Centering humanity to educate, inspire, impassion, intrigue, reimagine, and open minds
Click to view each artifact (it will open in a new window). Hover over an image to read about my process, learning, and growth.
My very first year at Stanford, I took a course on sonic storytelling in the National Parks. Each student was assigned a park, and tasked with weaving a historically accurate yet emotionally intriguing narrative that visitors could listen to as they explore the park.
This was my first time working with sound, and I learned the ins and outs of audio editing, vocal strategies and humor to keep the audience engaged, as well as clever ways to bring factual information into the story without disrupting the conversational tone. There’s something special about listening to a person tell a story, so this experience has empowered me to communicate emotion, and share social-ecological information in a memorable and deeply human way.
Podcasting as a medium has grown exponentially in recent years, and I believe this popularity comes, at least in part, from its uniquely human basis. Oral storytelling is as old as our species, so sonic stories are perfectly situated to harness our humanity for effective communication. I will never listen to stories the same way again.
I wrote this piece for a class on storytelling about the extreme life of the sea. For this creative nonfiction assignment, I was charged with appealing to human curiosity to transform a formal research paper into an exciting yet factual short story.
I learned a variety of literary techniques to highlight the wonder and curiosity of strange ocean life, and how appealing to these emotions can inspire public audiences to take interest in the ocean. Additionally, I practiced the difficult skill of describing organisms in a way humans resonate with, while taking care not to anthropomorphize them.
Ever since this class, I’ve been thinking about the parallels between deep sea and outer space. In environmental communication, it’s necessary to get humans excited and motivated about tackling tremendous and seemingly impossible problems. I believe the same rhetoric that inspires and fascinates us about outer space can be applied to the deep sea, except here the ‘aliens’ are real! What would our oceans look like today if all the research and media and funding of SpaceX and NASA were instead applied to deep ocean exploration? By embracing this human propensity for wonder and excitement, our communication can help reframe and rebuild our relationship to the earth.
This was my final project for an Environmental Justice course, in which I explored the relationship between social injustice and environmental harm in my community. I used a StoryMap (an interactive website with embedded maps and stories), so that my readers could share the experience of interrogating, contextualizing, and humanizing our collective past.
This piece was particularly meaningful to me, as I almost never include my own story in my work (at least overtly), so it was a unique opportunity to reflect on my past. By drawing from Feminist Philosophy’s concept of “situated knowledge” and “partial perspective”, I learned to navigate when to include my personal experience in a story while centering the narratives of communities who have been marginalized. Through the StoryMap format, I also gained valuable experience integrating data visualization into my multimedia toolkit.
The dominant narrative of conservation as ‘protecting the environment from people’ is deeply problematic, and environmental justice gives us a framework to deconstruct this while also centering the needs of people within the built environment. Understanding my perspective and where my knowledge comes from is especially necessary when conducting work in an allied position. This perhaps the most valuable concept I have learned during my education, and will provide the baseline for all my future communication work.