Erupting Conversations

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NEW! Many thanks to the Institute of Advanced Studies for providing seed funding to get this project underway. We will shortly apply for further funding from the Faculty of Science and Technology. Brilliant news!


Erupting Conversations will combine inter-disciplinary and post-disciplinary research on Ecuadorian Indigenous Peoples' perspectives on the commercialisation of traditional knowledge, part of a CESAGEN flagship research project, with studies in volcanology at the Environmental Science Department at Lancaster.

The intention is to create the innovative field of what may be termed "social volcanology", to strengthen CESAGEN's research portfolio in Latin America, and to build new intra-institutional links within Lancaster University transcending the faculty boundaries between social and natural sciences. Inter-institutional links will also be established, such as with anthropologists working at Lancaster's St. Martin's College, human geographers at the University of South Florida, USA and elsewhere, as well as civil society organisations in both the UK and Ecuador.

Active volcanoes such as Tungurahua in Ecuador provide the setting for a collision between unpredictable natural forces and resilient communities with diverse belief and knowledge systems about nature, time and place, scientists attempting to forecast dangerous eruptive activity and, increasingly, economic pressures to market and exploit potentially dangerous places as top destinations for western adventure tourists. This combination of factors produces an environment in which social relations within communities and traditional connections with nature are being severely tested (Lane et al. 2004). In parallel, free market forces are accelerating natural resource extraction in remote areas, thereby provoking fundamental changes in local people's livelihoods, which more often than not trigger deep internal divisions in communities already stressed by an encroaching world of economic and socio-political complexity which demands their dependency while denying meaningful participation. The transformation of traditional ways of life and cultural practices goes hand in hand with the loss of knowledge embedded in and passed on through such practices.

On volcanoes, such knowledge is not only about the varying signs that may announce an imminent eruption, but also, and particularly interestingly given the contemporary predicament of rapid climate change, about how to perceive, cope with, and live life at constant risk of environmental catastrophe.

In Ecuador, more precisely in the Andean “Avenue of Volcanoes”, these areas of inquiry potentially converge with current work in volcanology around the erupting Tungarahua volcano. Erupting Conversations will bring together researchers, civil society actors and indigenous people representatives to explore and establish future research questions and topics necessary to create the field of "social volcanology".

'Reference: Lane, L.R.;Tobin, G.A.;Whiteford, L.M. (2004) Volcanic hazard or economic destitution: hard choices in Banos, Ecuador. Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards 5:23-34

Picture lifted off a netizen's travelogue site


The Erupting Conversations (Conversaciones en Erupción) project has emerged as part of discussions and interactions around the Knowledge Lab events. It is in its early stages and we are still actively looking for funding, for other interested groups, organisations and individuals with an outspoken interest in what we call social volcanology and creative development.

Get in touch with one of the people listed below if you want to collaborate: we would be delighted to hear from you, whether you are based in Lancaster or elsewhere.

The task is now to define the size and shape of a network that is "inclusive", community based, open and (striving to be) non-hierarchical, and can carry out the research outlined below in the spirit of popular education with a critical review of its own processes. We imagine to work with each other in global solidarity in recognition of the unequal distribution of power in relationships that go across the North/South, developed/exploited, rich/poor divides. Information and any knowledge to which it may (hopefully) lead will be shared in ways derivative of the practices and philosophy of Free Software: freely accessible on the web, but also distributed creatively in the communities with whom we work via various other media.



Firstly a workshop to be held at the IAS in October 2007 where the questions and topics that may emerge in the ensuing workshop series will be discussed and categorised. The workshop will involve anthropologists, sociologists and volcanologists who have experience or interest in working around Ecuadorian volcanoes and we will assess the state of our knowledge and identify the key aspects of the project that we could like to develop. Discussions will also address strategies for the following workshops and how best to work with our partners in Ecuador.

A second workshop or series of workshops will be held in early 2008 in Ecuador, which will bring the outcomes and insights from the first workshop together with a group of local people from related fields and (self-funded) researchers (from CESAGEN and the Environmental Science Department). We will then cooperate in order to establish and outline feasible field research parameters.

