Illustrated Uncertainty Segments

In exploring controversies about adaptation, especially the relationship of these controversies to uncertainties in climate models, the MEDEA platform will need to address particularly technical elements of climate science. One effective way to do this will be by using short, highly produced and slightly pedagogical videos to effectively portray the physical aspects of the climate system and their virtual counterparts. These short segments could also serve to lighten the technicality of the issues, create a basis among the platform public to follow later analysis about the circulation of uncertainties in the « production » of adaptation, and impart some of the intimate and wonder-filled knowledge of nature that climate scientists gain through their labor and their models.

What Uncertainties?

In conversation w/Timothee Collignon of ENSAD, we looked at different ways we might be able to « treat » a text on the uncertainties about ice-sheet dynamics and how it affects our knowledge of sea-level rise. As an example, we looked at a section of the report called Lessons Learned from IPCC AR4: Scientific Developments Needed to Understand, Predict and Respond to Climate Change, a large survey of lead AR4 authors released in 2008. In the report they state: « Specific efforts should be undertaken to improve process-level understanding of the roles of ice shelf buttressing, ice thinning and f loating, surface melting, water transport to the subglacier bed, heat transfer at the glacier–bedrock interface, and lubrication of subglacial channels, as well as interior ice, in modulating mass loss through outlet glaciers and ice streams. » (Doherty et al, 2008)

In a very short and dense paragraph, the authors evoke a whole world of physical phenomenon related to ice-sheet behavior that remains elusive to scientists, but which forms a crucial bridge between the physically observed world and the modeled world. This is terrific example of what Dessai and Hulme call « epistemic » uncertainties (Dessai and Hulme, 2003). It is important for us to render this bridge between the model environment and the physical environment visual, and this kind of text offers us up image after image.

Looking for a method:

My initial idea of rendering this visual was based on the series of animated cartoons created by the RSA and based on lectures of well known thinkers, such as David Harvey’s lecture on the Crisis of Capitalism ( In much the same fashion, we can record interviews with climate scientists and others on targeted topics (such as ice sheet dynamics, coupling ice models w/AOGCMs, uncertainties in the hydrology cycle and the challenges of downscaling) and graphically illustrate the conversation while filming (and speeding up) the process drawing. That way, the actors are announcing their own issues and their speech is being augmented and boosted into a different storytelling form that grabs the listener/viewer in a different way. Another example of this technique put to use in a directly comic form, un-filmed and static, is Chicago Public Radio’s (WBEZ) Curious City project:

On the other hand, Timothee, suggested that we could also produce segments based less on graphic drawings and more on collage, found images and montage, working directly with our interviewees to pull images that represented some of the text (such as the text above) onto the screen. This is not a perfect example, but it brought to mind the montage style of the short film of Jorge Furtado Ilha das Flores,

[NOTE: Other examples of short, aesthetic, image driven renderings of really complicated subjects — in a more digital lego style — are GOOD Magazine’s Transparency video series:  ]

It was agreed we should try everything at first, and that before running an interview of a scientist, we would take a short selection of text (such as the text from the above report), expert certain text that would likely appear on the screen, let that organize our progression of images and test our results. Stay tuned.

Vision of an interactive web platform mapping adaptation controversies in France

A key objective for the MEDEA project is the delivery of “an online platform offering a series of interactive maps of the debate on climate change adaptation. This platform should provide a legible and yet precise description of the debate and make it available not only to experts, but to any interested citizen as well.” The platform should provide a solution, through a mix of interactivity, narration, and multi-media, to two opposing needs: 1) Preserving as much as possible the original complexity and richness of the debate on adaptation; 2) Providing a set of representations simple enough to be easily readable by a wide public.

