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The Baltic Sea comprises one of the most vulnerable and delicate of all marine ecosystems. A geographically young sea, resulting 15,000 years ago from Ice Age run-off, it is also very shallow and highly susceptible to the many pollutants and contaminants stemming from the human populations that engage it on a diverse spectrum of interaction: tourism, transport, industry, recreation, academic research, and artistic and creative rendering. Heavy industrialization and population growth around the Baltic regions (currently 16, 000, 000 inhabitants within 9 countries in coastal regions), combined with increased transportation routes across its surface, form a webbed network with a complex history of human/natural entanglements. Literally, the Baltic sea is in a state of oxygen depletion, a near-death hypoxia, where unique brackish saline conditions and factors from human impact have created massive dead zones under the surface, threatening sea and plant life, literally sucking the air out of the water that defines its very “being.”

This project seeks to “breathe life” back into the Baltic through a cooperative interdisciplinary effort to visualize, exhibit, perform, and document the environmental threats and opportunities for growth inspired by Baltic conditions. Coordinating with a range of scientific, technical, and creative experts working across fields such as computer science, digital culture, digital humanities, interaction and experience design, and digital art, we will craft a multiply-mediated and interdisciplinary vision of the Baltic Sea. Through a series of symposia, workshops, performances, exhibitions, and publications, we will explore emerging digital practices that draw on big-data analysis, computation and visualization methods, augmented and mixed realities, as well as new expressive methods for digital interaction to illustrate the eco-history of the Baltic. Our goal will be to not only explore interdisciplinary methods for research, necessary to sustain a robust environmental humanities approach (e.g. bringing scientists together with artists and culture theorists), but to create affective and interactive methods for expressing the data and sharing it with the general public in novel forms and venues. Developing new models for research, as well as providing new methods and genres for narrativizing human/natural experiences and evoking affective responses to participate within vulnerable ecosystems is a critical goal.

Participants: Lissa Holloway-Attawa, University of Skövde; Daniel Spikol, Malmö Högskola; Jay D. Bolter, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA; Maria Engberg, Malmö Högskola.