At its heart, Clam Cam tries to show the incredible work clammers do every day to get clams from mud to the market. Clammers wear chest-mounted GoPro™ cameras as they dig. Sometimes they also wear microphones in their ears to record sounds. Of course, going out on the mudflat is the best way to experience clamming. But the camera and microphones help the viewer get as close to clamming as possible short of stepping into the mud themselves. As researchers, we also look at the videos to help us understand clamming from a new perspective.
Where did the idea for Clam Cam come from?
This idea came from working with clammers. We have worked with clammers along the coast for several years, and they have told us that the economic and cultural importance of clamming needs to be shared and understood by more people. Clammers helped us develop our approach to this project.
What are you trying to learn through this process?
We are interested in recording the practices of clamming so people now and in the future can learn about and appreciate the work involved. There are many different clamming practices, so we would like to document as many as we can. Clamming is hard work, so there are also opportunities to increase job safety in the industry by studying the practice. We have also learned that clamming teaches us about relationships between people and the environment.
What field methods do you use?
When we go into the field with clammers, we bring a GoPro™ camera that we turn on and help the clammer put on with an elastic chest mount that holds the camera to their body. We make sure it’s comfortable and then ask them to dig for about 15-45 minutes or one “hod full” while we wait at a distance. We take notes and photographs as they dig. After they stop digging, we ask them some questions, like how the digging was. This helps give us an idea of what it was like for them as we watch the footage. We also ask them what it was like to wear the camera, to see if it affected their digging. We then remove the camera and stop recording. Finally, we put the recordings on our computers to study.
What analytical methods do you use?
We make a digital archive of our materials, which includes footage, photographs, and notes of each dig. We review the footage and then choose a 15-45 minute section to study more. Next, we watch the footage again and take detailed notes of everything we experience while watching. We describe weather, season, surroundings, how the camera is angled, and the clammers’ clothing and equipment. We also describe events such as the clammer moving to a new location on the flat and patterns we see in the digging (such as moving rocks, wiggling the hoe, turning the mud, collecting clams, and resting). These notes fill up about a single-spaced page for every 10 minutes of video.
What do you mean by “engaged" media production and research?
To us, this means that our research would not be possible without the helpfulness, kindness and generosity of clammers. Clam Cam is engaged because it includes clammers directly in our research and allows us to then share what we find with them. Clammers have also provided us with knowledge about clamming that we would not have been able to find otherwise, which helps us understand the industry and our role as researchers better. It also means that the research we produce together must, in some way, give back to clamming communities. We have also shared our research insights through workshops in coastal communities and with individual clammers.
How are you sharing what you are learning in this study?
This website is an important part of our work, both because it provides a unique way to share clammers' work and because it gives us another opportunity to explore the role of media in communicating about relationships between humans and environments. Besides this public website, we are also sharing Clam Cam through a more traditional academic paper that describes our study to other researchers so they can build on what we've learned. The key research insights we are sharing in this paper include 5 themes: how tools shape clammers' experiences and the process of research; the connections between living and nonliving things on mudflats; how the rhythm of clamming promotes a unique relationship to time and space; how an approach like Clam Cam creates opportunities for experimenting with research in new ways; and ethical tensions that arise when doing engaged research like this. We have developed these themes alongside clammers, and together they show how clamming is a vibrant fishery that provides a rich space for cultivating new kinds of thinking and action.
Has there been any media coverage?
Yes, here are the outlets that have covered this project:
What’s next for Clam Cam?
We would like to keep recording episodes in new locations with clammers we haven’t worked with yet so we can expand our archive as much as possible. We also have some research questions that we haven’t answered yet that will keep us working with our materials in the future. Some of these questions are about other approaches to extend our archive, how our techniques could be applied to things other than clamming, and what needs for human health and the sustainability of the environment are important in this industry and the region.