NB: this page is a working document constantly evolving and being rewritten … so if bits seem odd that is hopefully why. 


Early project planning on the whiteboard

Antarctica: #60shadesofwhite is overarching project which encompasses a number of ongoing sub-projects which I expect to continue for many years. As such it’s scope is much broader than that of my MDes project. As such, I have taken a broad scope of initial research, thinking and strategy in order to maximise the potential of the expedition to Antarctica itself.

“People centred” design approach

Fundamental to my approach is to apply a “design thinking” methodology drawn from those of Stanford D School and IDEO with my own twists applied after years of doing and teaching. As D School say “we learn by doing”.

Developing an understanding of the audience, developing empathy and place them at the centre of all strategic thinking is key. In interactive projects this is often referred to as user-centred design, a term I dislike because of it’s system-centric implications. The experience design term human-centred is a much better but I like to take it one step further and use call it people-centred design because the word human implies a single individual interacting with a design item or system. Although it could be argued that we are all individual beings even in a crowd I believe we are inherently social animals and that our perception of our actions affects the majority of our behaviour even when we are alone.

A people-centred design approach is focused on the various individuals represented in the target audience but acknowledges the influence each individuals social network has on them at the time/s of interaction with a design element. This drives us to react not only to how they behave but also how they think and feel … in short … develop well researched and expansive empathy.

The first step in the process is to define our target audience and develop enough understanding of them in the context of their relationship with this project.

There are several key areas of qualitative research in this project designed to underpin a broad philosophical aim of bringing an innovative approach to engaging new audiences (with a bias towards age 18-24yrs) with Antarctica and Antarctic Science.

The underlying premise for the project reflects that there is no point in adding to the existing proliferation of science and environmental communications that cater to the audience that is already engaged with the message. A fresh approach is required.

This concept builds on the learnings gained during the successful ‘Kermadec’ project which used art as a gateway to science and conservation issues.

Subject matter (Antarctica and Antarctic science) background research

In order to make the most of the very short window I will have at Antarctica and working with the scientists before and after my trip, I need to have a well established background knowledge on Antarctica, it’s history, politics and science.

This will primarily consist of documentary analysis of recent and historical exploration of the region and the science.

It is important to note that a key component of my successful proposal to AntarticaNZ was to take an innovate approach to my photography/videography. It is therefore important I expose myself to as many previous similar projects. Fortunately I have had a long interest in Antarctica so am already well read on the subject.

Please see my bibilography for details of my recent documentary analysis.

I recently attended the NZARI Winter School, a symposium of some of New Zealand’s leading Antarctic and climate change scientists. It provided superb background knowledge and was an excellent networking opportunity with scientists and media.

Another invaluable source of background understanding was the Victoria University Antarctica Online course I recently completed.

Research into audience perceptions of Antarctica and science and the potential distribution and marketing channels for the project

During the discovery and problem definition stage of project I worked with my “client” AntarcticaNZ to define the best approach to targeting new audiences for maximum impact and to best align with their wider communication strategies.

The defined audience of “new young audiences” is broad and potentially needs narrowed. AntarcticNZ has expressed a desire to work more closely with Te Papa. My strategy may change depending on that relationship with Te Papa or other partners and the refinement to the audience definition that may result.

However here are some of my initial thoughts:

Science communication is a discipline in it’s own right. I intend to consult with specialist communicators to gain insights through further documentary analysis and/or collaborative research.

I have applied design thinking and prototyping to explore new channels and techniques to overcome any barriers to getting new young audiences to engage with Antarctica/Science.

My secondary task is to provide a conduit or guide that audience to deeper information or relationships.

Understanding and documenting of the emotive experience of visiting and working in Antarctica

Fundamental to my artistic/documentary style, and I suspect a key part in changing perceptions and gaining engagement, will be to take a very human approach to documenting Antarctica, it’s science and people. In simple terms, I need to express what it feels like to visit the ice. How passionate the scientists are about their work and why.

I aim to break down stereotypes of scientists by letting audiences get to know them as ‘real people’ … just smart and talented ones.

To that end I plan to undertake some ethnographic research by  recording semi-structured interviews with selected Scott Base personal to get their first hand experience ‘in their own words’. Questions will be deliberately broad and open ended focusing on the highlights of the ‘Antarctic Experience’ and why the scientists are there and love their work. I am working on that the questions now. Obviously this will require ethics approval and model release.

This is a key aspect in differentiating this project from the many other artistic and documentary projects that have already been created.

Exploring leading edge photographic, video and immersive presentation techniques and technologies

I already have extensive professional experience in design, photography, videography and interactive technologies but would like to push this knowledge even further through documentary analysis, professional enquiry and hands-on exploration/experimentation of new technologies, including working with the equipment in extremely harsh environments.

I intend to make the most of in-house knowledge, external specialists, extensive online exploration and training via sites like

In the latter stages of this project I plan to make use of extensive prototyping and an iterative design process.

Key areas of investigation are high-end digital video and stills photography, multichannel video and location based interactivity.