The world ocean is ecologically in a precarious situation. The research in this area tends to center around pollution, rising temperatures, overfishing and/or acidification. A less investigated area in research and in public debate, is the situations legal challenges. The political and legal tools we need to address problems in international waters are underdeveloped despite the situation being prioritized on the international agenda.
With this complex in mind, the project 3ROceans has concentrated on regulations and use of the oceans in a historical and cultural perspective. How has material conditions, practices and technologies shaped earlier maritime cultures relations and dealings with the sea? This contribution from the humanities to ocean research hopes to provide and enrich our knowledge and understanding of the oceans many roles and functions culturally and materially.
The projects ambition has been to contribute to the mapping of how cultural conditions impacts knowledge of the sea; how a culture knows about the sea and how this knowledge is used. In this vein we have investigated the integral relationship between cultural representations, economic resources, and political and legal regulations of the open sea, the ocean floor, and continental shelves. The project has had an interdisciplinary approach and has connected the study of symbolic systems and aesthetic ideals with legal and political aspects of maritime economies and technologies.
As well as being a political, legal, and scientific reality, the ocean is and has been a place of work. The practical dealings with the ocean is characterized by work and toil. This work also has a clear cultural dimension. The cultural dealings with the sea manifests itself through artistic and literary representations, and through maps, ship logs and maritime legislature. These examples of oceanic and maritime representations are expressions of both cultural and manual labor. Such representations can be of a practical nature, as in navigational documents, they can be pedagogical and communicate knowledge, and/or they can be aesthetical and describe the ocean and maritime life to stimulate emotions and experiences.
The demarcation between use/benefit and pleasure of representations, what they meant and mean, can be blurry. Analyzing this quality in representations can highlight purpose and effect in new and interesting ways. In analyzing the relationship between utility and pleasure in representations, we shed light on what a culture knows about the ocean, how this culture arrived at this specific knowledge, and the ways in which this culture relates to the sea. Then we see that the cultural “oceanwork” affect and is affected by the political, economic, and legislative “oceanwork”, past and present.
3ROceans goal has been to chart how cultural conditions is part of the foundation for knowledge of and use of the sea. We have specifically investigated the integrated relationship between representations, resources and regulations of the open sea, the ocean floor, and continental shelves. The project has been interdisciplinary and has connected studies of symbolic systems and aesthetic ideals with the legal and political sides of maritime economies.
We have hosted 5 seminars:
• Fortunes de mer
• Shipping regulations
• Ocean narratives
• Becoming treasures of the Ocean
• Future Oceans
The data material was mainly collected from the Atlantic region, with some exceptions to highlight the focal point (case studies from the Pacific and Southern Antarctic Ocean). The focus on the Atlantic Ocean relates to Norway’s status as a maritime nation, and the simple reason that we were not able to attach researchers with knowledge of several Asian languages to the project.
Our main collaborative institutions have been the University of Oslo, the University of New South Wales, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, and DNV-GL. Other partners: Christian Albrecht Universität zu Kiel, The University of the Highlands and the Islands and Universidad dos Açores.
The project has resulted in two Ph.D. dissertations, upcoming book chapters, scientific and popular articles and papers, as well as an interdisciplinary anthology which compiles works from the project seminars and conferences.
4.3 Environmental impact
The project generates new insights in environmental governance and regulation.
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Our oceans are ecologically in peril and a regulatory disaster. While problems are widely acknowledged, the governance of the sea remains woefully inadequate. The safeguarding and care of what lies beyond national borders and jurisdiction, what is typically termed the high seas and the deep oceans, is particularly acute. Not only stemming from legal quandaries and competing political interests, the challenges related to the use and regulation of the high seas and deep oceans are fundamentally shaped and influenced by cultural conditions and perceptions. In fact, the use of marine resources and maritime possibilities has required different types of representations to render the oceans legible. This project seeks to chart and analyze how cultural conditions underpin our use of the oceans and seeks to investigate the relationships between the representations, resources and regulations of the high seas and the deep oceans. It will closely attend to particular inflection points in time where these relationships have changed and been altered through historical, aesthetically and legal studies.