RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013

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314 Participation in Science (3): More-than-Human Participation
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Historical Geography Research Group
Participatory Geographies Research Group
Geographical Information Science Research Group
Convenor(s) Hilary Geoghegan (University College London, UK)
Muki Haklay (University College London, UK)
Chair(s) Christian Nold (University College London, UK)
Timetable Friday 30 August 2013, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Dana Centre, Science Museum
Session abstract Currently, in the fields of Citizen Science, Participatory Sensing and the Internet of Things, people are being encouraged to use technical systems to record and measure the external environment. Innovatively, this session adopts a ‘more-than-human’ framework (Latour 2004, Bennett 2010), to draw attention to the agency and activities of non-human actors such as living animals and plants, technical devices, concepts and places. This session aims to explore the often surprising consequences of research where technologies gain their own agency, and the environment starts to speak back: what happens when researchers try to turn citizens into sensors (Goodchild 2007) and sensor assemblages start to becoming citizens? This session asks for papers that examine Citizen Science, Participatory Sensing or the Internet of Things, with a focus on the activities of more-than-human actors and addresses these questions: – What kinds of new knowledge emerge when we pay attention to the participation of more-than-human actors? – What kinds of power relationships emerge when institutional actors have to deal with more-than-humans? – How can we co-design for the participation of more-than-human collaborators?
Linked Sessions Participation in Science (1): Locating participatory science; between enthusiasm, engagement, education & crowdsourcing
Participation in Science (2): Locating participatory science; between enthusiasm, engagement, education & crowdsourcing
Participation in Science (4): Participatory science in museums
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2013@rgs.org
Ecological Observatories: Fluctuating Sites and Sensing Subjects
Jennifer Gabrys (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)
In this presentation, I will walk through fieldwork and observations gathered from my time spent during an Arctic arts-and-sciences residency at a biological field station in Finnish Lapland, specifically to discuss how artists and scientists are increasingly using environmental sensors to study ecological processes. Based on this fieldwork material, I will consider how sensor technologies give rise to new modes of environmental sensing through distributed and multiple configurations of sense. I will ask how these new arrangements of environmental monitoring and distributed sensing shift the spaces and practices of environmental participation, both within environmental citizenship actions and through creative practice projects that take up “citizen sensing” as a tactic for engaging with sites of environmental concern. How do these modes of monitoring within the context of environmental change influence practices of sensing, articulations of citizenship, and senses of sites? Who or what is involved in sensing, and how does this inform the processes of environmental citizenship?
More-than-Human Participatory Research
Michelle Bastian (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
This paper will explore the potential for bringing together approaches around more-than-human communities with those developed in community participatory research paradigms. Despite strong affinities between these approaches, including a concern for accountability to those who are marginalised in research practices, to date there has been little explicit cross-over between the two. In this session then I will provide an initial exploration of the benefits, drawbacks, synergies etc. of bringing these two areas of research into conversation. Importantly, central components of the participatory research agenda (including participatory action research, co-design, collaborative ethnography etc.) are the desire to support the inclusion of marginalised voices in the research process, to make research accountable to those it affects, and, in the process, to transform the practice of research and knowledge production. However, in the context of mass extinctions, dangerous climate change and resource depletion, where the failure of the enlightenment project to produce knowledges that support sustainable ways of life has become clearly apparent, there are strong incentives to extend this agenda by thinking through what, and who, research practices are still excluding. Intriguingly, one of the foremost current proponents of participatory action research - Peter Reason – has explicitly argued that the ethical and political imperatives implicit within the coproduction paradigm need to be extended to non-humans (Reason, 2005). Claiming that we need to reconceive ourselves as embedded within biotic systems, Reason characterises the notion of the more-than-human as an emergent edge within participatory research. The paper will draw on research arising from the AHRC funded project “In conversation with…:co-designing with more than human communities” which is currently exploring these issues. See our website for more details http://www.morethanhumanresearch.com
Thinking with the Animal-Hacker: Articulation in Ecologies of Earth Observation
Helen Pritchard (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
Through developments in cloud-computing, data streaming and bio-sensing, the ubiquities of data practices are re-configuring how we imagine and come together with non-humans and the biophysical world. This paper emerges from embedded arts-based research in the ‘Environmental Virtual Observatory’ a large scale project in which distributed sensors monitor and upload ‘non-human’ environmental processes to a cloud computing infrastructure. In the ‘Environmental Virtual Observatory’ Dairy Cows staring down remote cameras or peaks in river flow bring us face-to face [through the network] with non-humans. If we consider these events not as measuring or writing the other, but instead as co-writing with articulate non-humans, then the question arises of how we might think with and from non human animal-writers in order to “speculate, imagine, feel, build something better”(Haraway 2008, 92). In this paper I tentatively introduce the figure of the ‘Animal-Hacker’ to consider the articulation of nonhuman entities in these computational ecologies. If we address the ‘Animal-Hacker’, not as a passive object of observation, but as co-creating computational environments, how might we consider the non human animal? If we are serious about forms of engagement with non humans, can we engage with the ‘Animal-Hacker’ as a possible invitation to reconsider a possible introduction to other-worlding?
