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Centre for Culture and Ecology

9 December 2021 - 9 December 2021

4:00PM - 6:00PM

Online

  • Free

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All talks are free and open to the public.

'Augmented Ecologies: Digital Storytelling in the Shaker Forest Landscape'

Augmented Ecologies is an augmented reality application for the 995-acre Shaker Forest, a property located in Enfield, NH (USA). Integrating the environmental humanities with digital technologies and public outreach, this application will provide both a dynamic historical narrative of the socio-ecological interactions in the area and an opportunity for those exploring the forest – from middle and high schoolers to occasional hikers – to be connected to its rich historical and environmental legacy.

Often viewed as a pristine example of New England wilderness, the Shaker Forest belies a more complex and often hidden past. As testified by the nearby Hunter Archeological Site, not only Indigenous groups lived in this area for centuries before the European settlers arrived, but the forest is also traversed by one of the Historic Indian Trails of New Hampshire, the Mas-kwam-okk (Mascoma) Trail, which was a crucial hunter trail for the Abenaki People and gave the name to the lake that edges the property. Moreover, after having settled in the area in 1793, a group of members of the Christian sect known as the Shakers significantly manipulated the natural streams and the wetland on this property to provide water for their farms and mills. They not only created the pond at the top of the property by building the original dams, but they also left other remnants of their engagement with the environment — stone walls; water canals; tracks that hint at the logging of pine and chestnut trees. Finally, residents who moved to the area as the Shaker population dwindled have used the forest over the last century as a place to hunt, forage, and explore, giving birth to a treasure of oral narratives that recount the relationship between contemporary human settlements and the forest in terms of both sustainability and environmental exploitation. It is only in the past decade, under the care of the Upper Valley Land Trust, that the forest has instead become again a distinctive conservation area for wildlife habitat and preservation of flora, with unique ecological successes such as the return of loons or the presence of mature American chestnut trees, both species considered endangered.

Our application will highlight, interpret, and unfold through digital storytelling the signs of the complex and at times conflictual intermingling of different human and nonhuman communities in the forest. Through the encounter with augmented reality objects, users will in fact experience the forested landscape as a series of socio-environmental narratives capable of bringing forth the Shaker Forest’s entangled histories of dwelling and reciprocal ecological interaction.

The Zoom link will be sent out via the mailing list of the Centre for Culture and Ecology (normally on Tuesdays before the event). You can be added to the list by emailing cce.admin@durham.ac.uk.

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