A political ecology of data
Conservationists, governments, and corporations see promise in digital technologies to provide holistic, rapid, and objective information to inform policy, shape investments, and monitor ecosystems. But it is increasingly clear that environmental data does more than simply offer a better view of the planet. This special issue makes a single overarching argument: that we cannot fully understand the current conjuncture in global environmental governance without understanding the platforms, devices, and institutions that comprise environmental data infrastructures. The papers draw together scholarship from political ecology and science and technology studies to demonstrate how data has become a significant site in which contemporary environmental politics are waged and socionatures are materialized. We address: (1) the contested practices of utilizing and maintaining data infrastructures; (2) the ways they are governed and the territorial statecraft they enable; (3) the socionatural materiality they arise within but also produce. The papers in this special issue show that, against its dominant representation, data is material, governed, practiced, and requires praxis. Political ecologists could adopt such an approach to make sense of the emerging ways in which data technologies shape environments and their politics.
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