Kapiti Island, Aotearoa NZ

Kapiti Island, Aotearoa NZ

More-Than-Human Lab projects combine multispecies ethnography, science and technology studies, more-than-human geography, and creative research methods to explore different ways of being in, with, and for, the world.

SHEEPCARE (2018-2019)
Principal Researcher: Dr Anne Galloway

This VUW-funded exploratory research project investigates the everyday animal care practices of NZ-based research scientists and farmers who work with sheep. The empirical evidence from our fieldwork will be used to theoretically model human-animal relations, re-imagine controversy, and experiment with creative storytelling as a form of public engagement.

A GOOD DEATH (2016)
Principal Researcher: Dr Anne Galloway

This one-year exploratory project, funded by VUW and an Association of Commonwealth Universities Titular Fellowship, looked at how New Zealanders prepare farm animals to go to their deaths, how they kill livestock animals on-farm, and what they believe gives these animals a “good death.”

This research was featured in VetScript, the flagship magazine of the New Zealand Veterinary Association.

THE GREAT NZ CAT CONTROVERSY (2014-2015)
Principal Researcher: Dr Anne Galloway
Associate Researchers: Dr Catherine Caudwell, Christopher Nimmo 

This one-year VUW-funded project explored human-animal relations with a focus on public understandings of, and attitudes towards, invasive species management. The first part of the project investigated responses to Gareth Morgan’s “Cats To Go” native wildlife conservation campaign by tracing online publics and matters of concern, and the second part focussed on stakeholder interviews and analysis of the campaign’s implications for future conservation efforts.

Key findings:

  • Public responses to the campaign were rooted in debates over whether cats in NZ are best understood as “pets” or “pests”, with neoliberal discourses of rights and responsibilities, public and private, nature and culture, and rationality and emotion invoked to shape the meaning, and effect, of pet/pest classifications;
  • Despite a general consensus that NZ native species need to be conserved for ecological and cultural reasons, there was little agreement on what constitutes the biggest threat, what kind of evidence is required to support action, and what action(s) should be taken;
  • Although the “Cats To Go” campaign was very successful in generating public discussion, it is unclear if the proposal resulted in any forward movement for NZ conservation efforts, and reiterates the need to better understand the relationship between public debate and direct action.

COUNTING SHEEP: NZ MERINO IN AN INTERNET OF THINGS (2011-2014)
Principal Researcher: Dr Anne Galloway
Associate Researchers & Designers: Catherine Caudwell, Dani Clode, Matasila Freshwater, Lauren Wickens, Hamish McPhail & Peggy Russell

This three-year Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden-funded project investigated how the production and consumption of NZ Merino wool and meat might be (re)shaped by emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things. The first part of the project comprised a multi-site ethnography of NZ merino breeding, and case study of industry production and marketing strategies. The second part of the project translated this ethnographic work into a set of four speculative design propositions for public engagement: BoneKnitter, Grow Your Own Lamb, PermaLamb and Kotahitanga Farm.

Key findings:

  • NZ Merino breeding is a complex, and sometimes contradictory, combination of embodied and situated practices undergoing rapid change in the era of networked data and genetics research;
  • NZ Merino marketing is strongly tied to notions of “nature” and “authenticity” that are increasingly at odds with actual husbandry practices, and question the viability of “ethical consumerism”;
  • Empirically-grounded speculative design can be an effective means not of predicting the future, but for critically engaging with contemporary political and ethical concerns;
  • Creative forms of public engagement do not merely reflect existing publics, but create new publics around matters of concern, and compel researchers to address the matter of disinterested publics.

This project was awarded Editor’s Choice in the Postscapes Internet of Things Awards 2014, and was featured in Modern Farmer, Blueprint, and Gizmodo.