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    HAVANSVAR Blue Humanities Initiative

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HAVANSVAR Blue Humanities Initiative – NTNU Oceans Pilot on ethical, cultural, communicative, narrative and historic dimensions of Ocean related research and innovation

Technological development changes nature, but thereby we also change human living conditions. There are several unanswered questions concerning how we can secure a responsible and sustainable utilisation of ocean resources. Besides extending scientific knowledge, it is also important to reflect on how our values and attitudes, and our way of seeing and relating to nature, changes over time. A key idea of HAVANSVAR is that the humanities give valuable contributions to technology-dominated discourses by

  • providing means of critical reflection
  • broadening the basis for creating sound ocean imaginaries by introducing other voices into the discourse
  • promoting individual stories/narratives
  • invoking possible “soft impacts”, i.e. less tangible and morally ambiguous effects of new technology.

Through a multidisciplinary, humanities based research programme, we aim to build a platform for new knowledge on ethical, cultural, communicative, narrative and historic conditions for sustainable ocean research and innovation. 

Ongoing projects at NTNU

Ongoing projects at NTNU

We are in the middle of a «blue revolution» where the creatures of the ocean are domesticated at a pace never seen before. Fish, shellfish, algae and seaweed are made part of a human made aquaculture system, they become creatures embedded in a new technological and industrial system. The creatures we domesticate are intimately linked to societal development. Society’s co-evolution with these creatures raises a range of questions concerning the environmental, political, social and cultural consequences of the blue revolution. The important question then, is not so much if one is for or against aquaculture, but how to live with an ocean that is becoming increasingly important parts of our societies?

We investigate how the techno-scientific domestication of marine creatures changes not only the creatures and the ocean, but also humans and our societies. Empirically, we target controversies over aquaculture development, as these are sites where different actors discuss and articulate their understanding of aquaculture, as well as negotiate future development. In this way, this project’s goal is to investigate the historical development of a culture of aquaculture in Norway.

Contact: Researcher Terje Finstad, Dep. of interdisciplinary studies of culture

This project explores ethical foundations and possible normative dilemmas in choice of technology and research with a special focus on ocean and water related aspects. Normative foundations in economic-technical innovations are often implicit or hidden, and possible or emerging discussions on normative dilemmas are often supressed by the hegemonic position of a technology optimist position. Such positions often lack a critical view at the broad choices that we have at hand, and the complexity of our problems as exemplified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which is to be a holistic framework. A critical view is especially called for as we are now trespassing planetary boundaries for a continuous safe existence of humans on earth. This affects negatively the legitimacy of our economic-technological development, both among our citizens and with regard to sustainability. In specific, two main approaches are being pursued:

  • To what extent are the planetary boundaries treated as the ecological foundation, or are they being traded-off to achieve other single SDGs and thereby continue to contribute to the dramatic reduction of ecological integrity?
  • There is a huge investment gap for reaching the SDGs. How do the guidelines and practicing of responsible investments in the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) contribute to reduce this gap? The GPFG has been referred to as a gold-standard with regard to ethical or responsible investments, and their practice is a guidance for a broad range of investors.

Contact: Post.doc researcher Heidi Rapp Nilsen

This project discusses ethical aspects of deep sea mining, which is the process of retrieving mineral deposits from the ocean floor at great depths. The aim is to provide knowledge needed to make ethically responsible decisions with regard to deep sea mining and other activities involving environmental risk.

For instance, we look at the question of the need for minerals. Is there a morally significant need for the minerals one seeks to attain from the ocean floor? What kind of needs does society have an obligation or reason to meet? What other moral considerations must the need for minerals be viewed in relation to? Answering these questions will make us better able to evaluate whether deep sea mining should be supported from an ethical point of view.

Contact: Postdoctoral researcher Espen Dyrnes Stabell; Associate professor Siri Granum Carson

The ocean environment is fragile, largely unexplored and essential for human life on Earth. The project Humanoid Oceans grapples with the history of consequences and possibility science and technologies have created for human understanding of the ocean.

How will the future ocean look like, and how will humans gain knowledge about the deepest parts of the oceans in the future? All those questions have deep historical lines that the Humanoid Oceans project wants to unravel.