 Based on preliminary discussion of the platform with the ENSAD/Sciences Po team, some initial obstacles, as well as certain methodological and structural responses to these obstacles, have begun to emerge that will put us on a path to achieving the contradictory goals set out above. A key challenge in achieving a successful representation of controversies is in establishing the appropriate “terrain” of the controversy. If we take the idea of controversy as a unit of analysis seriously, what type of criteria do we apply to determine who and what are to be included as actors, objects and events of the controversy?  In addition, if our premise is that controversies result from the convergence of differing “points of view” (I’m using POV as a shorthand for what we could also call different epistemologies) regarding an issue of collective consequence, how do we represent and maintain the various “points of view” POVs of the controversy debate, while at the same time keeping intact the tensions and ellipses between each POV? Below is a brief recap, in disconnected notes of the state of this conversation and some next steps moving forward:

 1) To begin addressing these methodological challenges, we propose linking the approach developed at the medialab of cartography of controversies with an enthnographic study of two particular sub-controversies in the debate around adaptation to climate change in France. These sub-controversies are driven by uncertainties within climate science, and their connection to questions currently being asked in specific communities in France, namely: a) uncertainties in how best to estimate sea-level rise off the coast of Brittany in order to prepare for future climate impacts, and; b) uncertainties in the use of downscaled climate model data as an input into debates about how best to manage the distribution of water on the Garonne river over the next 20 years.

Using these two examples as case studies will help us follow the circulation of scientific uncertainties along a chain of social activities that occur at numerous sites, with changing actors, at different moments in time. Tracing the communications and feedbacks of these various communities in how they treat, define and overcome these uncertainties will give us two case-studies to narrativize the relationship between scientific knowledge about climate change impacts and the political and social will to address those impacts. 

2) Elements to be included in the web-platform design [digital representations, actor maps, film and audio clips, text];

DIGITAL METHODS (to blend with interactivity, analysis and writing): 

  • Visualization of IPCC participation and authorship

    • Mapping of the authors internally within the IPCC over its 5 ARs and their changing of positions, institution affiliation and countries represented. Such a mapping of the internal actors of the IPCC will show:

      • a) the enormity of the project and diversity of participants;

      • b) the evolution of climate knowledge over time;

      • c) the presence and dominance of certain individuals, institutions and countries in the production and evaluation of climate science;

      • d) a test of the IPCC’s own rules of participation;

      • e) a resource to return to and compare with other digital maps of scientific citations, as well as maps of discourse on climate politics and climate change in the media.

  • The Rahmstorf Affair

    • STS analysis and narration of the semi-empirical method of sea-level rise modeling and the debates/controversies within the scientific community about this method and its relationship to other types of climate knowledge (dynamical modeling); the circulation of climate knowledge into new institutional settings.

    • Textual analysis of small corpus of texts for the “forms” of conflict in scientific debates

    • Navicrawler and digital mapping of how the semi-empirical method has been instrumentalized in the debates around sea-level rise;

    • Tracking of sea-level rise in the press to trace range of estimates used by the press

  • Historical emergence of climate adaptation as strategy in addressing climate change

    • Visualization of corpus of texts of negotiations w/IDDRI (visualized by medialab and Stanford)

      • UNFCCC documents (country position papers and meeting reports)

      • Earth Negotiation Bulletins

      • IPCC reports (particularly WGII and WGI chapters on sea-level rise and modeling)

    • Visualization of corpora chronologically (perhaps using tools such as w/CoreTEXT)

  • Analysis of selective adaptation corpus of scientific literature

    • Analysis of full texts and phrases of scientific articles on adaptation culled from SCOPUS and ISI Web of Science

    • Goal: Using medialab tools such as Anta, we hope to trace the variation in use of different words and concepts in relation to adaptation, over time, as well as changes in participation by different disciplines in defining adaptation.

