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] Outline • 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 difficult • As part of global climate change, SLR is a “wicked” problem (Rittel & Webber, 1973) 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) NOAA-CSC 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) Author-driven • Linear ordering • Little interactivity • Strong primary message User-driven • 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 communication Methods • 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 Name Creator(s) 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 Geology.com (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 SLAMM View 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 Higher-level elements Lower-level elements • 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 responses • Data choices affect resolution, accuracy, dynamic capabilities Key overall consideration: intended use and audience 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 differences • 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 represented additional effects: – Storm surge – Flooding uncertainty – Ecosystem response • SLR magnitudes varied (Sarasota Bay SLR Map Viewer, 2011) Results: Annotations • Highly variable among ISLRVs – 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.) Recommendations 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? Acknowledgements 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.