This panel will explore digital technologies as key aspects in the formation of a contemporary environmental imaginary, and as a potential site for transforming anthropological approaches to human-environmental relations.
Environment and energy crises have brought anthropological questions about how humans relate to nature into conversation with concerns to explore the material bases of contemporary political and economic life. Anthropologists working on this interface have shown that such global processes are the outcome of multi-scalar interactions between dynamic material arrangements, human and non-human relationalities, and industries, societies and economies. However, importantly, these global environmental processes are increasingly materialised, manipulated, and mediated by complex informational infrastructures. Sensors and databases order and evidence environments in complex and unstable ways; digital techniques are crucial to the commoditisation of natural resources; models shape environmental presents, futures and pasts; environmental data visualisations and products are called upon by diverse stakeholders, from climate sceptics to indigenous activists to anthropologists themselves. This panel will explore what happens to anthropological approaches to energy and the environment when we pay attention to the role of digital technologies in the process of human-environmental becoming. - What role do digital techniques play in how people imagine and engage environmental processes? - How does an attention to digital environmentalism provide a way into a more nuanced description of the interplay between ontology and epistemology, materials and symbols, or humans and natures? - Can the study of digital practices in other social settings help us understand the processes we confront in digital environmentalism? - Finally, how does an attention to digital technologies disrupt and re-situate claims as to the role that anthropology should play in the study of environmental and energetic crises?