  • Comparison of historical storm events in Brittany

    • A textual analysis of news and media coverage of Xynthia versus another storm 50 years ago (large storm in the Vendee from 1954];

    • Goal: to compare and reveal the difference in perception and discourse of risk from extreme weather events [perhaps in order to think of the role of media in circulating and transforming laboratory knowledge; their role in maintaining, enhancing and exacerbating the controversies in adaptation]

MAP OF ADAPTATION IN FRANCE (to help structure the importance of our two case-studies) 

  • Construct a series of interactive maps giving a more comprehensive overview of climate adaptation controversies in France (Before descending down to the level of our two sub-controversies in the territories in Brittany and the Garonne)

    • Actor-Network Diagram

    • Tree of Disagreement

    • Timeline of controversies related to adaptation in France

ETHNOGRAPHIC METHODS (to blend into a more explicit documentary storytelling style)

  • Narratives of our two sub-controversies, the “cascade of controversies” and their subsequent resolution: <..>. Can we schematize this process with our two case studies in a Callonian way (i.e. Saint Brieuc)?

    • Brittany, Sea Level Rise and COCORISCO

    • The Garonne, Water Availability and ADAPTEAU

  • Filmed interviews/scenes w/actors

    • Develop through a semi-structured and participant observation filmic style mini-scenes that constitute multi-media POVs of different actors of our two “sub-controversies” along different moments and sites of the controversy; Lists of actors to be interviewed:

      • Climatologists and other scholars (LSCE, science historians, etc.)

      • Administrators (ONERC, ADEM)

      • Policy makers (Region, Department, Commune)

      • Resource Users (private enterprise, private individuals)

  • Map representations of the circuits of debate and uncertainty

    • Drawings of the geography of our controversies that visualize the “chain of controversy”, the different actors located on the chain, their moments/spaces of interaction and the tools/mediums through which they interact. This will inform also who we follow in our inquiry.

Data Sprint: Emergence of Adaptation in International Climate Politics

In the debates around whether and how to adapt to a changing climate, much hinges on how adaptation is defined. And there is still lots of disagreement on this front since there are a multitude of actors and institutions trying to define the terms of the debate through a variety of different discourses. One way to get a handle on such an untethered problem of language is to begin with genealogy: where and when did the concept of adaptation emerge, how has it evolved over time, what other concepts does it lean on for support and who uses it in which ways?

One of our first attempts to gain clarity on these questions will be to treat a number of large corpora related to debates on adaptation in international negotiations (documents from the UNFCCC database and the whole collection of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin) as well as in the scientific literature (across all the IPCC reports and adaptation relevant scientific literature) with some of the textual analysis and network visualization software of Science Po’s médialab.  We are working in collaboration with the Stanford Literary Lab of Stanford University on the corpora in a sort of « battle of the digital humanities bands », to compare the results of our different tools and approaches. We are also working closely with experts from IDDRI, at Sciences Po, who are helping us define and select our corpora.

Below is an outline of our preliminary steps toward visualization and analysis.

Datasets, objectives and people.
General Objective

The aim of this sprint is less to produced final maps (visualization ready to be published) than to develop a clear and as-simple-as-possible procedure to extract data from the datasets listed below.
The expected output of the sprint are processed data tables that could be:
– easily opened and exploited with tools such as Gephi, Libreoffice, ManyEyes and such;
– easily updated as new data pours into the datasets without too much technical intervention.

1. Scientific literature on adaptation

  • Source:
  • During the sprint: prepare a script that compile and parse a csv exported from Scopus and generates various gexf (for relational information) and csv (for temporal series). (Mathieu, Tommaso, Liam)
  • Before the sprint: collect the data from Scopus (Tommaso)

2. Scientific literature in ISI on adaption

  • Source:
  • During the sprint: prepare a script that compile and parse a txt exported from ISI WoK and generates various gexf (for relational information) and csv (for temporal series). (Mathieu, Tommaso, Liam)
  • Before the sprint: collect the data from ISI WoK (Tommaso)

3a. IPCC report

4. Earth Negotiations Bulletin on UNFCCC

  • Source:
  • During the sprint: Analyse with Pattern the pds and extract monopartite network of countries names appearing in the same sentences; bipartite network of countries names and issues nominal groups appearing in the same sentence; monopartite networks of issues nominal groups appearing in the same sentence; network of who is speaking of whom “NAME OF COUNTRY for NAME OF THE GROUP” (Paul, Axel, Daniele)
  • Before the sprint: scrape and select the relevant ENB documents (Axel, Benjamin O.)

