Towards mySustainableLens

Posted on May 19, 2015



mySustainableLens: A multimedia exploration of how we enable every graduate as a sustainable practitioner.

Here’s the guts of a funding application we’ve just submitted, it aims to create an interactive mySustainableLens to communicate Sustainable Lens as a tool for understanding what it means to
be a Sustainable Practitioner.  It is a proposal for a multi-media exploration of this Sustainable Lens research framework.  for sustainable software.  I’m working with a talented group, including film maker Veronica Stevenson.

Sustainable Lens underpinning the Otago Polytechnic approach to Education for Sustainability.

That every graduate may think and act as a “sustainable practitioner” is one of the core three strategic objectives of Otago Polytechnic.

Rather than specifying in advance a pre-determined set of behaviours to describe a sustainable practitioner (either generically or for each discipline), instead we aim to take students on a journey of identifying what it means for them to think and act as a sustainable practitioner. Sustainable Practice is both deliberate acts of teaching and integrated across the curriculum. Otago Polytechnic has several integrated initiatives, all aimed at enabling this transformative journey: Living Campus, Sustainable Community Enterprise; Sustainable Lens Resilience on Radio; Shack Habitat Challenge and others. Operational sustainability is seen as both our license to teach, and opportunity to engage students in learning.

At the core of this, is the individual learner who themselves works through what it means to describe themselves as a sustainable practitioner (within their group, their professional context). A key vehicle for doing this is the Sustainable Lens. This lens adds to the occupational or professional lens – what do you see (and think) as a sustainable practitioner.


In order to illustrate how we teach students to apply a sustainable lens, we intend to create a short movie with the ability to control multiple possible augmented reality overlays to show the diversity of worlds viewable through an individual’s sustainable lens.

To do this we will use a variety of media techniques, footage from locations around Otago Polytechnic; voice over/ interviews from sustainability champions in different disciplines; and layering sketch like animations. The completed film will have check box categories to enable the audience to layer different sets of values and approaches to create disciplines ‘lens’, thus illustrating the multifaceted sustainability perspectives at Otago Polytechnic.

We propose an interactive website where viewers can essentially create and explore their own Sustainable Lens. Thus rather than one movie, we are in effect creating an unlimited number of movies according to the viewers’ values.

The script will be based upon a guest lecture and worksheet used in many courses across Otago Polytechnic. This foundation footage will describe the Otago Polytechnic practice using standard documentary techniques (interviews and context footage) which will then be used to prompt several groups of stakeholders to develop storyboards for animated sustainable overlays which we will have professionally illustrated and rendered. E.g. a focus on “pollution” might show an overlay that visualises the ecological footprint of objects shown in the movie; a focus on energy might show the source of electricity (eg % fossil fuels); “civics” might represent opportunities for community involvement; Māori might be represented in connections to the landscape, and so on.
The deliverable will be a website with a 3 minute short movie that is able to be embedded and thus increase its reach. We are aiming to create 4 – 8 animated overlays that can be superimposed onto the foundation footage according to the users’ value preferences in real time.

E.g, An Occupational Therapist might decide that their sustainable lens is 50% everyday practice, 10% heritage; 20% accessibility, 10% cultural and 10% equity focussed – the “new” movie would reflect those unique combinations in real time.

Furthermore, the viewer will be able to annotate the movie with time coded text (see for example annotations). The individual movies (with animation and annotations) could be exported for further dissemination.

Some background to the practice (and a precursor to mySustainableLens)

The Otago Polytechnic approach to Education for Sustainability was developed in response to an organisational desire to do the right thing. The Otago Polytechnic sustainability journey is explored in The Green Graduate (Mann 2011) and The Simple Pledge( Mann and Ellwood 2009). Our goal is that every Otago Polytechnic graduate may practice sustainably and make a difference to the world. Our teaching and learning opportunities will ensure every student will graduate with the skills and knowledge to act as a sustainable practitioner.

Beyond the journey itself, The Simple Pledge (pdf) is of particular interest here, as the layered design of the book is a precursor to mySustainableLens. Right-hand pages of The Simple Pledge tell the narrative as both a short story running through the book (only a sentence per page) and pictures. The left-hand pages provide background on each aspect of the story. The images on the right represent a range of activities our students, graduates and staff engage in- all working towards being sustainable practitioners. These images are overlain with diagrams of sustainable thinking – not obscuring the original, but reinforcing the message that everything can be view through a lens of sustainability.

The process of applying a sustainable lens to our teaching and our students learning has in turn led to a developing research platform for both staff and students.