Author: Tim Corballis – Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

One of the primary difficulties of communicating climate modelling research is that of locating specifically human perspectives within its results. Their spaces and durations are too large and long, their views generally ‘God’s eye’, and their themes implicitly too dystopian to allow for engagement on a subjective level—all we can do is watch from afar as the world burns. In this paper I argue that this is a representational problem. I suggest that architectural theorist Kevin Lynch’s notion of ‘cognitive mapping’, as taken up by literary critic Fredric Jameson, is a useful way to think it through. A cognitive map is a way of thinking about ones position within a larger totality such as a city. Literary writing can be argued to offer cognitive maps of different situations by placing protagonists, say, in relation to representations of a social, economic and ethical totality, giving us imaginative tools for thinking about our own situation. An example is the detective novel: the detective moves through all parts of a city, mapping the connections between them and tracing the effects of human actions. I will engage with climate models, asking what literary forms are useful to explore human perspectives within them. What tools can literary writing offer, to: 1. connect multiple spatial and temporal scales—the human and the global; 2. dramatise cause and effect that is statistical rather than direct; and 3. relate protagonists to a setting that, like a changing climate, no longer offers a neutral backdrop for human action?

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication