, NL (S Wise presenting author) — Click for abstract
This paper looks at the social and policy work performed by the marine spatial planning process. Marine (or maritime) spatial planning continues to develop as a dominant management framework for marine resources and uses internationally. The stated purposes of MSP are many: to allocate space, time and resources, to balance competing human activities and values, and to quell controversy in the case of conflicts. However, the work done is beyond that of delineating borders for energy capture and labeling shipping lanes. Marine spatial planning is a social process that performs work, such as: creating linkages among people, agencies, and data points; simplifying and solidifying concepts; and defining meaning and value. As a process—of engagement, representation, and evaluation—it is hoped that MSP will reduce strife among competing actors and address rights of access for stakeholders and communities who rely on the sea for marine space and resources. The MSP process, as a form of ocean governance, also serves as a salve of sorts, to sooth, to assuage fears, and provide a platform for richer debate and negotiation. Through a specific set of practices—those of collecting, identifying, aggregating, and formatting data—certain ideas are made “real” by becoming meaningful and enduring. Based on ethnographic research on two MSP regional bodies in the U.S., this paper examines the performative character of MSP processes by focusing on the conceptualization of community as it emerges, begins to take shape, and evolves through the regional planning practice.
- “The depths of visibility? Choices, constraints, and consequences in the performance of ocean data portals.” 2017 MARE Conference, Amsterdam, NL (N Boucquey presenting author) — Click for abstract
This paper explores two ocean data portals recently created to support MSP in the United States, and the role of these portals in shaping ideas about what is or is not possible in particular ocean spaces. We examine how the data portals are constructed in order to link their organization and imaging practices with the ideological and ontological work these images do. We analyze the portals as important mediators between scientists, governing bodies, and the public. In doing so, we employ the critical cartography and ontological politics literatures to consider: (1) how the portals draw together disparate sources of social, political, and ecological data, and with what effects they display these data; (2) the social and technical struggles that underlie the portals’ visual outputs; and (3) the ways portal products are beginning to affect ongoing ocean governance efforts. Our analysis highlights that, contrary to what a casual visit to an ocean data portal website might suggest, the portal maps are products of active and ongoing negotiations by portal practitioners and interest groups. We examine how particular human communities and environments are made more or less visible in these portal products and ask how such (in)visibilities persist.
Head over to our Research page to learn more!