More-than-Human Noise Politics
Christian Nold (University College London, UK)
This paper uses a material-semiotic approach to follow the technological devices from an ongoing EU FP7 research project about participatory sensing. It describes the introduction of a mobile phone based noise monitoring application to human communities around Heathrow airport. Due to the conflicting agendas of the designers, funders and researcher, the device focuses as much on gaming and behaviour change of the users as the environment. The resulting low technical measuring accuracy of the device creates surprising 'rogue data' that cannot be added to the usual environmental datasets. This disruption is multiplied by a large scale user adoption which make the collective articulation hard to dismiss. The device challenges the participating residents, councils and other stakeholder to negotiate different accounts of the affective experience of living under the flightpath. The case study is an encounter with a variety of protocols that encode the multi-facetted impacts of the airport into abstracted ways of speaking about experience. These more-than-human standards are key actors of Heathrow and assume material agency over the daily life in that area. In the case study, these way of accounting for experience are questioned through a series of critical design devices that were co-designed by the author, with and for more-than-humans & humans to act as encounter sites for conflictual ontologies. The impact of this case study is to affirm the applicability of a material-semiotic approach to the political staging of emotions while extending it towards participatory action research via critical design methods.
The Air Quality Egg as Perpetual Prototype - Human Agency in a World Without Closure
Dorien Zandbergen (Leiden University, The Netherlands)
In this paper, I investigate the critical tensions between two very different ways of understanding the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm. Both views have quite different consequences for how we theorize power and agency in our current technological environment. The one perspective, exemplified by the call for this session, emphasizes the need to develop analytical frameworks that account for sensor technologies and the data produced by them as agents of their own. Although there is nothing in and of itself “neoliberal” about this perspective, it does resonate with neoliberal interpretations of technology – imbuing technology with consciousness, positing humans in a world that gets increasingly “out of – their - control” (e.g. Kurzweil 2005; Kelly 1994). The other perspective insists on seeing IoT technologies as products of humans and institutions that seek to reproduce their agential power through their association with these technologies. It is only in combination with this second perspective, I maintain, that we can ask what I consider the most critical question about IoT: how do humans – as entrepreneurs, policy makers, futurists, hackers, hobbyists, citizens and consumers – reinvent themselves as agency-seeking subjects through their association with technological environments that are “alive”, unpredictable and difficult to commodify?

Based on my recent research into the creation of an IoT object, the “Air Quality Egg” (AQE), I address this question by looking at the ways in which AQE maker-users link themselves to the promise of a good future. I argue that part of the “aliveness” of the Egg comes from the social, institutional and technical context in which it developed. Involving many different stakeholders, facilitating many different ideological positions and modifiable to process ever diversified streams of information - the Egg constitutes an environment of belonging, communication and exchange that seems capable of ongoing renewal amidst uncertainty and accelerating change.