Reading Nature's Network

Reading Nature's Network in Irish Literature, Film & Games

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This project is about pairing Irish literature and games to teach environmental literacy, where the common thread is complexity, which can and should also be defined as (bio)diversity and “wildness”. The concept of “rewilding,” a movement in conservation science that aims to support the health of the environment by restoring wild spaces, has become a social and cultural movement in latter years.

Rewilding’s tactics take as a given a vast complexity of interacting processes, with interventions focused on rearranging elements in the dynamic system to encourage (bio)diverse ends. Recent criticism suggests that similar things are happening in the literary arts, as emergent textual practices seek to allow complexity to flourish, with an almost moral component that complexity should be understood as positive in itself. This plays out as, instead of linear logic, texts present compound truths by cumulative narrative, with momentum generated from within the system. Subjects are meanwhile engaged in complex social and environmental dynamics, connecting epistemologies of network with ethical imperatives.

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This project will engage a humanities-led exploration of complexity in the classroom, with an innovative pairing of Irish literature and digital game environments. A central concern of the study will be the ways in which these texts, comparatively and individually, defer to wildness or complexity as the “natural” form of cultural and biological processes. The short-term goal will be to learn how experiences of new literature and experiences of gaming environments can work in complementary ways to communicate ecological complexity; the longer-term goal to foster greater ecological systems awareness through the text(s).

In environmental education, this is a stark contrast to the most often used type of approach, which is based on presentation of fact-based, scientific evidence, often reductive, which does not tend to change minds or behaviours. In contrast, this creates a dynamic, interdisciplinary context for the interdisciplinary subject of sustainability, providing new ways in. The approach takes into account that those who are most active online (those aged between 18 and 49, having some higher education) overlaps substantially with those most likely to be accepting of sustainability concepts. Complexity is presented as a common key characteristic of contemporary textuality and human and ecological systems; the network-fluency of younger generations presents an opportunity to tap into their cognitive and social strengths and cultivate these toward greater environmental literacy. 

Full infographic.