Play, learn, explore: grasping complexity through gaming and photography


  • Patrick O. Waeber 1: ETH Zurich, Ecosystems Management, Forest Management and Development Group, Universitätsstraße 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. 2: Madagascar Wildlife Conservation, Lot 17420 bis Avaradrova Sud, 503 Ambatondrazaka, Madagascar.
  • Arnaud De Grave Ecopalimpsesto(Photo)Graphies, 76 rue du pla, 11510 Fitou, France.
  • Lucienne Wilmé 1: Missouri Botanical Garden, Madagascar Research & Conservation Program, 101 Antananarivo, Madagascar. 2: University of Antananarivo, School of Agronomy, Water and Forest Department, 101 Antananarivo, Madagascar. 3: World Resources Institute, 10 G Street, NE, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002, USA
  • Claude A. Garcia 1: ETH Zurich, Ecosystems Management, Forest Management and Development Group, Universitätsstraße 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland. 2: UR Forêts et Société (F&S), Département Environnements et Sociétés du CIRAD, Campus International de Baillarguet, 34398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France.


photography, role playing game, social-ecological system


Increased demand for agricultural products, the aspirations of rural communities and a growing recognition of planetary boundaries outline the complex trade-offs resource users are facing on a daily basis. Management problems typically involve multiple stakeholders with diverse and often conflicting worldviews, needs and agendas, in an environment with growing uncertainty. How to improve the flow of information between decision makers? What future landscapes will best resolve the apparently conflicting demands? To address these questions, our methodology has been based on participatory modeling and ‘ethnophotography in environmental science’, a term we have coined to describe our use of photography to explore the perceptions of landscape by resource users. We apply these coupled methods in the social-ecological landscape of the Alaotra, Madagascar. Within the realms of the AlaReLa (Alaotra Resilience Landscape) project, we have developed conceptual models that link actors, resources, norms and institutions, ecological processes and social dynamics through participatory modeling workshops. These involved farmers, academics, conservationists and decision makers. Recognizing and understanding the multiple linkages and feedback loops between all of these components and processes is a crucial first step in the design of socially acceptable strategies. In this paper we highlight the interaction of participatory research and photography, to show how they exchange and nurture each other, and how this approach allows the evolution of a common understanding of a social-ecological system.



L'augmentation de la demande de produits agricoles, les aspirations des communautés rurales et la reconnaissance croissante d’une planète aux frontières limités mettent en exergue les compromis complexes auxquels les utilisateurs des ressources sont confrontés de manière quotidienne. Ces problèmes de gestion impliquent généralement de multiples parties prenantes ayant des visions du monde et des besoins variés et souvent conflictuels, dans un environnement où l'incertitude augmente. Comment peut-on améliorer le flux d'information entre les preneurs de décision ? Quels futures utilisations du territoire résoudront au mieux des demandes apparemment contradictoires ? Pour répondre à ces questions, notre méthodologie a été basée sur la modélisation participative et l'« ethnophotographie en sciences de l'environnement », terme que nous avons créé pour décrire notre utilisation de la photographie afin d’explorer les perceptions de leur environnement par les utilisateurs de ressources. Nous appliquons ces méthodes couplées dans le paysage socio-écologique de l'Alaotra, à Madagascar. Dans le cadre du projet AlaReLa (Alaotra Resilience Landscape), nous avons développé des modèles conceptuels qui relient les acteurs, les ressources, les normes et institutions, les processus écologiques et la dynamique sociale à travers des ateliers de modélisation participative. Les participants en étaient des agriculteurs, des universitaires, des conservationistes et des décideurs. Mettre en évidence et comprendre les liens multiples et les boucles de renforcement entre tous les composants et processus est une première étape cruciale dans la conception de stratégies socialement acceptables. Dans cet article, nous soulignons l'interaction entre la recherche participative et la photographie, afin de montrer comment elles échangent et se nourrissent l’une de l’autre, et comment cette approche permet une évolution vers une compréhension commune d'un système socio-écologique.


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ESSA Forêt students playing the wetland game at the AlaReLa conference in November 2016. copyright 2016 Arnaud De Grave / Agence Le Pictorium






Short Notes