Visualizing Hope: Investigating the Effect of Public Art on Risk Perception and Awareness of Climate Adaptation

Andrea Mah aDepartment of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts
bDepartment of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts

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Carolina Aragón cDepartment of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts

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Ezra Markowitz bDepartment of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts

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Abstract

To support human flourishing in a climate-changed world, individuals and communities will have to take costly and challenging adaptation actions. Although there is evidence of increasing public concern over climate change, current levels of engagement and adaptation action remain insufficient. There is a need for innovative ways to bring individuals and communities into the climate movement. Public art installations that creatively communicate relevant aspects of the problem may represent one largely untapped pathway to greater levels of engagement. Here, we examined how virtual exposure to a public art installation, FutureSHORELINE, impacted climate change risk perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and emotions. The installation depicted sea level rise impacts and solutions for a shoreline area in Boston, Massachusetts. In study 1 (N = 474), participants were randomly assigned to view the art in different formats: video, stills, or 360° viewers. Exposure to this installation, in any format, was associated with greater perceived risk of climate change, feelings of personal responsibility to address climate change, and likelihood of engaging in community-led initiatives related to climate change as compared with pre-art-exposure levels. In study 2 (N = 294), the video was compared, with and without text, with a no-information control. This study revealed that the video impacted emotional reactions to climate change. Public art installations may present a model by which to make information about the local impacts of climate change and proposed adaptation solutions visible to diverse audiences, providing a novel way to increase public concern and engagement.

Significance Statement

While much climate change art has been created, efforts to systematically evaluate its impacts are sparse. The purpose of this work was to examine how viewing a landscape installation impacted climate change and sea level rise perceptions. Across two studies, we evaluated the impacts of viewing a Boston (Massachusetts)-based landscape installation depicting the impacts of, and a solution to, sea level rise and flooding. Our results highlight the potential usefulness of art as a means of communicating about climate change.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Andrea Mah, amah@umass.edu

Abstract

To support human flourishing in a climate-changed world, individuals and communities will have to take costly and challenging adaptation actions. Although there is evidence of increasing public concern over climate change, current levels of engagement and adaptation action remain insufficient. There is a need for innovative ways to bring individuals and communities into the climate movement. Public art installations that creatively communicate relevant aspects of the problem may represent one largely untapped pathway to greater levels of engagement. Here, we examined how virtual exposure to a public art installation, FutureSHORELINE, impacted climate change risk perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and emotions. The installation depicted sea level rise impacts and solutions for a shoreline area in Boston, Massachusetts. In study 1 (N = 474), participants were randomly assigned to view the art in different formats: video, stills, or 360° viewers. Exposure to this installation, in any format, was associated with greater perceived risk of climate change, feelings of personal responsibility to address climate change, and likelihood of engaging in community-led initiatives related to climate change as compared with pre-art-exposure levels. In study 2 (N = 294), the video was compared, with and without text, with a no-information control. This study revealed that the video impacted emotional reactions to climate change. Public art installations may present a model by which to make information about the local impacts of climate change and proposed adaptation solutions visible to diverse audiences, providing a novel way to increase public concern and engagement.

Significance Statement

While much climate change art has been created, efforts to systematically evaluate its impacts are sparse. The purpose of this work was to examine how viewing a landscape installation impacted climate change and sea level rise perceptions. Across two studies, we evaluated the impacts of viewing a Boston (Massachusetts)-based landscape installation depicting the impacts of, and a solution to, sea level rise and flooding. Our results highlight the potential usefulness of art as a means of communicating about climate change.

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Andrea Mah, amah@umass.edu

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