Shoreline Adaptations to Flooding in Urban Waterways Weekly Blog [PIG]


  1. What did you accomplish last week?
  • Onboarding with the program
  • Advancing our understanding of protocols!
  • Last week felt like a dismantling of our initial concept to investigate its parts. We’ve been spending time doing some personal exploration of protocols based on our individual experiences:
    • Celeste worked on reading more about protocols of stakeholder/community engagement that exist in the environmental and democracy space, especially.
      • Participatory democracy, methods and practices
      • Deliberative polling and People’s Assemblies
    • Danielle has been wondering: what are the large-scale measurement systems in place that we could use?
      • e.g. Sustainable Development Goals
  1. What do you plan to do next week?
  • Preparation for our Singapore trip! We need to set up meetings with contacts in Singapore related to our interest in shoreline adaptations. Danielle will continue to travel to Jakarta and Bangkok - there’s a lot to research and set up in advance.
  • We need to develop a set of key questions that can help standardize the information we get as we begin interviewing experts and stakeholders.
  1. What (if anything) is blocking your progress?
  • We need to focus our project a little; the complexity and scope of our interest needs to be refined.
  • Also, Celeste has been on pre-planned travel the past week and Danielle was finishing up teaching for the semester; that has made it harder to move forward. We did some pre-work the prior week, but we’re excited to focus.
  1. Fun insight/tidbit, link, or idea?

A protocol intends to clearly define, and with that clarity, make something complex accessible. The intent of our project is to investigate shoreline adaptations to enable comparison of potential solutions, broaden the options on the table, and illuminate the complex convergence of government, environment, and culture that is shaping our future relationship to the water.

In Jana Tay’s A Phenomenology of Protocols, she discusses aliveness and flourishing. She links the concreteness of a protocol to the ethereal nature of how we perceive and live in the world; how we flourish in the world. Our passion for this project is born from a belief that people and societies are better off when they are connected to their environment. In coastal cities this means having access to the water, having an opportunity to have a relationship with the water. In our work, we have called this vibrancy, a belief that when waterways are as vibrant and diverse as the rest of the city they are part of it is good for both people and the environment. As more and more infrastructure is altered to adapt to rising waters this is more important than ever. Will the future further access achieved now or will it continue standards of disconnection with more walls? So the intent of demonstrating paths that lead to more access and work with the opportunities of water (not just in response to fear) is a desire to enable more flourishing.

Our challenge is that protocols are most useful when they are clear, concise, and simple. The elements shaping regulations and infrastructure on urban waterways are anything but simple. This week we have explored a multi-prong inquiry, approaching our project from the perspective of getting to know protocols and teasing apart what aspects of shoreline adaptions are most useful to highlight.

The first, getting to know and understand protocols has consisted of protocolizing various aspects of my life. I (Danielle) realized that all my practices are just protocols. I set about visualizing them. Morning Routine Protocol, Preparation for Work Protocol, Drawing Protocol. Most daunting and applicable - a protocol to check the assumption of our proposed project.

Celeste and I operate grassroots cultural organizations. We have seen the power of community projects and advocacy to change and influence policies about the water and begin normalizing a different standard of access to waterways in New York. Our framing for this project has been to create a tool for laypeople to better advocate for more innovative responses to flooding that can build a future where we are more not less connected to our waterways. In this research phase, we want to speak to more people and see if our assumption of the appropriate audience is correct. What is the right place to push to enable flourishing?


Awesome update! I’m trying to find Singapore waterfront contacts for you.


Week Two!

  1. What did you accomplish last week?
  • We have begun to effectively narrow the scope of our research. After both interrogating the large number of protocols at play in how cities respond to sea level rise and beginning to map out the complexity of this issue, we’re looking to focus primarily on how publics are, or could be, engaged in decisionmaking about adaptation.
  • We did some interviews with climate change adaptation professionals in Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia that helped us with this focusing process.
  • We prepared for the research portion of our Singapore trip.
    • We have made initial contact with artists, curators, activists, and academics working on climate and public engagement issues locally, and we’re getting excited to learn how public knowledge, social activism, and stakeholder engagement activities work in such a very different social context!
    • We continued honing our research questions based on our focusing efforts.
    • Pre-reads for the workshop and learning about Singapore, generally.
    • Danielle is continuing on with other research work in SE Asia, and worked on her plans for those legs of the journey.
  1. What do you plan to do next week?

    • We’ll be in Singapore! We’ll be roadtesting our research questions and kicking off our first 3-week “Research Sprint” of the summer. We’re aiming to spend two weeks in research/expansion mode, and one week in collaborative synthesis, refocusing, and (initially lo-fi) prototyping.
  2. What (if anything) is blocking your progress?

    • Details about the Singapore trip have been fairly limited, so scheduling meetups with our potential sources has been somewhat blocked… but largely we are not blocked.
  3. Fun insight/tidbit, link, or idea?

    I (Celeste) have spent quite a bit of time over the past few weeks looking at existing protocols for urban adaptation to coastal flooding and sea level rise.

    A growing number of cities have adopted formal guidance on how to incorporate and assess technical and scientific information about expected flooding into their planning processes. These documents are often quite detailed and technical, dealing with a broad range of conditions, site-specific data that must be evaluated regarding flood elevation, existing essential infrastructure, natural resources, and current usage. A few such documents include public engagement as part of such protocols — but I have yet to find a detailed protocol for how the experience, use, and knowledge of stakeholders should be included.

    The most detailed plans on these points — such as this one from Portland — do not specify standards or expectations for how knowledge generated through ‘community engagement and outreach’ should influence policy. Similarly, when specific methods, techniques, or actions are included, they often include a limited set of tools that provide “feedback” opportunities for the public — “charrettes, focus groups, open houses, workshops, and public meetings.”

    If climate, flooding and tidal data — which have enormous local variation, high degrees of uncertainty, and extreme sensitivity to changing conditions — can be incorporated into protocols for evaluating climate change-related action, why couldn’t such policies include a better protocol for engaging with the public?

    As Kara Kittel and Toby Shorin write in Unprotocolized Knowledge, "By setting out the boundaries of global validity, knowledge protocols also determine the lines of conflict where new ideas and theories fight for inclusion.”

    This is where we are hoping our work can have an impact; how can we improve, expand, and scale up protocols that expand the sources and types of knowledge that shape urban shorelines?