Friday 29th July, 2022, 14:00-15:40
This session explores the role of digital technologies in the uneven exercise of power, domination, and control over humans and nonhumans, considering how technologies are used in ecological governance and how these technologies are themselves governed.
Discussant: Oscar Hartman Davies
Camille Bellet, University of Manchester
Emily Morgan, Iowa State University
Our paper considers the use of CCTV cameras to monitor cows on dairy farms. Since the 1980s, cameras have been used on farms to monitor cows, observe them in stages of calving, and extend farmers’ capacity to care for their herds. We suggest that there is more at stake in this mediated relationship than cow surveillance and visual control: cameras create new modes of sensing, caring for, and engaging with cows. Observing the cow remotely is an affective multispecies and multisensory experience, creating spaces and moments that could not exist without the remote filming device. As the farmer continuously checks, watches, and keeps an eye on the cow, the camera affords a revealing intimacy, simultaneously liberating and confronting. Drawing on more than 200 hours of ethnographic observations of French and British dairy farms, and on photographs and texts circulated by agricultural presses in France and the United Kingdom (UK), we explore how live streaming cameras are changing farmer-cow relationships, creating intimate and entangled stories of care and control in and beyond the farm.
Camille Bellet studies digital sensing and cow care in farming in France and the United Kingdom, looking at how different sensing devices emerge, are shaped, and impact the way humans understand and care for cows, human-cow relations, and the ethics of cow care.
Emily Morgan is a contemporary art historian with research interests in the history of photography, the photography of industry, the distribution and circulation of photographic imagery, as well as animal studies.
Alice Vadrot, University of Vienna
Krystel Wanneau, University of Vienna
The digital engagement with oceans has taken a turn in the late 2010 with the vision of a ‘digital twin’ and the political ambition to protect 30% of marine ecosystems by 2030. Data collection through drones, automated robots, sensors, satellites, and genetic sequencing promises rapid advances in marine biodiversity conservation and science. Yet, digital practices to study, monitor, and model marine biodiversity are not new and inherently related to the desire to rapidly close persisting data gaps -especially regarding marine species and ecosystems in the high and deep seas- and to visualize previously untapped areas. However, this sociotechnical imaginary does not operate in a vacuum and is closely related to historical, political, and economic trajectories of ocean science. This paper investigates marine biodiversity scientific practices and how they are shaped by digitalisation. The field of marine biodiversity science spans a broad range of scientific disciplines and infrastructures for assessing patterns of marine biodiversity change. Practices of “doing” marine biodiversity science – in laboratories, on vessels, in the ocean and on land– are intermingled with digital practices at several stages and sites of scientific knowledge production. This paper aims at unpacking what digital practices mean in the field of marine biodiversity combining: bibliographic research, oral history interviews, and digital ethnographies of– the One Ocean Summit, and the European Ocean Observing System Technological Forum. Our results will yield a categorisation of digital practices and show how they shape the study and representation of oceans creatures and living marine resources in unprecedented ways.
Alice Vadrot researches the role of knowledge and science in international environmental politics and policies, particularly biodiversity and ocean governance. Her current project MARIPOLDATA aims to understand how we will govern oceans in the future and how inequalities related to science and data infrastructures can be addressed, studied, and reduced.
Krystel Wanneau’s research lies at the intersection of environmental politics, expertise and international organizations. She has conducted extensive research on the United Nations environmental programme to understand its authority from the perspective of its experts’ networks and careers. Her involvement in the MARIPOLDATA project specifically addresses the conduct of ocean science laboratory ethnography and the study of science-policy interrelations stemming from the BBNJ Treaty’s controversies.
Margarita Grinko, University of Siegen
Tanja Aal, University of Siegen
Konstantin Aal, University of Siegen
Helmut Hauptmeier, University of Siegen
Volker Wulf, University of Siegen
Launched in 2014, Lion Alert is warning farmers in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, of approaching lions and thus helps prevent attacks on cattle as well as poaching of the endangered predators. The system is based on lions wearing GPS collars with digital geofences. Since 2018, Lion Alert is largely automatised with dynamic geofences and a larger base of tracked lions and end users. It is also part of a larger approach involving communal cattle herding, training, and regular community meetings. Our interdisciplinary project including local users, biologists and us as designers and developers follows a Grounded Design approach. It is aimed to address the human-wildlife conflict and allow human and non-human stakeholders to live in the area safely: farmers, villagers, cattle, and lions. In three field visits so far involving numerous workshops, observations, and interviews, we have defined challenges, opportunities, and requirements for the Lion Alert system. Also, we have been studying its appropriation, revealing significant changes in herding practices and attitudes towards lions. The next steps in our project are 1. to develop an algorithm to analyse and predict lion movement patterns and 2. to install devices in central areas of the villages to better include users and their knowledge in the tracking process, as well as enable a connection to the predators in the digital sphere, e.g., via storytelling. We aim to further examine how our approach can be applied in Germany, where wolves and bisons, among others, pose problems to farmers and foresters.
