‘Prepare Wellington’: Trans-situational mapping in a crisis. What can contextually relevant information offer science communication?



Thursday 23 February




Jo Bailey

Tristam Sparks


New Zealand is a seismically active country with a small population distributed over a relatively large geographical area. Due to a combination of economic reality, government policy and a shifting technological landscape, it is no longer considered viable for civil defence to offer a centralised and coordinated response in all circumstances.

‘Prepare Wellington’ is a research report written for WREMO (Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office). Human Centred Design (HCD) and experience prototyping were utilised to understand whether citizens within a geographically diverse area might use alternative networks of communication before a crisis so that they would be further encouraged to help each other during a crisis.

‘Prepare Wellington’ posited a user centred map that encouraged contribution of information on resources, spaces and crisis plans in advance of a crisis, so that this information could be made visible post-crisis in a way that responded to a user’s location and context. The creation of a platform that employed a limited, contextual view could contribute to the formation of a ‘trans-situational’ picture of immediately available resources and hazard information for use after a crisis had occurred. This trans-situational map would also leverage pre-existing crisis management frameworks to coordinate understanding of how an event is unfolding from a strategic viewpoint, or perhaps more valuably, specific to the individual in a specific location.

Where content strategy, metaphor and storytelling are well represented in science communication, they tend not to benefit from communication forms sometimes seen in commercial design practice. Nor do they usually recognise the trends in joining large datasets with a human centred approach. What might harnessing the information that describes a specific or broad environment in the context of an individual be able to do for them, not only in terms of realising how an event might be changing, but also in their understanding of the information that makes it that way?

Areas of understanding and response to events caused by climate change will come to demand more of our attention. If that information is offered contextually to the community at large, then it may become possible to present science information for a specific individual or group from their perspective that becomes as relevant as a weather report is for planning a day.

This research paper primarily seeks to offer the science communication community an idea that creates a bridge between citizen sourced in-situ or centralised data and makes this contextually relevant as trans-situational information. Is there a balance where scientific data can be formed so that it approaches us on our terms? Thus becoming part of our lifestyle and prompting behavioural change and social adaptation?