WEBINAR: Data Stories and Virtual Wildlife: Examining Future Directions in Citizen Sensing in Wildlife Surveillance. Environmental Lunchtime Discussion.

Surveillance is increasingly used to sate the public’s curiosity for a window into the ‘secret lives of wild animals’. Citizens can now track their local wildlife through trail cameras connected to their smartphone, and they can follow live data streams offering minute-by-minute close-ups of wildlife nests 24/7. In this talk, Erica von Essen, Ph. D. and researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, asks: what does this digitalization of wildlife mean for human-wildlife relations? 

Image may contain: Nature, Organism, Natural landscape, Terrestrial animal, Adaptation.

Snapshot Serengeti. http://www.sci-news.com/biology/science-snapshot-serengeti-02891.html

The reach of surveillance technologies hints at the dawn of a new era for wildlife management in which wildlife are increasingly digital. Surveillance is said to beckon a new regime of ‘conservation by algorithm’ in which data collected by citizens are used to render wildlife movements “knowable” in ways that mean abstraction, calculability and risk aversion. These data often inform decisions to cull, conserve or intervene in wildlife lives. Citizen science has thus become appropriated as an instrument of biopolitics: controlling who lives and dies.

In this talk, this digital surveillance regime is considered as to its impact on human-wildlife-expert relations in terms of reconfiguring voice, power and agency. However, it also interrogates the changing role of citizens in wildlife surveillance. Are they grunt workers collecting data for the regime, or increasingly also consumers of wildlife in the virtual, through e.g. following animal livestreams, partaking in collection games and treasure hunts, and thematizing around the wildlife they see in their gardens? What does this mean for human-wildlife connections and virtual intimacy between the species? The talk discusses the unique and rapidly proliferating ways in which people engage with wildlife online in citizen science. It also discusses the affordances of technology for animals to ‘tell their own stories’, unmediated by edited nature documentaries.

About the speaker

Erica von Essen is a researcher with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research in Oslo and associate professor at the Department for Social Anthropology with Stockholm University. Her work in environmental communication and wildlife ethics problematize how human-animal relations are changing in post-modernity and how they are manifested in new roles and practices. Erica is involved in several research projects examining the biopolitical control of unwanted species in society, from wild boars to wolves out of place. She has published across a range of disciplines including criminology, rural sociology, communication studies, philosophy and environmental ethics. In recent years, Erica’s work can be found in presentations to parliaments, in popular media, and at human-animal studies conferences.

About the event series

The OSEH Environmental Lunchtime Discussion series consists of short, 15 minute presentations by invited guests, followed by a discussion. We invite speakers from a wide variety of fields, both academic and beyond. The presentations are accessible and are aimed at anyone with an interest in environmental issues. All are welcome.

Tags: IKOS, HF, Environmental Humanities, OSEH, Surveillance
Published Jan. 18, 2021 10:45 AM - Last modified Feb. 17, 2021 11:40 AM