Two new papers

The past few weeks have been an unusually productive period in terms of new publications. Some of it owes to a busy summer, but some of it also relates to the long processing times that some journals have between accepting a paper and putting in ‘out there’.

The first one I want to point to is the third paper – but first major empirical paper – from the BNHCRC project on scientific knowledge in risk mitigation. I have discussed this work in previous posts, but essentially it is focused on studying the relations between science, policy and practitioners in bushfire and flood risk mitigation empirically – not in abstraction. How do practitioners express and manage differing opinions about the diverse forms of knowledge and uncertainties inherent to mitigation practice (including in terms of their relative influence and changeability)? How does science comes to inform risk mitigation policy and practice?
This new paper draws mainly on a workshop we did with bushfire practitioners in southwest Victoria, a pilot site for the Victorian government’s new ‘risk-based’ approach to planned burning. Here’s the abstract:

Over the past decade, major landscape wildfires (or ‘bushfires’ in Australia) in fire-prone countries have illustrated the seriousness of this global environmental problem. This natural hazard presents a complex mesh of dynamic factors for those seeking to reduce or manage its costs, as ignitions, hazard behaviour, and the reactions of different human and ecological communities during and after hazard events are all extremely uncertain. But while those at risk of wildfire have been subject to significant research, the social dimensions of its management, including the role of science, have received little attention. This paper reports on a case study of the Barwon-Otway area of Victoria in Australia, a high wildfire risk area that has recently been a pilot site for a new risk mitigation strategy utilising the wildfire simulation model PHOENIX RapidFire. Against simple equations between ‘more science’ and ‘less uncertainty,’ this paper presents results from interviews and a workshop with practitioners to investigate how scientific research interacts with and informs both wildfire policy and practice. We suggest that attending to cultural and social specificities of the application of any technical innovation—such as next generation modelling—raises questions for future research about the roles of narrative, performance, and other knowledges in the sedimentation of science.

This link to Geoforum should give free access until 20 May 2016.

(image: T. Neale)

The second piece that just came out was written with two games scholars, Robbie Fordyce and Tom Apperley, in late 2014/early 2015. The article – Modelling Systemic Racism: Mobilising the Dynamics of Race and Games in Everyday Racism – critically examines the use of race in videogames by focusing on Everyday Racism, a ‘serious game’ that attempts to give players a sense of the everyday difficulties of racial discrimination. As the abstract explains:

This article is concerned with attempts to pose videogames as solutions to systemic racism. The mobile app, Everyday Racism, is one such game. Its method is to directly address players as subjects of racism interpellating them as victims of racist language and behaviour within Australian society, implicating the impact of racism on mental health and wellbeing. While the game has politically laudable goals, its effectiveness is undermined by several issues themselves attributable to the dynamics of race and games. This paper will spell out those issues by addressing three separate facets of the game: the problematic relationship between the player and their elected avatar; the pedagogic compromises that are made in modelling racism as a game; finally, the superliminal narrative that attempts to transcend the limited diegetic world of the game.
The paper is published in the new issue of The Fibreculture Journal in Open Access.