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Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet

How sensors are changing our environmental relationships

Series: Electronic Mediations Volume: 49

By: Jennifer Gabrys (Author)

368 pages, illustrations

University of Minnesota Press

Paperback | Jun 2016 | #232941 | ISBN-13: 9780816693146
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £22.50 $28/€25 approx
Hardback | no dustjacket | Mar 2016 | #232942 | ISBN-13: 9780816693122
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £78.50 $96/€88 approx

About this book

Sensors are everywhere. Small, flexible, economical, and computationally powerful, they operate ubiquitously in environments. They compile massive amounts of data, including information about air, water, and climate. Never before has such a volume of environmental data been so broadly collected or so widely available.

Grappling with the consequences of wiring our world, Program Earth examines how sensor technologies are programming our environments. As Jennifer Gabrys points out, sensors do not merely record information about an environment. Rather, they generate new environments and environmental relations. At the same time, they give a voice to the entities they monitor: to animals, plants, people, and inanimate objects. Program Earth looks at the ways in which sensors converge with environments to map ecological processes, to track the migration of animals, to check pollutants, to facilitate citizen participation, and to program infrastructure. Through discussing particular instances where sensors are deployed for environmental study and citizen engagement across three areas of environmental sensing, from wild sensing to pollution sensing and urban sensing, Program Earth asks how sensor technologies specifically contribute to new environmental conditions. What are the implications for wiring up environments? How do sensor applications not only program environments, but also program the sorts of citizens and collectives we might become?

Program Earth suggests that the sensor-based monitoring of Earth offers the prospect of making new environments not simply as an extension of the human but rather as new "technogeographies" that connect technology, nature, and people.

"Jennifer Gabrys deftly synthesizes fields and lines of inquiry in weaving a signature story of our age, working across intellectual planes and variegated systems and networks. Program Earth is a tantalizing account of digital, citizen-sensing worlds in the making."
– Kevin McHugh, Arizona State University

"Impressive and original, Program Earth is not just concerned with the collection and dissemination of data, but also – and more crucially – with the transformation of these data and with their effects."
– Steven Shaviro, author of The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism


Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction. Environment as Experiment in Sensing Technology

Part 1. Wild Sensing
1. Sensing an Experimental Forest: Processing Environments and Distributing Relations
2. From Moss Cam to Spillcam: Technogeographies of Experience
3. Animals as Sensors: Mobile Organisms and the Problem of Milieus

Part 2. Pollution Sensing
4. Sensing Climate Change and Expressing Environmental Citizenship
5. Sensing Oceans and Geo-Speculating with a Garbage Patch
6. Sensing Air and Creaturing Data

Part 3. Urban Sensing
7. Citizen Sensing in the Smart and Sustainable City: From Environments to Environmentality
8. Engaging the Idiot in Participatory Digital Urbanism
9. Digital Infrastructures of Withness: Constructing a Speculative City
Conclusion. Planetary Computerization, Revisited


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Jennifer Gabrys is a reader in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics.

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