DDM Speakers: Taking an aesthetic stance in transdisciplinary environmental research and decision-making

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Nicole Klenk

Join us for this public talk with environmental governance scholar Nicole Klenk.


Mar 16, 2023 4:00pm – 7:00pm

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On Campus

Rennie Hall, Room B2160

Helene Day Fraser |

The meaning of transdisciplinary encounters for participants is not well-understood or theorized in the burgeoning area of research focused on knowledge co-production. Much of this scholarship focuses on: what knowledge participants hold, whose and what values are shaping problem-framing, what solutions and futures are desired, what are the power dynamics shaping the encounter, and whether knowledge co-production results in transformative sustainability outcomes? The study of co-production results in knowledge that is propositional in nature. It answers the questions: what do we know about co-production and transdisciplinary research encounters and how can we use this knowledge to improve practices and outcomes? There is, however, a different set of questions that are equally important but often in the shadow of propositional knowledge: to what extent and how are these encounters meaningful to participants? How does meaning-making interact with (shape, spur, enliven) propositional knowledge co-production? How do different emotions and relational factors affect meaning-making at the science-society-policy interface? ‘Meaning’ is a kind of knowledge that tells of what it is like to take part of these encounters, to relate to the people, things and places involved and to live with the impacts of these encounters in the present and in view of the future. Such knowledge is not propositional, it is not about the encounter, instead it is knowledge by acquaintance: the understanding, insights and meaning generated by direct experience in interactions with (human and non-human others). Knowledge by acquaintance is person-centered, deeply inter-subjective and storied. This meaning-ful knowledge is emergent in relations; it takes shape within dialogue; it is anchored in the embodied and emotional responses to others’ presence, speech and actions; it is dependent on how and what others reveal of themselves in these encounters; and, it is shared and learned by means of the imagination. My research seeks to shed light on and legitimize knowledge by acquaintance at the science-society-policy interface, and in particular, explore how scientists can become skillful in, reflexive about and responsive to meaning-making in transdisciplinary encounters.

Nicole Klenk is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto. Her academic background is in botany and forest ecology. During her PhD in Forestry, she became interested in the role of science in environmental decision-making. Her work evolved from a focus on the democratization of science to how governance arrangements can be more inclusive of different ways of knowing. Her current research examines the ethics and politics of transdisciplinary knowledge co-production and the knowledge that narratives afford.

Funded by the Ian Gillespie Faculty of Design + Dynamic Media.