WEBINAR: "Surveillance Capitalism"; Nature; Acoustics; Conservation; Scientific Ethics. Environmental Lunchtime Discussion

This talk considers the intensive research and emergent policy regimes that have cohered in the last 15 years around bioacoustics, e.g. the scientific study of animal sounds. What is the significance of sound in the animal kingdom, and how can it help us track biodiversity? Max Ritts, postdoctoral researcher at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) gives us his perspectives.

Image may contain: Winter, Snow, Natural landscape, Tree, Water.

Photo: Max Ritts.

While scientists have long recognized sound as “an important medium for intra- and interspecific communication among… groups of animals” (Krause and Farina, 2015, 245), their socio-technical ability to glean biological and ecological insight from the medium has increased exponentially, abetted in large part by inexpensive new monitoring technologies, social networking capacities, and broad planetary concerns. Bioacoustics is now regularly cited in a range of national species management practices - such biodiversity assessment, population count, diversity assessment, and habitat quality - which introduce new conceptions – “acoustic niche,” “noise exposure threshold” – of ecological form, function, and differentiation.

But bioacoustical practices are not only shifting understandings of perceivable nature; they are altering understandings of what nature is as well.  In this talk, which draws from expert interviews (n= 17), bioacoustics texts new and old, and a survey of recent eco governance policy, we suggest that proliferating bioacoustical practices present enticing objects with which to puzzle through the dominant forces shaping contemporary multispecies geographies. If bioacoustics co-evolves with a “surveillance eco-capitalism” monitoring and managing the world’s non-human actors and ecosystems for economic purposes (Zuboff's "surveillance capitalism" thesis), they also point to worldings as yet unaccounted-for in capitalist value regimes, and through which new politics of nature are emerging.  

About Max Ritts

Max Ritts is a postdoctoral researcher at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Alnarp, Sweden. He specialises in environmental geography with interests in sustainability, critical theory and creative methods. His research examines sustainability through a focus on environmental data cultures – a macro structure that increasingly shapes the way individuals, institutions, and diverse natures feature within natural-human systems.

About the event series

The OSEH Environmental Lunchtime Discussion series consists of short, 10-15 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: Environmental Humanities, HF, IKOS, OSEH, sound, Sustainability, Conservation
Published Sep. 15, 2020 10:24 AM - Last modified Oct. 7, 2020 7:05 PM