Graphic recording supports science and traditional knowledge
Graphic recording isn’t just about the images. It’s what you do with them that matters.
The recent Pacific Herring Summit, graphic recording of indigenous knowledge on Day 1 supported a deeper understanding of the technical information that followed on Days 2 and 3.
These visualizations, started at the beginning of the conference, helped to literally hold space in the room for traditional knowledge throughout the gathering.
The Oceans Modeling Forum’s Summit brought together technical experts, policy makers, government and First Nations from California to Alaska to talk about the small and mighty Pacific Herring.
But ecosystem stats alone don’t tell the whole story. Its collapse has changed a way of life for people up and down the coast. The Summit was a moment to think differently about scientific knowledge.
The Summit centered human dimensions of the management of herring with traditional indigenous knowledge on Day 1. I was there to capture this part, visually.
What graphic recording did was to honor this wisdom. It made these teachings visual, and gave these perspectives a permanent – and prominent – place in the room. I created a 4×8 foot poster for each presentation, and hung these posters on the wall. On its own, graphic recording changes the space. The imagery often can bring a purposeful, fresh, or creative energy into the room. Simply put, the 6 images literally surrounded participants throughout the rest of the gathering. These visual stories were the counterpart to the presenters’ words and histories. The visuals are not better than, or more important – they are in service of the content, and became a tangible part of the room.
There was powerpoint and data, but traditional indigenous knowledge provided for powerful and unforgettable moments of resilience and recognition.
We heard stories from the grandparents, tales about the land. We heard about when herring was so thick in the water it shone like silver, and the Heiltsuk Herring Song.
Graphic recording honored this wisdom. It made these teachings visual, and gave these perspectives a permanent – and prominent – place in the room.
Simply put, the 6 images that were created literally surrounded participants throughout the rest of the gathering.
The visuals are not better than, or more important – they are in service of the content, and became a tangible part of the room. On its own, graphic recording changes the space by bringing purposeful, fresh, and creative energy into the room.
I would say that the graphic recordings became a re-framing tool for Days 2 and 3. I heard participants relate data back to the stories of land, culture and people who are directly affected, and center the human dimensions of herring.
Now a few months later, and I’ve worked on transforming the group work notes into a final illustration, and the prominence of human and cultural impact on herring in this model is still central.
Interestingly, this conference also changed how I draw oceans in my graphic recording work.
I live in Vancouver, BC on unceded Coast Salish territories, relatively close to the Pacific Ocean, and so I like to draw the familiar wide blue seas and expansive views. A few months after the conference, instead of choosing to draw an empty blue sea, I drew a close up small child collecting herring roe on cedar.
It was a small detail, but I thought of the Herring Song, and ocean acidification, and passing on knowledge to the next generations. The little herring helped me see how it’s all connected.