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The Eco-Data Revolution: Digital Transformations in Ecology and Environmental Governance

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM (MDT)
Room: Virtual Track 1
Organizers: Karen Bakker
Chairs: Karen Bakker


In this session, we convene dialogues among human, digital and physical geographers to consider how new digital technologies and media are (re)shaping environmental sciences, governance and politics. These technologies are rapidly changing how many people and organisations see, understand and engage with (the rest of) nature, and how they support or take environmental action at a critical time for planetary health. Indeed, new digital technologies, ‘big data’, novel forms of citizen science and communication outlets are now commonly framed as a – or ‘the’ – solution to today’s urgent environmental challenges.

Research on these themes is evolving rapidly, and is challenged by the frantic pace of development of the technologies and media under scrutiny, as well as the (often limited) degree of access to information about them. Related opportunities and challenges concern the sheer magnitude of available data, new forms of processing power and how to access, interpret and present these in meaningful ways to diverse audiences, including those who may act them to implement change.

To facilitate and encourage further understanding and research on digital transformations in ecology and environmental governance, we are keen to explore connections and potential synergies between rapidly evolving research agendas across geography and political ecology. Papers are encouraged to include reflections on work which:

- Historicizes creative applications of digital and media technologies in geography and political ecology as they relate to the environment, broadly conceived;
- Analyzes new and re-shaped modes of environmental governance which deploy digital, ‘smart earth’ and ‘smart markets’ technologies, including in relation to marine, atmospheric, and terrestrial environments;
- Explores the policy and political economy implications of digital and media technologies, particularly issues of environmental, social and ‘data’ injustice;
- Examines the role of scientists in creating and communicating findings to policy and lay audiences;
- Assesses the ways new findings are represented to policy and lay audiences and to what effects;
- Probes the tension between normative and critical approaches to the study of digital environmental governance.


Bakker, K., & Ritts, M. (2018). Smart Earth: A meta-review and implications for environmental governance. Global Environmental Change, 52, 201-211.

Gabrys, J. (2016). Program Earth. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Goldstein, J. (2018). Planetary Improvement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Havice, E., Campbell, L. M., & Braun, A. (2019). Science, scale and the frontier of governing mobile marine species. International Social Science Journal. 68(229-230), 273 – 289.

Johnson, E. R., & Goldstein, J. (2015). Biomimetic futures: Life, death, and the enclosure of a more-than-human intellect. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 105(2), 387-396.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Elizabeth Havice*, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Lisa Campbell, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Managing oceanic mobility with geospatial data: science, scale, and politics in Atlantic Bluefin tuna management 15 8:00 AM
Presenter Bram Büscher*, Sociology of Development and Change, Wageningen University, Conservation-Glut: Saving and Sharing Nature in the Era of Platform Capitalism 15 8:15 AM
Presenter Max Ritts*, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Karen Bakker, University of British Columbia, Bioacoustical Worlds 15 8:30 AM
Presenter Douglas Robb*, University of British Columbia, Karen Bakker, University of British Columbia, Planetary Voyeurism 15 8:45 AM
Discussant Maggi Kelly University of California 15 9:00 AM

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