When we look at some of the most pressing issues in environmental politics today, it is hard to avoid data technologies. Big data, artificial intelligence, and data dashboards all promise “revolutionary” advances in the speed and scale at which governments, corporations, conservationists, and even individuals can respond to environmental challenges.
By bringing together scholars from geography, anthropology, science and technology studies, and ecology, The Nature of Data explores how the digital realm is a significant site in which environmental politics are waged. This collection as a whole makes the argument that we cannot fully understand the current conjuncture in critical, global environmental politics without understanding the role of data platforms, devices, standards, and institutions. In particular, The Nature of Data addresses the contested practices of making and maintaining data infrastructure, the imaginaries produced by data infrastructures, the relations between state and civil society that data infrastructure reworks, and the conditions under which technology can further socio-ecological justice instead of re-entrenching state and capitalist power. This innovative volume presents some of the first research in this new but rapidly growing subfield that addresses the role of data infrastructures in critical environmental politics.
About the Author
Jenny Goldstein is an assistant professor of global development at Cornell University. Eric Nost is an assistant professor of geography, environment, and geomatics at the University of Guelph.
“Data may not grow on trees, but it increasingly shapes how humans know, govern, and struggle over forests—and indeed, much of the nonhuman world. The Nature of Data captures this moment empirically while advancing political ecology conceptually. An altogether stellar volume.”—Susanne Freidberg, author of Fresh: A Perishable History
“In accelerating ways, environmental politics are data politics. This powerful book shows what this looks like in different settings and at different scales, persuasively calling for a new subfield focused on the political ecology of data. Extending from prior work on the delimitations and politics of environmental science, the collection draws out what environmental data can help us see, what it cuts out, and how environmental data production itself is both polluting and weighted by commercial interests.”—Kim Fortun, author of Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders
“This is an original, diverse, and scintillating collection. Researchers working on political ecology of conservation and conservation social science have not taken challenges of data justice or the political economy of data production seriously enough. We must—and this book shows us how and why.”—Dan Brockington, author of Celebrity Advocacy and International Development
“As environments are reverse engineered to match the spreadsheets and management platforms in which they are tallied, the environmental politics of data control, organization, and proliferation will hugely influence ecologies and politics going forward. By putting that insight front and center, Goldstein and Nost assemble a sweeping set of essays that gaze into the sometimes-disturbing future of the planet.”—Paul Robbins, author of Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction
“This volume contributes to the growing discourses around political ecological work on data and the infrastructures that sustain, produce, and exchange them. The volume is startling in both its depth and breadth of engagement with timely and important topics; it marks a significant contribution to a growing field.”—Jim Thatcher, author of Thinking Big Data in Geography: New Regimes, New Research
“Throughout, the reader is plunged into the complexities of digital systems, the environments they monitor and conserve, and the limits to their governance and oversight across a variety of places and scales and sovereignties. What emerges is resolutely not an endorsement of further digitalization of nature but a recognition that digitalization is perhaps yet another set of processes in which nature is actively produced.”—Matthew W. Wilson, author of New Lines: Critical GIS and the Trouble of the Map
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