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Sep 16
I thought I would write a post explaining the three strands of the Hydrocitizenship digital strategy:

- Four Case Study Satellite Sites

Each of these sites functions (or will) in contrasting and complementary ways. This three strand approach draws from and adapts the online media strategy of National Theatre Wales (NTW) within a specific research context. NTW's innovative online community contains records of its largely site--specific and participatory performance practices throughout Wales since 2010. Artists, critics, spectators and company members share and discuss production processes, engage in debates and discuss future possibilities. This strategy makes use of numerous online platforms with a social network at its centre in order to tie together many diverse community centred activities occurring at local levels in different parts of the nation. 

Hydrocitizenship

This is a three year project involving communities from around the UK, more specifically in Yorkshire, mid Wales, Bristol and the Lee Valley. It involves a range of academics and practitioners in a lots of different fields and disciplines and from a variety of backgrounds. Like NTW, our web presence seeks to provide a corporate sense of identity across the case study areas by providing a main website that introduces and explains the project, this is Hydrocitizenship.

Over the course of the next three years it will grow and eventually contain formal research outputs and an archive of events and other activities. This site is important, because it provides an identity to the project and attempts to tie the various strands of it together. However, while this site will be informative, it is not likely to receive very much traffic on a day to day basis. Also, people don't arrive at the front page of a website like they do the front page of a book. They are as likely to come in through the back door having been directed there by Twitter, Facebook or Hydrocitizens as they are to encounter a page containing a straightforward introduction to the project. 

The web is rhizomatic, by this I mean that there are numerous connections between sites and users don't navigate in an ordered or logical manner. With this in mind, we have developed a digital strategy that enables users to encounter and engage with our work on multiple platforms and with many entry points. This strategy draws upon and creates links and associations between multiple sites and draws upon the voices of multiple authors. This means that we can engage far more effectively through the web than our main site would be able to do on its own. It currently averages about 50 page views a day.


Case Study Satellite Sites
Because there are four distinct case study areas with different issues, concerns and participants, each case study has (or will have) its own separate blog/site. This means that each case study can have its own local identity and can operate within and alongside Hydrocitizenship. Each of these sites can continue along its own trajectory when the Hydrocitizenship project has reached its conclusion. The Yorkshire site is up and running and the other three will follow soon. When all four satellite case study sites are ready they will contain links to Hydrocitizenship and vice versa. These satellite sites may well receive more web traffic than Hydrocitizenship and will likely have more appeal to local community members than the main Hydrocitizenship site which aims to satisfy academics, project partners and the AHRC. 


Hydrocitizens - Online Community
The third strand of our strategy is this online community. It currently has 36 members and is averaging over 500 page visits a day. We are keen to foster and engage in conversations and exchanges about water and related issues with others that are already engaged in the field. Our hope is that we will not only produce a substantial record of our activities and discussions over the course of the next three years, but that others that are not directly involved in Hydrocitizenship might promote their work and engage in debates, making the community their own and enriching our research and their own.

Hydrocitizens is a product of Hydrocitizenship but does not aim to provide a unified authorial voice for the project. Instead, in hopes to do the following:

1) Provide a platform through which multiple voices might be heard. Unlike the main Hydrocitizenship site and the four case study sites it seeks to encourage participation. It hopefully provides a space for dialogue between any configuration of member. All of the pages are public and will turn up in a google search. Over time, it will tell stories of Hydrocitizenship from the perspectives of those that are engaged in the project online.

2) Create a space in which others might share their work in the hope that unexpected conversations and collaborations might occur. This community hopes to help draw attention to the work of others whilst also revealing the day to day processes behind a large interdisciplinary research project. 

3) It hopes to provide a way of linking up the four case study areas at the level of the day to day. Practices, methods and discoveries might be made available in ways that facilitate organic cross fertilisation between case studies throughout the process. The community has already led to collaborative ways of working, with ideas from various case study areas feeding into planning processes elsewhere. As time goes by this could prove to be an innovative framework for geographically dispersed interdisciplinary research.

4) Create a legacy for the project that exists independently beyond Hydrocitizenship. It is hoped that members will configure the community through the nature of their participation and that it will take on a life of its own.

There is also potential to begin engaging with other networks including Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Pinterest, Youtube and others. 

