New Paper Published in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Our new paper was recently published online in the Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Noëlle Boucquey, Kevin St. Martin, Luke Fairbanks, Lisa M. Campbell, and Sarah Wise. 2019. Ocean Data Portals: Performing a New Infrastructure for Oceans Governance. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. DOI: 10.1177/0263775818822829

If you want to skip straight to paper itself, you can access it here. If you can’t get access through that link, please feel free to email Luke and request a PDF.

Otherwise, here is the abstract: We are currently in what might be termed a “third phase” of ocean enclosures around the world. This phase has involved an unprecedented intensity of map-making that supports an emerging regime of ocean governance where resources are geocoded, multiple and disparate marine uses are weighed against each other, spatial tradeoffs are made, and exclusive rights to spaces and resources are established. The discourse and practice of marine spatial planning inform the contours of this emerging regime. This paper examines the infrastructure of marine spatial planning via two ocean data portals recently created to support marine spatial planning on the East Coast of the United States. Applying theories of ontological politics, critical cartography, and a critical conceptualization of “care,” we examine portal performances in order to link their organization and imaging practices with the ideological and ontological work these infrastructures do, particularly in relation to environmental and human community actors. We further examine how ocean ontologies may be made durable through portal use and repetition, but also how such performances can “slip,” thereby creating openings for enacting marine spatial planning differently. Our analysis reveals how portal infrastructures assemble, edit, and visualize data, and how it matters to the success of particular performances of marine spatial planning.

Be sure to check out our Research and Research Products to pages to learn more about our work!

2018 AAG Annual Meeting

We organized a panel session on “Critical Approaches to Ocean Planning” at the 2018 AAG Annual Meeting in New Orleans. Organized by Noëlle Boucquey and chaired by Kevin St. Martin, panelists also included Katherine Sammler (California State University – Maritime Academy), Leslie Acton (Colorado State University), Lauren Drakopulos (University of Washington), and Noella Gray (University of Guelph). Panelists discussed topical issues including the sociopolitical aspects of marine protected areas, deep-sea mining controversies, approaches to governing high-seas regions, new dimensions of commercial fisheries governance, and our own work examining MSP in the US. The panel focused on critical questions about how environments and communities are imagined and produced via the mapping and management practices of ocean planning, how state and private entities are wielding power over spaces and bodies through these practices, and in what ways the material realities of oceans and non-human actors affect management discourses and practices.
Click for panel description
Ocean planning is growing in scope and influence globally, moving beyond local coastal management or pockets of marine protected areas, to include ambitious efforts to develop spatial plans covering wide swaths of national and territorial seas. At the beginning of this movement, most research focused on identifying best practices for ocean planning (e.g. stakeholder participation, “fair” distribution, considering future uses). More recently, a growing number of scholars are examining planning efforts critically, asking questions such as: How are environments and communities imagined and produced via the mapping and management practices of ocean planning? How are state and private entities wielding power over spaces and bodies through these practices? In what ways do the material realities of oceans and non-human actors affect management discourses and practices? What fundamental shifts in the theory and practice of oceans governance do they signify and promote? This panel aims to explore and expand the conversations surrounding ocean planning with other scholars working across disciplinary and theoretical contexts. Our purpose is to engage with new questions and innovative research methods to advance the discussion and critical research on material, technological, and epistemological engagements with ocean planning.

New paper published in the Annals of the AAG

Our new paper was recently published online in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

Luke Fairbanks, Lisa M. Campbell, Noëlle Boucquey, & Kevin St. Martin. 2017. Assembling Enclosure: Reading Marine Spatial Planning for Alternatives. Annals of the American Association of Geographers. DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2017.1345611.

If you want to skip straight to paper itself, this link here provides full access for a limited time! If you can’t get access through that link, please feel free to email Luke and request a PDF.

Otherwise, here is a brief summary: In this paper we use the case of U.S. marine spatial planning (MSP) to explore the concept of enclosure (more on enclosure and MSP). As part of our work, we have been interested in how MSP can provide opportunities for coastal communities, environments, and other actors to intervene and shape planning and management offshore. Where many spatial environmental governance strategies have been closely linked to enclosure and its often undesirable impacts, in this paper we try to read MSP a bit differently. Using assemblage theory, we explore how enclosure is and is not happening through MSP, and how MSP might (perhaps paradoxically) offer productive or alternative paths for the people and places often considered disempowered by conventional enclosure processes. With its many moving parts, MSP is an interesting case to think about through assemblage. We argue that this sort of approach to governance and enclosure might help open us up to innovative or alternative arrangements at sea and elsewhere — and alternative and progressive futures for communities and environments.

Be sure to check out our Research and Research Products to pages to learn more about our work!

MARE 2017 “People and the Sea” Conference

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!