Using film in research is not something that many people do. Even though, we feel that it added a lot of value to the project. Through the documentary, we are able to give the stage to the people of New Jersey and represent the research in a way that is accessible for many audiences
The documentary focusses on a single topic -Climate adaptation of the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy- and shows the complexity surrounding the issue. The documentary embraces the different perspectives that there are on this topic without judgement. Viewers see every stakeholder reason from his own perspective and are asked to place themselves in that perspective for a moment. This way, we want to stimulate critical reflection of the norms of both the stakeholders and the viewer himself and increase understanding of the setting in which rebuilding decisions are made.
Analyses of the film
Analyses on the filmed interviews allowed us to visualize the different perspectives on coastal management and the future of the shore as seen in the film. Next challenge was to find common grounds within these varying views. These common grounds were the base for guidelines for design.
A second way of using film in the research was done on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. We were on the boardwalk for three days with posters with different options for flood protection and building on the Shore. People who walked by could vote for their favorite option. Half of the participants saw a short video clip before they were asked to vote. The clip showed landscape architects explain long-term strategies and a local City councilman explain why short-term choices were made. The goal was not to influence participants to any of those sides, but to make them aware of the complexity of the issue and encourage them to think and reflect on the topic.
After watching the video, people voted more often for larger and more long-term interventions and options that required larger investments. Also, people voted less divided, which is an interesting outcome concerning a topic where there is still much division on what needs to happen.
Added value of At The Edge – The Documentary
Film adds value to the research in many ways. It enables us to show the location and people in a more complete way than other media can, for example by adding sound and context. A documentary creates a stage for people to explain their perspective on coastal management and how they see the future. Using film in research also expands the audience to more than just the academic community, which is exactly what we want to achieve in this thesis.
It also enables viewers (Dutch and American!) to experience the world through the participants’ eyes with more empathy and understanding than any other medium can by making complex issues less abstract. In addition, film can challenge social norms and trigger discussions on how things are done. We believe that these discussions are crucial in a shift towards more resilient coastal management.