My invitation to new members, particularly those whose practice is outside Hydrocitizenship, is to use the community to connect others up to their work by pasting extracts from their own websites and blogs in their Hydrocitizen's blog and adding links between the two. The voices of others are an essential part of this project.

This strategy is a work progress, an investigation of its own, that will evolve through online collaboration over the course of the next three years. Please share thoughts, ask questions and make suggestions as to what it could be.



Apr 23
"I have long been fascinated by the relations of language and landscape – by the power of strong style and single words to shape our senses of place. And it has become a habit, while travelling in Britain and Ireland, to note down place words as I encounter them: terms for particular aspects of terrain, elements, light and creaturely life, or resonant place names. I’ve scribbled these words in the backs of notebooks, or jotted them down on scraps of paper. Usually, I’ve gleaned them singly from conversations, maps or books. Now and then I’ve hit buried treasure in the form of vernacular word-lists or remarkable people – troves that have held gleaming handfuls of coinages, like the Lewisian “Peat Glossary”. Robert Macfarlane 

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/27/robert-macfarlane-word-hoard-rewilding-landscape

Watershed Borth Community GardensFrom May 26th to 29th the Cymerau artists and community members showcased creative projects devised with and for people in the Borth and Tal-y-bont area in Ceredigion, mid Wales.


This included Beached: The Final Landing by Jane Lloyd-Francis and Gwilym Morus-Baird;  Water Surgery by Jess Allen; Y Gors by Dafydd Sills-Jones, Anne Marie Carty and Nick Jones; Edafedd-dwr by Ffion Jones; The Water Shed by residents of the Borth Community Allottments and Stories, Songs, Science and the Sea by Peter Stevenson, Erin Kavanagh and Lynne Denman.


The following is written conversation between two participants in these events. Tom Payne was involved in organising the Spring Gathering with other members of the local team. Katherine Jones is a former Aberystwyth resident and is a Towards Hydrocitizenship team member working on the Water City Bristol case study.


The Watershed


On Saturday, an open invitation was extended to members of the general public to visit the Borth Community Gardens. From Borth train station platform, which looks out onto Borth Bog, the gardens can be located by walking to the end of the platform and through a walkway gate. This is part of the coastal path walk, which curves inland a great way after Borth to get around the Dyfi estuary. It can be accessed from this direction by passing through the gate and down a lane, across the tracks and past a derelict looking barn with three small ponies moseying about next to it, and then towards the church and cemetery. Just before reaching these, is a slight right turn leading to the gates of the Borth Community Garden and allotments. Started five years ago by a group of people who got together, and were given a small piece of land by a local farmer for whom it was simply more grazing land for sheep (no shortage of that in Wales!), the community garden is the site of The Water Shed; a timber framed building designed using found and recycled materials, with the aim of providing a meeting/workshop space for community members.



Watershed Borth Community Gardens


Katherine:  We are greeted on arrival by Caspar and Anne, who offer us tea or coffee and tell us the story of the community gardens, while we munch some homemade pakoras brought by Anne (made with gram flour). The space is beautiful. Bunting adorns a gorgeous pond as damselflies alight on lilypads, an orchard of fruit trees is punctuated by a chicken enclosure with several plump and healthy-looking chickens, and the place feels full of warmth and buzzing with vibrance and life (or that might be the bees from the two hives also in the orchard!). The top of the gardens afford a beautiful view of the Dyfi estuary in the distance, while the peacefulness of the surrounding landscape of bog and sea soaks in.


Tom: The gardens are partitioned into small allotments. Some are growing seasonal vegetables, others are carefully manicured, while several look like re-wilding is taking place. Our conversation with residents reveals that nettles and thistles are very much a deliberate choice on the part of some community members. Woe betide anyone who tries to cut them down! We are told that within hours of receving permission to use the field for allotments, the first stake went in the ground, marking out one man’s territory. Many sheds are dotted around the various plots, each one is unique, and adds individuality and personality. In contrast to the individual plots, are the communal areas, the polytunnel, the fledgling orchard, the communal tool shed, which are all suggestive of amicable collaboration. Athough we’re told that it pays to be quick if you want save any of the apples from scrumping.


