16 April 2019

Stories for the future - Publishing papers for the public

In a pilot project, playwrights are turning recent IIASA publications into theatre plays.

© Rolffimages | Dreamstime

© Rolffimages | Dreamstime

This spring the IIASA Science and Art Project focuses on exploring how the power of storytelling could help convey key scientific findings to the public and inspire action.

“Stories bind society together by reinforcing a set of common values and strengthening the ties of common culture. To achieve a transformation to sustainability, we need all the tools we have and stories can play a role in this quest. This is why we are trying to figure out how we could best turn key insights from published papers into theatre plays,” says Gloria Benedikt, who leads the IIASA Science and Art Project.

Human brains are not wired for abstract data and facts. Stories embed them in meaning, thus meeting humans’ natural need to recognize patterns in order to make sense of the world. We can only build a sustainable future if we have the public on board. Speaking in a language that can be understood and inspires action will be essential. 

Plays that being developed include a production by the Chinese American playwright Lanxing Fu, co-director of the New York-based ecotheatre company, Superhero Clubhouse, who is working with Fabian Wagner, a senior researcher in the Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases program, on the impact of population growth and population ethics on climate change mitigation policy.

Watch excerpts of the tryout here: 

The Canadian playwright Chantal Bilodeau, artistic director of the Arctic Cycle, is working with David Leclere and Piero Visconti, both researchers in the IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program and contributors to the Living Planet Report 2018. The play will tackle biodiversity loss and its interrelation with meeting the needs of a growing world population.

Watch excerpts of the tryout here: 

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Last edited: 03 September 2020


Gloria Benedikt

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