Thirdly, another two-day workshop will take place in Lancaster in summer 2008. At this workshop the theoretical aspect of the project will be further developed and insights from the first two workshops will be brought together and distilled into a research agenda in the area of social volcanology. We will then establish a timetable for further, more substantial grant applications.



Erupting Conversations will widen the inter- and post-disciplinary research portfolio of Lancaster University, as well as build further inter-institutional links to different sectors of society, by carrying out innovative work in the area of social volcanology in a network of academic researchers and civil society actors working with affected communities.

In November 2007 Hugh Tuffen will present a paper about Erupting Conversations at the fifth Cities on Volcanoes conference at Shimabara, Japan. This will be part of a symposium entitled "Communities and volcanism - archaeology, tradition and recovery". Attending this conference will allow Hugh to network with other volcanologists from around the world who have interests in social aspects of volcanology.


It is a highly original project that will develop new research initiatives in a variety of media, charting new theoretical and practical territory.


The project will be documented on a website containing short documentary films, photo essays, interviews and written articles that will act as a stepping stone to the creation of a reader in social volcanology and to applications for substantial research funding to further projects. It will enhance the profile of the Institute for Advanced Studies as a place where innovative research areas are pursued and established.


How do we imagine a reader that could collect the varied perspectives on social volcanology?

A collection of inter-weaved disciplinary perspectives, each a chapter with a slight view to one or more of the others, wrapped in an illuminative introduction and a comprehensive conclusion?

The book must be downloadable from the web to print freely for fair use!


Researchers, development professionals and civil society movements are increasingly making use of digital video cameras as tools in their work. Beyond the conventional ways of using documentary films for documenting situations, disseminating research and raising awareness of marginalised issues, a new trend has emerged: participatory video.

Instead of making a given group of people the subjects of film makers, the film makers become facilitators who help a community or a group of people to represent themselves. Using video cameras and computers for editing they make their own documentary about themselves, their lives, their stories, their concerns and their struggles. People often communicate more clearly, directly and honestly on video shot by their peers using non-threatening small cameras, compared to how they react to an outside film crew wielding intimidating amounts of kit.

This way of working aims to transcend the gap between researcher and researched, documenter and documented, observer and observed. It also creates new and potentially durable social relations within a group, and helps to build skills, understanding and confidence to deal with whatever problems may threaten a given community. At the same time it opens up avenues of communication with the remote "outside" through the medium of the documentary film produced at the end of the process.

With the help of a dedicated local trainer, participants rapidly learn how to use video equipment through games & exercises. Facilitators and trainers work together to help groups identify & analyse important issues in their community by adapting a range of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools with Participatory Video techniques.

Short videos & messages are directed & filmed by participants with help and guidance from the PV trainer and facilitator, and footage produced is shared with the wider community for feedback along the way. Thus a dynamic process of community-led learning, sharing and exchange is set in motion.

Communities are involved to varying degrees in editing their films, but they always have editorial control, reducing risks of misrepresentation when completed films are used for horizontal and vertical communication.


  • Two or more small, simple digital video cameras.
  • One or more each of directional and clip external microphones.
  • A small but solid tripod.
  • Headphones to monitor sound.
  • Cables, batteries etc.
  • Plenty of mini DV tapes.
  • Edit-ready computer plus external hard drive for video storage.
    • See GNU/LINUX and video editing below
  • Local screening facility (could be just a tv, even laptop screen).
  • Plenty of blank disks for distribution of rough cuts and final film.
  • Stills camera to document process.
  • Drawing and writing materials for the workshops.
  • Facilitator: humble, experienced film maker trained in PV techniques, editing software etc. (essential)
  • Trainer: tactful local working closely with facilitator to contact, enthuse, listen to and guide the group throughout PV process. (essential)
  • Helpers: for logistics, translation if necessary, transport, food etc. (desireable but not essential)
(Ideal) Venue
  • Private, secure, welcoming.
  • Enough room to run around and play act.
  • Several reliable, safe electric power sockets.
  • Clean and convenient food, drink and sanitation facilities nearby.
  • Tables and chairs.
  • Black or white board.
(Flexible) Work Process
  • Minimum 2 day workshop or five evening sessions to provide basic PV training.
  • Week or so (depending on group size, goals, availability etc) shooting with regular screenings of footage shot so far.
  • Week or so of final edit process, with facilitator and trainer incorporating group feedback in the process.