Katherine: The Watershed is the name of the project, and the building that the members of the community garden, led by Jono, a professional builder, are building. The timber frame is up and three men are clambering about on it, hammering in joints and joists (my building knowledge is being tested here). The building will not be connected to water and electricity, but will have solar panels on the roof, and will collect water running off the roof into a storage tank. The goal is to use the energy from the solar panels to pump the water to the top of the gardens. It will also serve as a small hub for the community garden, a space where people can stop for a cup of tea perhaps. Also in process is a pizza oven a little further up the slope, created in the shape of a pregnant woman. I’d like to visit again when it’s up and running!


Tom: The ‘pizza oven’ was salvaged from the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Ceramic Festival. Its former designation as kiln is a somewhat distant one, as it awaits restoration. And it is not the only evidence of such purposeful re-imagining. Salvaging and re-using are themes that stand out strongly in this place. The re-purposing of land, the re-location of sheds, the recycling of materials to build the Water Shed.


Watershed Borth Community Gardens



Katherine: After a wander around the site, observing the water tanks and taps, admiring the view, and talking about planting and plots, and the amazing transformation this piece of land has undergone in only five years, we return to the gazebo [is that what that tent thing is called?] where several people are painting the bottoms of clear glass jars, which will be embedded into the wall of the watershed, a kind of communal stained glass window. I ask if I can join in and Tom and I then sit and paint jars with several women. A man is sprawled out on a blanket with his two beloved dogs, and a couple of girls sit next to him coloring in books. Next to me is a young woman who tells me her partner has a plot in the allotments and so she comes along. Conversation meanders from the project, to the group of people who are involved, to what brought them together, and to Borth. It seems that there are a lot of artists in the area, attracted to the peace and quiet. And yet people come through from all over the place, there are always international connections. A friend who used to live there is now on an island somewhere off the coast of British Columbia doing organic farming. A couple from South Africa are about to come to stay in Caspar’s Airbnb.


Tom: I believe Owain has stayed there too.


Katherine: Painting the bottoms of jars feels therapeutic, and we talk about this a little. I am reminded of a recent book called Art as Therapy by Alain Du Botton. As we paint, conversation ebbs and flows without pressure, without rush. I remember reading a story in which someone said they had their most heart-to-heart conversations with their mother when they were shelling beans together, and this has a feeling like that. Naturally we talk about the Watershed project, but more so the community gardens, and Anne talks about some future project she wants to do next, using the groynes that are currently abandoned in a tip. She has chainsaw work to do but decides not to disturb the mellow peace of our activity. Several of them are going to ‘True Tales’ in the Friendship Inn in the evening, the last of the season apparently, and they encourage us to come along. These are activities that hold the group together.


Watershed Borth Community Gardens



Katherine: We talk a bit about the ‘water project’ as they call it. Cymerau or Towards Hydrocitizenship being a bit of a mouthful clearly. One person quotes another Borth-based friend as saysing ‘if one more person comes and tries to talk to me about climate change!’. I express a bit of surprise thinking most of the projects I’ve come across haven’t explicitly mentioned climate change, though obviously it wont’ only be our arts projects but many others as well, which have alighted on this strange and wonderful little place as being in the line of sea level rise. There seems to be an awareness of this among the people we talk to in any case. I mention that our project deliberately set out not to explicitly talk about climate change or flooding, but to allow people’s understandings of and relationships with water to emerge through conversation. And emerge they do. Now that we’re on the topic, people talk about their own relationships with the prospect of climate change affecting Borth. They note that some people don’t want to think about it and would rather put their fingers in their ears and go ‘la la la la’ than hear about it. Others feel a bit helpless and wonder what to do. And others do things like the community garden, building a sense of community, camaraderie and being in it together.


Katherine: I’ve been listening to a podcast interview with Rebecca Solnit, called Falling Together, in which she discusses people’s responses following disasters. The way that people spring up to help, opening their homes, providing food and shelter to those affected, donating blood, showing up and helping. This is something that is witnessed time and again, and a narrative that is often left out of the media. Solnit wonders about how this spirit is fostered at times when there is no disastrous event, and as I sit and paint the bottom of a glass jar, I think this is exactly the kind of way that it happens (or is brought about). These are the people who in a disaster will be there for each other. This is what some would call the building of ‘resilience’, and of ‘community’ and of ‘community resilience’.

