[ISEA2020] Keynote: Jennifer Gabrys — From Planetary Sensing to Becoming Planetary

How is it possible to “sense” the planetary? It is now not uncommon for the planetary to be invoked in discussions of technology. Technology—especially computational technology—is analyzed as something on the “scale” of the planetary. Technology is seen to overrun and command the planetary. The planetary is discussed as a figure of massiveness. Its invocation suggests total dominion: the rolling out of behemoth systems that hold the planet and all of its entities in a space of complete capture. This total view of Earth has an even longer history within modes of control and colonialism. The detached and distant view of Earth produces an entity that could seemingly be managed—or programmed. This total view of the planet suggests complete interconnectedness, but also forms of imperial control. It is the product of globality as well as universal science. A total view can even seem to be necessary: as a way to organize the problem of climate change, for instance, in order to act upon it. Yet in what ways do these modalities of the planetary reduce the possibilities of what the planetary is or might become? How might it be possible not to remake the pretensions of globality and globalization through planetary media projects, but rather begin to unsettle figures of totality and regulation in order to attend to the incommensurate, the unjust, and the yet to be recognized?

  • Jennifer Gabrys is Chair in Media, Culture and Environment in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, UK. She leads the Planetary Praxis research group, and is Principal Investigator on the European Research Council-funded project, Smart Forests: Transforming Environments into Social-Political Technologies. She also leads the Citizen Sense and AirKit projects, which have both received funding from the ERC. She is the author of How to Do Things with Sensors (2019); Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (2016); and Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (2011). She is co-editor of Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic (Routledge, 2013). She has co-edited a special issue on “Sensors and Sensing Practices,” with Science, Technology & Human Values (2019); and a special issue on “Environmental Data,” with Big Data & Society (2016). She co-edits the new “Planetarities” book series published through Goldsmiths Press. She is currently completing a book on the Citizen Sense project titled, Citizens of Worlds: Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle. jennifergabrys.net