Insight participatory video Project


Video editing is one of the sore spots in the Free Software universe. There is a range of not-quite-capable-and-easy-to-handle tools, there is a range of configuration issues leaving a long trail in discussion groups about devices, permissions, and modprobe, sbp2 and so on, which is not where you want to be when you have to edit video.

One solution is proposed here and suggests:

We are currently exploring this setup (in Ubuntu), but Blender has many buttons :)

See also background information about a Blender based project.

This article - consumer_video_editing_linux - gives some good, basic bits of info, including hardware choices (it is from 2002, but makes points that are still valid).

For audio editing there is Audacity and for image manipulation The Gimp is a good choice. For a professional level "collection of free open source software tools for deep paint manipulation and image processing" see the GIMP derived CinePaint.

Other editing software for Linux



  • José Encalada
    • Coordinadora Nacional de Campesinos (CNC)
  • xx
    • Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE)

Lancaster University:

  • Dr. Hugh Tuffen, Environmental Science Department.
    • scientific and general coordinator (h.tuffen -at- lancaster . ac . uk)
  • Martin Pedersen, CESAGen.
    • general coordinator, jurisprudence, application writing (m.pedersen -at- lancaster . ac .uk)
  • Nina Moeller, CESAGen.
    • indigenous relations, political philosophy, application writing (n.moeller -at- lancaster . ac .uk)
  • Prof. Harry Pinkerton, Environmental Science Department.
    • volcanologist (h.pinkerton -at- lancaster . ac . uk)

St. Martin's College:

  • Dr. Gonzalo Araoz, Centre for Health Research and Practice Development, Faculty of Health and Social Care
    • anthropology (P.Araoz -at- ucsm . ac . uk)

University of South Florida:

  • Prof. Graham Tobin

Civil Society:


We are delighted to have received Lancaster University's Incubation funding (£1.6 k) from the Institute of Advanced Studies. Further support will be sought from the Science faculty and elsewhere.

Other options are ESRC's First Grant Scheme and the Early Career Researchers scheme. These are starting at around £50k, IIRC.

Possible might also be grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for anthropological research, especially International Collaborative Research Grants (up to 35K) or maybe Conference and Workshop Grants (up to 15K).

Other funding bodies, such as the National Environmental Research Council in the UK and Framework 7 funding from the EU, are actively encouraging applications for research at the interfaces between science, natural hazards, the environment and sociology and these are avenues that we can explore for more substantial funding in the future.


Enrique Freire Guevara, Banos en el Tiempo y el Espacio, Tomo II

pub. Benjamin Carrion, CCE.

Lane, Tobin et al. 2004

Christopher Tilly "Phenomenology of Landscape"

What to do during ash fall

Rafael P. Vieira, Erupciones del Tungarahua 1554-1773

pub. Ediciones Biblioteca "Leon Maria Vieira", Guayaquil, 1999

Rafael P. Vieira, Erupciones del Tungarahua 1886

pub. Ediciones Biblioteca "Leon Maria Vieira", Guayaquil, 1999

Rafael P. Vieira, Erupciones del Tungarahua 1886-1920

pub. Ediciones Biblioteca "Leon Maria Vieira", Guayaquil, 1999

Rafael P. Vieira, Domadores del Tungarahua

pub. Ediciones Biblioteca "Leon Maria Vieira", Guayaquil, 2003

Leon Vieira, Domadores del Volcan

pub. Ediciones Biblioteca "Leon Maria Vieira", Guayaquil, 2003