5. UNFCCC document

  • Source:
  • During the sprint: Index the documents and query it manually to generate various gexf (for relational information) and csv (for temporal series). (Julien, Romain, Ian, Benjamin, Audrey)
  • Before the sprint: Before the sprint: create an dictionary on interesting n-grams (with merge) (Ian, Nicolas, Axel, Benjamin, Audrey) –> convertir les pdf en txt pour qu’on puisse ensuite les indexer en vue de les requeter (? c’est bien ça qu’il faut faire ???) + faire une liste manuelle de mots clés pertinents.

6. UNFCCC side events

7., through their website API

  • Source:,
  • During the sprint: Generate bi-partite network of organisations and projects; mono-partite network of organisations (sharing projects); mono-partite network of projects (sharing organisations). Generate bi-partite network of tags and projects; mono-partite network of tags (sharing projects); mono-partite network of projects (sharing tags). Generate bi-partite network of tags and organisations; mono-partite network of tags (sharing organisations); mono-partite network of organisations (sharing tags). (Benjamin, Tommaso, Liam)
  • Before the sprint: nothing

8. Websites on adaptation through Hyphe

  • Source:
  • During the sprint: Crawl the seed, sieve the neighbours, iterate 2 or 3 times. (Benjamin, Tommaso, Audrey L.)
  • Before the sprint: Prepare a list of seed websites. (Ian, Nicolas, Axel)

More information on the datasets
(Unities = rows, documents, unit level,
Entities = columns, features, subelement/annotations, fields, data-object)
1. Scientific literature in Scopus on adaptation –

  1. Source:
  2. Query: TS=(« climate change » OR « global warming ») AND TS=(adapt* OR vulnerab* OR resilien*), from 1992
  3. Unities: bibliographical references
  4. Entities: Authors*, Title*, Year*, Source title*, Volume, Issue, Art. No., Page start, Page end, Page count, Cited by*, Link, Affiliations*, Authors with affiliations*, Abstract, Author Keywords*, Index Keywords*, Molecular Sequence, NumbersChemicals/CAS, Tradenames, Manufacturers, Funding Details*, References*, Correspondence Address*, Editors, Sponsors*, Publisher, Conference name*, Conference date, Conference location, Conference code*, ISSN*, ISBN*, CODEN*, DOI*, PubMed ID, Language of Original Document, Abbreviated Source Title*, Document Type*, Source, Link*, URL(?)
  5. Number of unities: about 15.000
  6. File formats: CSV / BibTexT
  7. Notes: we can use the link in csv file between unities and online article

2. Scientific literature in ISI on adaption (repeat what will be done on corpus 1 if possible)

  1. Source:
  2. Query: TS=(« climate change » OR « global warming ») AND TS=(adapt* OR vulnerab* OR resilien*), from 1992
  3. Unities: bibliographical references
  4. Entities: FN: File Name, VR: Version Number, PT: Publication Type, AU: Authors*, AF: Author Full Name, CA: Group Authors, TI: Document Title*, ED: Editors, SO: Publication Name*, SE: Book Series Title, BS: Book Series Subtitle, LA: Language, DT: Document Type*, CT: Conference Title, CY: Conference Date, HO: Conference Host, CL: Conference Location, SP: Conference Sponsors, DE: Author Keywords*, ID: Keywords Plus®*, AB: Abstract*, C1: Author Address, RP: Reprint Address*, EM: E-mail Address, FU: Funding Agency and Grant Number*, FX: Funding Text, CR: Cited References*, NR: Cited Reference Count*, TC: Times Cited*, PU: Publisher, PI: Publisher City, PA: Publisher Address, SC: Subject Category, SN: ISSN*, BN: ISBN*, J9: 29-Character Source Abbreviation, JI: ISO Source Abbreviation*, PD: Publication Date, PY: Year Published*, VL: Volume, IS: Issue, PN: Part Number, SU: Supplement, SI: Special Issue, BP: Beginning Page, EP: Beginning Page, AR: Article Number, PG: Page Count, DI: Digital Object Identifier (DOI)*, SC: Subject Category*, GA: Document Delivery Number, UT: Unique Article Identifier, ER: End of Record
  5. Number of unities: about 10.000
  6. File format: TXT

