Digital, material, ecological entanglements

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 45
Organizers: Corrine Armistead, James Thatcher, Dillon Mahmoudi
Chairs: Corrine Armistead


We increasingly live in a world suffused with ‘the digital.’ Even when not actively engaging with digital devices, our very selves are interpellated through algorithmic systems based upon regimes of spatial data generation, acquisition, and extraction (Amoore, 2020; Benjamin, 2019; Thatcher et al. 2016). At the same time, the digital is never ephemeral; data is stored on physical devices, computation relies upon electricity produced through traditional extractive (and renewable) means (Lally et al., 2019). As artificial intelligence, algorithmic governance, and other large-scale forms of computation increasingly mediate material lifeworlds, they do so by building upon existing environmental, social, and technical infrastructures (Mattern, 2017). How these systems intersect and (co)evolve alongside shifting technical, ecological, and political conditions is a burgeoning question for geography in the 21st century.

From the Cold War roots of the quantitative revolutions interest in data (Wyly, 2019) to the legal ramifications of the location of Zoom servers to the mining operations that extract the minerals used in iPhones (Parikka 2014), recent scholarship in geography and cognate disciplines continues to tie together the spaces and flows of infrastructure with their political and economic manifestations (Bowker and Star 1999). In this session, we seek papers that continue this trend by not fetishizing ‘the digital’ or material relations, but instead understanding the two as an always entangled whole.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- Speculative, data-driven investment in renewable energy
- Critical quantitative approaches to environmental and social relations
- Critical examinations of climate change and sea-level change models
- Explorations of the entanglements of the various scales of eco-apartheid and digital technologies through lenses such as platform urbanism, smart cities, and others
- Critical inquiries into the new extraction frontiers made possible through advancements in digital technologies, such as new oil exploration via sea floor sensors
- Tracing the ecology of labor in production of data
- Inquiries into the nature of knowledge production and its dissemination within digital/ecological systems

Amoore, L. (2020). Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Benjamin, R. (2019). Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Cambridge, MA: Polity.
Bowker, G. and S. L. Star. (1999). Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lally, N., K. Kay, and J. Thatcher (2019). Computational parasites and hydropower: A political ecology of Bitcoin mining on the Columbia River. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space 0:0, pp. 1–21.
Mattern, S. (2017). Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Parikka, J. (2014). The Anthrobscene. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Thatcher, J., O’Sullivan, D., and D. Mahmoudi (2016). Data Colonialism through accumulation by dispossession: New metaphors for daily data. Environment and Planning D 34(6): 990-1006.
Wyly, E. (2019). Geography's Quantitative Revolutions: Edward A. Ackerman and the Cold War Origins of Big Data. (First edition. ed.). Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Julia Wagner*, Clark University, Response as responsibility: Capitalist hauntings, climate specters, and data-driven urban adaptation 15 8:00 AM
Presenter Christopher Reimer*, University of British Columbia, ... Loading Digital Oceans ... Please Wait ... 15 8:15 AM
Presenter Kendra Kintzi*, Cornell University, Hilary Oliva Faxon, UC Berkeley, The smart farm at the end of the smart grid: linking land and labor in digital infrastructure studies 15 8:30 AM
Presenter Lauren Drakopulos*, University of Guelph, Jennifer Silver, University of Guelph, Eric Nost, University of Guelph, Noella Gray, University of Guelph, Roberta Hawkings, University of Guelph, Making global oceans governance in/visible with Smart Earth: the case of Global Fishing Watch 15 8:45 AM
Discussant Dillon Mahmoudi University of Maryland - Baltimore County 15 9:00 AM

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