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Edra45 New Orleans Track 11: The Function of Aesthetic Experiences in Adaptation
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Aesthetic experiences could alter cognition, affect, and social behavior in ways that support adaptation to climate and economic changes. This track invites theoretical and applied studies of the ways in which aesthetic experiences already are or could be considered functional goals of adaption projects.


Track Chair: Kristina Hill


Keywords: aesthetic experience, adaptation, resilience, social behavior, urbanization

The increasingly rapid rate of change in major urbanized regions of the world has created adaptation challenges for human societies at both very small and very large scales. New infrastructure is being built to carry people and goods, convey or block floodwaters, and generate energy. People are adapting as households and neighborhoods to new circumstances involving disastrous flooding. Governments and citizens are trying to make wise investments to reduce social inequities and support ecosystem services, at the same time they fix immediate problems. Our varied fields will be involved in enabling adaptations across spatial scales, and will also play a critical role in renewing the value of adaptive investments as change continues to occur.

Since much is at stake in these adaptations, environmental design professions should re-examine the relationships between aesthetic goals and functional goals.  Aesthetic experiences that influence cognitive function and social behavior could enhance the social capacity of individuals and groups to adapt, creating functional value. Past research suggests that sitting in front of a mirror makes a person less likely to cheat on a subsequent test. Could seeing one’s own reflection superimposed on other people’s names or images promote expanded compassion for people unlike oneself, as at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.? If so, expanded compassion could be treated as a functional goal in a larger adaptive design response. But how can we conceive, define and measure these types of socially-beneficial aesthetic and cognitive experiences?

This track invites theoretical and applied studies of the ways in which aesthetic experiences already are or could be considered functional goals of adaptation projects. We will also welcome theoretical contributions and original empirical studies that ask how and whether specific aesthetic experiences can support desirable cognitive, affective and behavioral outcomes.

About the Track Chair:

Kristina is an associate professor of landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley.  Her work addresses urban ecological dynamics in relationship to physical design and social justice issues. She consults on adapting urban water systems to the new challenges associated with climate change. Kristina helped to develop ideas for new water-system approaches to support salmon health in the Pacific Northwest. She is a member of the Dutch-American engineering and design team that has developed New Orleans’ new water management strategy. She is also currently collaborating with colleagues in The Netherlands to understand coastal sand transport and the potential for lower-cost, dynamic designs to help secure American coastal communities.


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