Our storied sea: crafting a collective narrative of the ocean through accompaniment

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Never before have we had such broad access to scientific information about the sea, yet as the world's oceans slip into a state of crisis, the American public's grasp of the issues is far from firm. But how do we begin to understand something as vast as the ocean, an area that covers more than two-thirds of our planet, when less than ten percent of it has been explored? The ocean we "know" represents many things to many people; for some, it is a realm to be feared, for others, it is a resource to be exploited, and yet for others, it is a home to protect. This dissertation tracks an ever-evolving narrative of the ocean and examines how we come to infuse it with meaning. I contend that many Westerners relate to this space that we call the sea as a place not through a personal history, but via a translated history by those who have conveyed that experience to the public through visual storytelling. As we have been primarily on the receiving end of narratives "owned" and dictated by select voices, I argue there has remained a disconnect with the sea that has troubled our relationship with it. In today's rapidly expanding media landscape, we now have the opportunity to participate in the ocean's story as never before. I propose we disrupt the notion of "narrative ownership" as it may serve to limit understanding, and turn instead to a shared narrative that embraces diverse perspectives in order to broaden our depth of knowledge and our relationship with the sea. Further, this work examines the ways in which the shifting digital and social media terrain is enabling ocean scientists to blur the lines between science and advocacy in order to invest the public in stewardship. I argue that in order to be effective, the science narrative can no longer simply inform; it must engage the public by incorporating human agency into the story of the ocean. Only when we share a collective narrative of the ocean, will we be able to fully invest in its protection. To that end, I explore how the confluence of science, storytelling and the human experience has culminated in my establishment of the non-profit organization, the Ocean Media Institute which serves to expand the public's understanding of ocean science through the collaborative creation and open distribution of innovative visual media and artistic approaches to ocean literacy.


I am ocean: Pua Case is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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