3a. IPCC report

  1. Source:
  2. Query: IPCC Report 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (text not available yet)
  3. Unities: Reports of the 3 working groups, Synthesis reports, Special reports (not yet done)
  4. Entities: Title of report, Date, Contributor name, Contributor role, Contributor institution, Contributor nationality, Institution country, Contributor chapter, Chapter’s title. Analytical entities : « chapter content » adressed by reports (e.g. sea level rise), Contributor’s « chapter content »
  5. Number of unities: about 30
  6. File format: PDF

3b. IPCC Report in French

  1. Source:
  2. Query: all documents under publication except “rapports méthodologiques” and « documents de base »
  3. Unities: Rapports de synthèse (2, 3, 4), Résumés pr décideurs + résumés techniques de chaque Working Group (3,4), Rapports spéciaux – résumés pr décideurs,documents techniques, glossaires
  4. Entities: cf. ci-dessus « IPCC Report »
  5. Number of unities: 36
  6. File format: PDF
  7. Notes : Audrey send it to Tom De Smet. He will try “Pattern for french” on it. To be continued …

4. Earth Negotiations Bulletin on UNFCCC

  1. Source:
  2. Query: all the documents on the page
  3. Unities: Daily reports of negotiation, Summaries of negotiation meeting
  4. Entities: Volume*, Report collection number*, Meeting type*, Meeting number*, Date* Meeting place*, Report type*, Text (within the documents titles are in bold – look for « adaptation » and « in the corridors » in title)*
  5. Number of unities: about 600
  6. File format: HTML / HTML and PDF
  7. What we can do: monopartite network of countries names appearing in the same sentences; bipartite network of countries names and issues nominal groups appearing in the same sentence; monopartite networks of issues nominal groups appearing in the same sentence; network of who is speaking of whom “NAME OF COUNTRY for NAME OF THE GROUP”. We could test on these texts

5. UNFCCC document

  1. Source:
  2. Query: Document type : “Meeting documents – Submissions by parties and organizations”
  3. Unities: position papers of countries before UNFCCC meeting,
  4. Entities: url, pdf_filename, symbol*, title, authors*, pdf_url, pdf_language, abstract*, meeting*, doctype* (meeting papers, draft conclusions, party submissions, in-depth review, meeting reports, workshop documents, IGO submissions, submissions by parties and organizations, compilation and synthesis reports, technical papers, reports by the Secretariat, progress reports, NGO submissions, submissions, resolutions and decisions, national adaptation programmes of action (NAPA), treaties, synthesis and assessment reports, scenario notes), topics*, keywords*, countries*, pub date*, year*, text (pdf)*
  5. Number of unities: about 800
  6. File format: HTML and PDF
  7. ToDo: Before the sprint: create an dictionary on interesting n-grams (with merge) and their frequencies
    Idea: Use this corpus to calculate terms frequencies and then make an index to compare the specific terms of others corpora such as “3.a IPCC report” or “4. Earth Negotiations Bulletin on UNFCCC” regarding that index. Look out to do it with Pattern or …

6. UNFCCC side events

  1. Source:
  2. Query: all documents
  3. Unities: table of side events at all sessions from 2003 onwards
  4. Entities: session name, event title, event organizer, event date
  5. NB : possible to retrieve attachments (pdf) to each side events
  6. Number of unities: 26 tables
  7. File format: HTML

7., through their website API

  1. Source:,
  2. Query: API Access
  3. Unities: placemark (= project), organization, initiative (to ask weADAPT)
  4. Entities: author name, organization name/acronym, placemark latitude, placemark longitude, placemark title, tags
  5. Number of unities: about 1000
  6. File format: XML

8. Websites on adaptation through Hyphe

  1. Source: Hyphe
  2. Query: Seeds websites decided by experts
  3. Unities: Websites and hyperlinks