As an afterthought, I wonder if this would all be happening without interventions like Cymerau, and I imagine it would. But Cymerau has given such things a boost, which seems the most appropriate intervention that a short duration project could be involved with. Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, the project has come along as part of a flow of things and in a fluid way become a small part of existing activities and networks, potentially transforming, in a small way, the relationships within and between those networks... Perhaps in any case the transformation is about us and not 'communities'. In this space, Tom and I both reflect on how this project feels good and how we're glad to have been part of something like this, even in a small way. We are learning something, perhaps many things, from being present in such spaces, without trying too hard to frame or impose our own ideas and structures onto these interactions.


Watershed Borth Community Gardens
Having recently joined the team as the RA for the Bristol part of the project and with the first full team meeting still a few weeks away, I got in touch with the two lead artists for the Bristol case study, Iain Biggs and Antony Lyons and suggested a meet and greet. Antony suggested the Mud Dock, a cafe and bike shop located on the pleasant harbour side of the River Avon and from whose terrace we could look out onto the water. And so, on a sunny afternoon we convened at this lovely spot for a chat. 

Being only half of the team, we were not set about making big decisions and so instead the conversation was free-flowing, following various thoughts and ideas, dwelling in whirlpools, and sometimes dissipating into the air. 

Among the things we discussed were the difficulties surrounding the selection of case studies in a place like Bristol. The hydrocitizenship project aims not only to draw upon existing communities, but also to participate in the building of communities around aspects of water in the city. 

 

We discussed the potential case study areas, and the extent to which the census and open atlas maps of Bristol gave a sense of different parts of Bristol - and also the extent to which they can sometimes fail in terms of evoking a sense of place and the difficulties of defining places based on statistical information. Iain pointed out the danger of assuming that areas in which there are a lot of immigrants or non-white people are in any sense more a community than other places, or in any sense homogenous. There is perhaps more to be discussed with relation to the various maps and information about the city and how these represent places, and how this might impact on case study selection. Certainly, how we define community and the assumptions that we make about this early on in the project are of paramount importance, as it will affect our interactions profoundly... 

Antony also spoke about and showed some examples from previous artistic projects of his that have involved thinking about some aspect of water, such as tides, and a communal laundry space as a site for community in a piece of work in Portugal... 

Conversation flowed and meandered like a river and we covered many things and thoughts about the project... thoughts to be continued... 


Having recently joined the team as the RA for the Bristol part of the project and with the first full team meeting still a few weeks away, I got in touch with the two lead artists for the Bristol case study, Iain Biggs and Antony Lyons and suggested a meet and greet. Antony suggested the Mud Dock, a cafe and bike shop located on the pleasant harbour side of the River Avon and from whose terrace we could look out onto the water. And so, on a sunny afternoon we convened at this lovely spot for a chat. 

Being only half of the team, we were not set about making big decisions and so instead the conversation was free-flowing, following various thoughts and ideas, dwelling in whirlpools, and sometimes dissipating into the air. 

Among the things we discussed were the difficulties surrounding the selection of case studies in a place like Bristol. The hydrocitizenship project aims not only to draw upon existing communities, but also to participate in the building of communities around aspects of water in the city. 

 

We discussed the potential case study areas, and the extent to which the census and open atlas maps of Bristol gave a sense of different parts of Bristol - and also the extent to which they can sometimes fail in terms of evoking a sense of place and the difficulties of defining places based on statistical information. Iain pointed out the danger of assuming that areas in which there are a lot of immigrants or non-white people are in any sense more a community than other places, or in any sense homogenous. There is perhaps more to be discussed with relation to the various maps and information about the city and how these represent places, and how this might impact on case study selection. Certainly, how we define community and the assumptions that we make about this early on in the project are of paramount importance, as it will affect our interactions profoundly... 

Antony also spoke about and showed some examples from previous artistic projects of his that have involved thinking about some aspect of water, such as tides, and a communal laundry space as a site for community in a piece of work in Portugal... 

Conversation flowed and meandered like a river and we covered many things and thoughts about the project... thoughts to be continued... 

Blogs

All hydrocitizens members can keep their own blog. You can share your research process and practice and anything else that you think might be of interest to other community members.

All blog entries appear together chronologically as part of the Hydrocitizens blog. If you would like to view just your own entries, or those of another community member, then you can access these on member profile pages under the blog tab.

Adding tags (words that capture the main subject or theme of your post) will help people to find your blog more easily.

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