Cradle is a datapoem attempting to combine 3 topics – the deep sea, the march of technology and environmental degradation, which were originally suggested in a Twitter survey. The theme that emerged from the synthesis is that humans evolved out of the oceans, but have grown apart from it. Our increasing technology is both a source of pollution and a means of reconnecting with that environment.
Unusually, it takes a speculative turn and extrapolates to a future where robots leave us behind to settle in the deep sea, powered by currents and with ample cooling for their processors. It suggests they are humanity’s children and will become estranged from us, as we are from the ocean.
The blending of 3 topics necessitated a longer and therefore more traditional structure of separate verses. The datapoem retains some idiosyncratic elements such as the data overlay depicting the ocean layers, a pictorial representation of robot submarines, and the control cables (possibly severed) trailing back up to the surface. The cables are intended to represent the parent/child relationship and the binary on the subs spells ‘AI’ in a loop.
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The difficulty in tackling climate change can be seen not as a failure of science, but of communication. The science is robust, but only speaks to the converted, or those inclined to listen.
I wanted to create a datapoem using a graph of rising sea-levels, because we are all familiar with that theme and have probably seen similar graphs, to the point of saturation. It ceases to shock us. I hoped that by overlaying it with a haiku, it might provide an emotional jolt, to make us take notice and consider the future.
The title of the datapoem ‘Mercury Rising’ refers to both increasing temperatures and the planet Mercury, which is inhospitably hot. Mercury is also the messenger of the Gods, and the poem is intended to communicate a warning.
The 3 lines of the haiku cover record-breaking temperatures becoming the norm, drought and floods wiping out humanity, and our future regret.
Visually, I wanted the poem to feel like it had run out of time and space by the end, reflecting our increasingly cramped world and the possibility that it may already be too late to act.
The data comes from the US Environmental Protection Agency, incorporating historical tide gauge measurements and more recent satellite observations.
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This datapoem looks at the massive deforestation of England since records began and its consequent loss of biodiversity. This manifests not only in the visual landscape, but the auditory one as well, as birdsong is often absent in intensively-farmed areas.
Since the 1920s there has been a concerted effort to reforest parts of England, which is now around 10% wooded. A better understanding of ecology has highlighted the importance of varied habitats for supporting wildlife. This in turn benefits agriculture through more resilient and varied pollinators, and the preservation of species that might have useful traits in future.
The poem is a haiku. Traditional elements of a haiku include a seasonal reference and an unusual juxtaposition of imagery. In this case the endless Autumn refers to the loss of leaves over the centuries, and the green clouds are the canopies of new trees, as seen from the forest floor. The visual grain is intended to evoke a slight nostalgia, whilst adding the texture of distant leaves to the green graph.
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