Building Sea Level Rise Narratives Through Interactive

Building Sea Level Rise Narratives
Through Interactive Visualizations
Sonia H. Stephens
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Civil, Environmental & Construction Engineering
University of Central Florida
[email protected]
• Communicating SLR through narrativebuilding
• Study: interactive SLR viewer content analysis
– Characteristics of interactive SLR viewers
– Design recommendations
• Future research
Study motivation
• Communicating
science results from
Ecological Effects of
Sea Level Rise in the
Northern Gulf of
Mexico project
• Target audiences:
– Resource managers
– Policymakers
– Coastal residents
Communicating about sea level rise
• Range of SLR projections and
local conditions make public
understanding of impacts
• As part of global climate
change, SLR is a “wicked”
problem (Rittel & Webber,
Golden Gate Beach, NPS
Communicating through narrativebuilding
• Participatory narratives and
scenarios: communication tools
– E.g., used in natural resource
planning to help participants
understand complexity and
uncertainty (Vervoort et al., 2010)
• In interactive visualizations, narrative is built
through the developing interaction between
user and visualization (Harrell & Zhu, 2009)
Interactive visualizations and narrative
• Interactive narratives create
meaningful participatory story
experiences (Dinehart, 2013)
• As “narrative builders,” these tools
guide users to insight via discovery
while lowering cognitive load (Dove
& Jones, 2012)
– Explore datasets
– Construct alternative explanations
– Draw parallels with personal experience
Tradeoffs between narrative elements
• The balance between author-driven and
user-driven elements creates an overall
narrative structure (Segel & Heer, 2010)
• Linear ordering
• Little interactivity
• Strong primary message
• No prescribed ordering
• Free interactivity
• Weak messaging
Study purposes
• Focus on interactive SLR viewers (ISLRVs):
– Show SLR and coastal areas at risk for SLR
– Allow users to interact with the visualization by
scrolling, zooming and other features
– Use a geographic map as a base layer
– Are available for free online
• Study purposes:
– Identify and characterize the narrative elements that
contribute to ISLRVs
– Suggest ways to integrate elements for more effective
• Content analysis of 20 ISLRVs
– Identified through purposive Google-based sampling
• Identified intended audiences
• Evaluated narrative elements in four aspects of
ISLRV design (Hullman & Diakopoulos, 2011):
– Data (e.g., source & precision)
– Visual representation of SLR (e.g., SLR range)
– Annotations (e.g., text, photos)
– Interactivity (e.g., default views, navigation)
Sample of 20 ISLRVs
Chesapeake Bay: The Increasing Effects of Sea-Level
Rise and Storm Surge
Chesapeake Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surge Public Awareness and
Response (non-profit partnership)
Coastal Resilience 2.0
The Nature Conservancy (non-profit org.) and partners
Digital Coast (beta)
NOAA Coastal Service Center (government org.)
Flood Maps
A. Tingle (independent creator)
Future Coast
K. Akerlorf (George Mason University) and colleagues
Global Flood Map
Map Large (commercial org.)
Global Sea Level Rise Map (commercial org.)
Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the California Coast
Pacific Institute (non-profit org.)
Mapping Areas Potentially Impacted by SLR
J. L. Weiss and colleagues (University of Arizona)
New Jersey Flood Mapper
Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (Rutgers University)
Relative Sea Level Trends
Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (government org.)
Sarasota Bay Sea Level Rise Map Viewer
Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (non-profit org.)
Sea Level Rise Explorer
R. A. Rohde (independent creator)
Sea Level Rise Tool For Sandy Recovery
NOAA (government org.) and partners
Sea Level Rise-Threatened Areas Map
California Energy Commission (government org.)
Sea Levels Online
NOAA (government org.)
Sea-Level Rise Visualization for Alabama, Mississippi, National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA; government
and Florida
org.) and partners
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (government org.) and partners
Surging Seas
Climate Central (non-profit org.)
What Could Disappear
New York Times (media org.)
Results: Design and narrative structure
• Interactivity orients users, enables
exploration, guides decision-making,
constrains overall narrative
• Annotations provide facts, interpret, create
emotional links, enhance credibility
• Visual representation communicates
flooding and human and ecological
• Data choices affect resolution, accuracy,
dynamic capabilities
Key overall consideration: intended use and
Results: Intended audiences
• About 1/3 of ISLRVs explicitly identified
audience or purpose
• Major audiences:
– Coastal residents and communities
– Coastal managers
– Decision-makers
– General public
– Scientific researchers
Results: Data design
• Topographic model
and SLR projections
led to large
• Creation date and
type of creator also
were factors
• Nearly all ISLRVs had
bandwidth issues
(Global Flood Map, 2009)
Results: Visual representation of SLR
• Most ISLRVs used
color shading
• A few ISLRVs also
additional effects:
– Storm surge
– Flooding uncertainty
– Ecosystem response
• SLR magnitudes
(Sarasota Bay SLR Map Viewer, 2011)
Results: Annotations
• Highly variable among
– Purpose statement
– Logos
– Technical &
interpretive help
– Social media
– Uncertainty
– Local sites
• Importance: context,
tone, credibility
(Future Coast, 2011)
Results: Interactivity
• Plays large role in
shaping narrative
– Orientation
– Narrative pathway
– Suggest appropriate
ways to explore data
• Primary narrative
choices involved
selecting SLR scenarios
and navigating map
(Surging Seas, 2013)
Results: Interactivity
• Most ISLRVs were
more user-driven
than author-driven
– Purpose to present
data rather than
create storyline
(Chesapeake Bay, n.d.)
1. Understand and articulate user needs
2. Explain uncertainty and risk (annotation level)
3. Use an appropriate level of realism (visual
representation and annotation levels)
4. Incorporate cause and effect sequencing (data and
interactivity levels)
5. Enable customization for user needs (annotation and
interactivity levels)
6. Balance local and global elements (all levels)
7. Support users with on-demand explanation
(annotation level)
Future Research
• What aspects of ISLRV interfaces contribute to
effective situated use by targeted users?
• How can designers balance narrative messaging
while facilitating structured discovery?
• How are realism, risk and uncertainty
represented and received?
• How do users respond to ISLRVs within the
broader context of SLR communication?
Dr. Scott Hagen and Dr. Denise DeLorme, UCF
Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Northern Gulf
of Mexico (EESLR-NGOM) Research Team
This research was funded in part under NOAA Award No.
NA10NOS4780146. The statements and conclusions are
those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
views of NOAA.

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