Jennifer Gabrys


On her book Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet

Cover Interview of December 27, 2016


Program Earth is very much written as a companion text to the ongoing practice-based research that I am developing through the collaborative project, Citizen Sense. The Citizen Sense project investigates the use of low-cost environmental monitoring technologies that are increasingly pervasive and that carry the promise of making users of these technologies more equipped and capable environmental citizens.

It goes without saying that we are at a critical moment when it comes to attending to and tuning in to environments under stress. However, from climate change to air pollution, many of the promoted “solutions” to environmental problems are often presented as depoliticized technological approaches by which we are meant to be able to engineer our way out of our collective dilemmas.

Program Earth attempts to rethink how these problems are cast, not to eliminate sensor technologies, but instead to make the case that different and more open and indeterminate engagements with these technologies could generate different political possibilities.

In this way, the book engages with the wider set of developments related to environmental sensing so that a more informed approach might be developed in relation to sensing technologies. Yet it does not offer a prescriptive solution for how to proceed with the increasing spread of sensor technologies. Instead, it offers a set of critical, creative and experimental resources for asking why these technologies have gained a foothold in the way that they have. And it suggests that we might encounter these technologies differently so that other environments and environmental relations—along with political subjects—could be formed.

While the text is written as a theoretical and empirical account, it is very much aligned with sensor technology practices that I am collaboratively undertaking. In this way, I hope that Program Earth might then generate related theoretical and practical inquires, that at once offer us strategies for analyzing and rethinking technologies, while also reworking and adopting them in more generative and generous arrangements.