At the beginning of this semester, we as ENVS students in 350 started with only a moderate knowledge on what our area of interest might be, let alone how it might be utilized and developed across the semester with the added foundation of "Environment" is a word so embedded in environmental discourse and scholarship that it has effectively disappeared. We all know what the environment is—or do we? And what do our unexamined assumptions about environment mean for how we approach environmental issues? A careful examination of the word might lead us to... More theory. Currently, arriving at the end of the semester, we’ve reached a point at which we are able to assemble a theoretical framework at the top of the hourglass, with the knowledge to shape it into something that is both coherent and inclusive, avoiding the shortcomings of previous work. In practice, this will be what moves us into ENVS 400, and out of the top of the hourglass; towards our situated context, key actors/processes, actual empirical research, and beyond. Thinking back on the semester, I’m actually surprised by how much my understanding has developed, even though the basic concepts that I brought forth at the start of this semester are largely unchanged.
This is both a positive and a negative thing: I’m happy that I’ve felt quite settled across this entire semester in terms of the ideas that I have already centered my area of interest and framing question(s) around, and hope to focus on in the future through ENVS 400 and my capstone project. It’s an idea that remains quite uninvestigated in terms of the intersection between pro-environmentalism and how language and culture impacts communication, and I want to contribute to that. This does mean, however, that the academic work that substantiates my framework is somewhat less fleshed out than I would prefer, as I have needed to utilize work that works within a separate situated context or from a far less focused perspective.
In terms of my framework itself, I’m increasingly hopeful that I will be able to produce a work that feels meaningful – given past difficulty that I’ve had with the selection of a topic that fits the ENVS program well, this is the first time that I have (fortunately) felt an immediate direction in my study, not simply motivated by a desire to meet passing requirements.
While it isn’t supposed to be decided at this point in time, I also feel that I’m a bit farther from a finalized situated context and data source/method than I would like to be at this current point in time. That isn’t to say I haven’t done a sufficient amount of work, however: the theory that we have worked on this semester, in addition to the concepts of fluid modernity, inclusivity, and general avoidance of shortcuts have made me consider my possible options a fair bit further than I expected.
If you had asked me at the start of the semester, I would have told you definitively that, particularly given the continued impact of coronavirus, my capstone project would be without a doubt a paper. At this current moment, however, I feel more comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone and thinking about how I can best utilize the resources available to me, most notably being the online connections and friendships I have made with others living outside of the United States.
One hobby I picked up while in quarantine (starting around May) was the act of livestreaming myself play video games on Twitch, something that has continued today. At this point, I have a surprisingly consistent viewership of a similar age group to me (averaging ~20 years old or so) that has constantly grown over the last 6 months – currently being around 140-160 total (non-concurrent) viewers per night, around a third of which are from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Spain, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and more.
Given this is the case, I already have a good sample size of people to interact with, many of whom are willing to work with me in future ventures related to my capstone project – after all, I discuss what’s going on in my life regularly, and many already know what it is I am studying and attempting to pursue. Whether it be as extensive as an interview online, or simply knowing what local environmental issues or news sources are most prevalent in the area, I know this is a resource I can utilize to increase the depth of my capstone.
Considering the immense variety of possibilities that I can still use for my situated context and method of data collection, I’ve left my framework relatively light, choosing to emphasize both Interpersonal and Mass communication of pro-environmental ideas. All of this is grounded through the same theory that informs Wicked Environmental Issues, in order to ultimately reflect on the concept of a Language Barrier from the context of English and Spanish.