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  • 2018deanphd

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Making wonder tales: an exploration of material writing practice for ecological storymaking

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2019
Number of pages400
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We are confronted by multiple ecological crises worldwide and there is growing evidence that fact-based communication is not helping people to engage with environmental issues. Traditionally, stories have connected people with wider nature, and there have been appeals from conservationists, scientists and theorists for new stories to be shared. To date, however, very little consideration has been given to the ways these new stories may be shaped through contemporary writing practices. Digital technologies provide writers with new opportunities for practice and for reflection on their role in making and sharing stories. This research inquiry uses practice as research to uncover links between material writing practice – an approach where all materials, including the digital, become part of the composition process – and ecological stories. The research is framed by three initial questions:

1) How can writing practices be developed with new technologies for ecological storymaking?

2)How are stories changed when new writing practices are developed for ecological storymaking?

3) What does the development of these writing practices mean for the role and continuing relevance of the writer?

Through substantial reflexive practice, over the course of three projects, the inquiry revealed interrelationships between a story’s subject, content, form and medium, which are often overlooked by mainstream contemporary publishing. By avoiding technological determinism and reducing hierarchies of materials, an approach to material writing practice was developed that uses a range of methods to uncover new possibilities for making and sharing stories. The process-centred approach was shared with other practitioners through workshops and their responses highlighted the benefits of material experiment for practitioners in expanding creative practice and connecting with wider nature. Participant responses, along with my own discoveries through process, demonstrate that creating opportunities for ecological storymaking is a valuable action for change. Through a series of propositions for writers, this research answers the call for new stories with the contribution not just of new stories, but a new approach to storymaking.