Program Earth

Program Earth

Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet

Jennifer Gabrys

How sensors are changing our environmental relationships

368 Pages, 7 x 10 in



Program Earth

Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet

Series: Electronic Mediations

Jennifer Gabrys

ISBN: 9780816693146

Publication date: March 30th, 2016

368 Pages


10 x 7

"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

"Full of stimulating ideas and provocative reframings of environmental concerns that are sure to spark further research."—American Journal of Sociology 

"Readers will revel in extensively written case studies as well as the contemplative opportunity to challenge, with renewed conceptual tools, the urgent notion of the environment."—Cultural Geographies

"Jennifer Gabrys' book is a timely publication that combines empirical insights with a necessary speculative attitude in an emerging field."—Tecnosciencza

"This sociological treatise is a valuable contribution for historians of technology... Program Earth succeeds in raising multiple epistemological and political issues intertwining sensing technologies, infrastructures, democracy, and power."—Technology and Culture 

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


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