Selected publications:

Meyer, Tirza. ‘The Deep Sea Floor as a Battleground for Justice?’, in Werle Dirk, Paul R. Boudreau et al. eds.: The Future of Ocean Governance and Capacity Development Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Mann Borgese (1918-2002), Brill/Nijhoff, 2018, 128-133. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004380271

Meyer, Tirza. Elisabeth Mann Borgese - Deep Ideology. NTNU Doctoral thesis, 2018. http://hdl.handle.net/11250/2581916

Contact: Postdoctoral researcher Tirza Meyer

This project examines aquaculture research within the greater field of Norwegian research policy in the period approximately 1970-1995. During this period, fish farming of Atlantic salmon grew from a marginal phenomenon to a significant export industry. Simultaneously, Norwegian research policy underwent major changes. The so-called research councils had been formed in the post-WWII period, and were intended to revitalize and modernize key economic sectors, such as industry, fisheries and farming. The appearance of fish farming, as the English term suggests, came to present difficulties for this sectoral division.

The time span between the creation of the fisheries council, the NFFR, in 1972 and the combination of all the councils into the present Research Council of Norway in 1993 thus saw the rise and demise of the sectoral councils, while aquaculture research, as an interdisciplinary field, showcased many of the problems and opportunities inherent in scientific and technological progress.

Contact: Phd candidate Widar Aalrust Kristoffersen; Associate Professor Thomas Brandt; Researcher Terje Finstad.

This project examines the way human relationships to the ocean are shaped through storytelling in the context of environmental challenges such as global warming and species extinction. It focuses on how representations in anglophone transnational film and literature construct different narratives about the relation between human societies and the natural world.

Of particular importance is the contrast between dominant extractivist narratives that see the ocean as a resource and speculative feminist counternarratives that advocate multispecies ethics and coexistence. The project draws on feminist and decolonial perspectives, and central themes include border-crossing, kinship, and monstrosity.

Contact: Phd candidate Celina Annabell Stifjell; Associate Professor Julia Leyda; Associate Professor Hanna Musiol

This project is a cultural study of wrecking as a maritime activity on the islands of Hitra, Frøya and Smøla 1705-1860​. It focuses on how the local inhabitants on these three Norwegian islands handled a shipwreck - how they could perceive the wreckage as a predictable and stable maritime resource, and how they navigated between the legal and illegal salvaging activities. 

Contact: Prof. Svein Ingar Kaldal, Prof. Aud Mikkelsen Tretvik; PhD candidate: Sarah Dahle Hermanstad 

Finished projects

Finished projects

The oceans are ecologically in peril and a regulatory disaster. While the problems are widely acknowledged, the governance of the sea remains inadequate to address these global and ultifarious challenges. The problems are particularly acute for the area that lies beyond national borders and jurisdiction, what is typically termed the high seas and the deep ocean. The challenges related to the use and regulation of this area are fundamentally shaped and influenced by cultural conditions and perceptions.

This project seeks to chart and analyze how cultural conditions underpin the use of the oceans and to investigate the relationships between the representations, resources and regulations of the high seas and the deep oceans. We approach this through an interdisciplinary effort that links the studies of aesthetical formations with their concomitant implications for legal and regulatory development across historical time and space.

Read more here.

Contact: Prof. Håkon With Andersen, Ass. Prof. Thomas Brandt, Prof. Knut Ove Eliassen

The focus of this study was on normative questions involved in the development of new technology in general, and within deep sea mining in particular. Angles included:

  • Corporate social responsibility in situations where companies are involved in the development of socially and environmentally controversial technology.
  • Responsible research and innovation as a way to address social and environmental challenges in research initiatives.
  • Research ethics in the broad sense, in other words the responsibility of researchers and research institutions for the social and environmental consequences of application of the research.

Contact: Associate professor Siri Granum Carson and Professor Bjørn Kåre Myskja; PhD candidate Espen Dyrnes Stabell 

This PhD-project was targeted on the development of the international laws, regulations and state of technologies that are relevant for subsea mining through the last 50-60 years. It focused on selected critical issues and aim to understand the position of different groups of nations and how they develop and change over time. Of particularly importance was the concept of Common heritage, the relation to environmental issues and how changes in subsea mining technology influence society.

The strength of an historical study was to study the changes that have taken place during the last half century with regard to values, interests and possibilities, how they came about and how they influenced the law of the sea. The policies and strategies of the different states and NGOs during the negotiations will be of interest. Of particular importance was to study the Norwegian government and Parliament strategies and decisions compared to other states.

Contact: Professor Håkon With Andersen; PhD candidate Tirza Meyer