Rhetorical Mapping: Oil & Land in South Louisiana
Petroleum has a huge effect on life in South Louisiana. Family dynamics are different in Louisiana, where many men leave for weeks at a time to work on boats and rigs offshore. The job opportunities offered by the oil industry draw people from across the nation, and new businesses spring up to service the influx of oil field workers and their families. Petroleum services intermix with the culture existing prior to it, and it itself becomes a part of the culture.
Nicholls State University undergraduate English students collected interview data of the bayou delta region residents of Louisiana conducted by past students as part of an oral history project called “Stories of Oil and Land” sponsored by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and the Nicholls Bayou Studies program. The original project sought to collect perspectives of various residents about local industry, oil mining, and coastal erosion.
We recorded the people interviewed locations, vocations, subsistence activities, religions, ethnicities, native language,s military service, level of education, etc. in a Google Fusion Table.
We then created a series of interactive data visualizations–location maps, heat maps, and graphs using the Google Fusion Tables, showing shifts in land use and concentrations of religions, ethnicities, hobbies, and vocations. The purpose of these visualizations is to identify links between these factors and to show the impact of the petroleum industry on life in South Louisiana. In preparing the visualizations, studies used a variety of rhetorical theories to inform their coding, tagging, and choice of supporting images.
The visualizations, like the original interviews, show the impact of the petroleum industry on life in South Louisiana. However, there are limits to what can be surmised from the data, as it was not originally purposed to charted this way. As is, there is not enough information to draw conclusions about the relationship between language, religion, education, military service, and the growth of the oil industry. The limits of the original data leave many values unfilled and many questions unanswered. Truly effective visualizations will require more nuanced data.
- The rise of petroleum industry altered the lifestyles of people of the bayou
- Migration within the bayou region
- Economic activities/employment
- Recreational activities
- Subsistence activities
- Richer more nuanced data is needed
- Larger sample size is needed
- Scripted, uniform interview process is needed
- People of the bayou region still feel a connection to the land and culture even if their locations, recreational activities, and economic activities have shifted
- People of the bayou region express concern about coastal erosion and its impact on their culture
- People of the bayou region lament the erosion of their unique cultural way of being brought about by the rise of the petroleum industry and coastal erosion
Below are the maps and images of the visualizations.
Location Map with information card detailing industry, religion, and other information about the people interviewed. The above map is interactive.
Poster presented at the University of Louisiana Lafayette Undergraduate Honors Conference, November 21-22, 2014.
Poster presented at the Louisiana Academy of Sciences, March 13-14, 2015.
Video Interview of Mr. Bill Davis by Kyle David Bowe.
Video Interview of Thomas Hebert by Ashley Hebert.
Brochure describing the project.