Margarita Grinko’s interests are in the area of ICT for Development, Animal-Computer Interaction, Design Case Studies, and Grounded Design.
Tanja Aal’s research interests include HCI4Margins, community based research in sensitive settings, digital participation and inclusion, e(mental) health, and methodological innovation.
Konstantin Aal conducts research into fall prevention among seniors (iStoppFalls) and the use of social media during the Arab Spring.
Helmut Hauptmeier is deputy Director at the Institute for Media Research at the University of Siegen.
Volker Wulf is a researcher in the field of Socio-informatics, taking a practice-based approach to the design of IT systems in real-world settings, including cooperation systems, knowledge management and community support.
The increasing reliance on oceans as shipping lanes for the movement of cargo has contributed to an exponential rise in underwater industrial noise, interfering in more-than-human communication and survival. Many digital environmental governance initiatives have been devised to address this issue, including the Port of Vancouver’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitation and Observation (ECHO) program. Launched in 2017, the program monitors ocean sound via hydrophone listening stations installed in the seabed of shipping lanes surrounding the port, conveying acoustic data to vessels through an integrated platform. Aiming to limit sonic disturbance from port-bound vessels, the ECHO program is an industry-led, voluntary program that asks vessels to slow down or shift course when cetaceans are sensed in the shipping lane. Drawing on interviews, site visits, industry and scientific publications, and media coverage, this paper argues that the ECHO program is an attempt to mediate multiple scaling problems associated with the intersection of capital economies and animate ecologies saturated with industrial noise. Engaging with and seeking to contribute to analyses of digital environmental governance (Ritts and Bakker 2018; Gabrys 2016), media of logistics (Hockenberry et al. 2021; Cowen 2014), and more-than-human communication (Peters 2016; Han 2021), this paper asks: How do regional environmental and more-than-human politics scale through various forms of environmental mediation? How can we understand the scientific and cultural role of the ECHO program within histories of human-cetacean communication, undersea sonic military surveillance, and environmental sensing? How is the operationalization of both biological and logistical data shaping emergent forms of environmental and maritime governance?
Hannah Tollefson researches the mutual implications of environment and infrastructure, with a focus on how extraction, energy, and logistics shape settler colonial resource economies and ecologies, drawing on perspectives from the environmental humanities and media and technology studies.
The Brazilian Amazon has always had unstable territorial limits. From the deforestation that constantly alters its borders to its internal land/water changes due to dry and wet season, defining what comprises the Amazon is an ongoing endeavour. Climate Change adds another layer to it. The uncertainty from its border, where forest turns into savannah, becomes an internal issue due to changes in vegetation composition. The question it presents is: how much change can the amazonian ecology sustain and still be itself? In this text, I present how a group of ecologists navigate this issue through computational modelling of the forest’s vegetation. Based on an ethnography in this modelling laboratory and Science and Technology Studies literature, I show how they build a definition of the forest not from its territorial limits, but through a digital data space of vegetational trait values. For the modellers, the forest is not so much what is contained inside its moving borders, but a specific range of variation of plant characteristics, a pattern which they call the “amazonian range of variation”. Together with remote sensing technologies for detecting deforestation, this reconceptualization of the forest fits into a larger initiative of governing the Amazon through sensing changes in data from the forest. A digital transformation that tries to carve, through simplification of ecological relations and anticipatory practices, a future where the continued existence of the forest is possible, even in face of pressures both territorially, from agroindustrial expansion, and atmospheric, from global climate change.
Felipe Mammoli is currently working on an ethnography of environmental modelling practices in Brazil, especially regarding the Amazon Forest. His interests revolve around how digital data practices intersect with environmental issues in climate change research and what kind of politics emerges from these encounters.
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