Approach Three: Speculative Stories
The experiments in this approach mark a shift in intent in this research. Through the process of experimentation, the nature of inquiry changed from using the warped plastics to stimulate ecological thought, to exploring how to use the warped plastics to articulate and make tangible the longevity of plastic. The construction of anthropomorphic, time-based and speculative stories particularly encouraged a consideration of the plastics from a nonhuman perspective—they shifted my gaze to recognise the more-than-human timelines of plastic. This provided a way to articulate, access and understand the longevity of plastic. This highlighted that the longevity of plastic cannot be fully understood and visualised without considering nonhuman worldviews.
The process of shifting my worldview to a wider nonhuman one, however, was not easy and occurred over the course of many experiments. It was exploring lenses of anthropomorphism, time and custodianship through speculative and fragmented storytelling that facilitated these shifts to occur.
It was thus the process of exploring these stories about plastic—as opposed to the physical output of these explorations—that was most impactful in creating shifts in perceptions. It was this collective process of thinking, making and exploring that facilitated personal and tangible deep time understandings of the persistent nature of plastic, and shifted my own understandings of plastic waste. This illuminates that it was the process of generating and exploring these stories that can provide access to and visualise the wider-than-human ways plastic exists throughout time.
The effects of this are, of course, subjective and anecdotal in that my research had only impacted myself at this point. Other consumers would not have gone through the same processes of exploration and engagement with the physical warped plastics that I had and hence would not grasp or be as invested in the story outcomes as I was. I began to realise that simply viewing these experiments would not be enough to enact shifts in perception in them.
I hypothesised that guiding others through similar key moments and processes from these experiments could make consumers tangibly understand the longevity of plastic—and potentially facilitate ecological thought and conversation in the process. This meant moving away from the predominantly ‘passive’ way I had approached communicating to consumers (Tharp & Tharp, 2018, p. 278)—and instead designing experiences that facilitated these processes of story generation within consumers themselves. The focus of this research thus shifted away from creating outcomes to give to consumers, and instead towards considerations of how to facilitate consumers in creating their own anthropomorphic, speculative and time-based explorations of plastic.