Issue 6

ISSN 2436-1410

Approaching the Digital Anthropocene

James Maguire, Astrid Andersen, and Rachel Douglas Jones

It is becoming increasingly difficult to address digital questions without considering how they overlap and intersect with environmental concerns. We make the digital through the appropriation of environmental forms; crafting metals and plastics into sleek handheld devices, while powering our data through vast quantities of energy. We observe and make our understandings of environments through, for example, digital devices, spreadsheet accounting and carbon calculations. We have brought epochal shifts into being through rhetoric, disciplines, and geological measures. While the Anthropocene is constituted through colonial histories, it is also, we claim, a digitally mediated and produced time that is deeply interwoven with computation, tools, and devices.  Yet the ‘we’ of these statements is an unevenly distributed set of actors, whose politics is pressing. In this special issue, we bring together scholars who study the manifold interfaces between the environmental and the digital. As such, it offers a double gaze upon digital and environmental relations: examining how computational work is environmentally constituted as well as how the sensing, knowing, and contesting of environmental issues is increasingly mediated by digital processes and technologies.

The special issue contains an introduction, four research papers, and a commentary. The worlds it renders emerge through carefully attuned ethnographic sensitivities to specific locations, while offering insights that work across digital and environmental concerns. Through its double gaze, we learn about remotely sensed archaeological landscapes in Afghanistan, struggles for environmental data justice in Texas, the role of databases in the enactment of climate governance in the Caribbean, and speculative eco-tech prototypes of data gardens and forests in Copenhagen and Berlin.

The authors bring both anthropological and STS perspectives to bear upon digital modes of knowing and making environments, and upon environmental modes of constituting the digital. In situating the production of environments in digital terms, the collection opens up for a range of political questions that breach the boundaries of environmental politics and digital politics as mutually exclusive areas of enquiry. 

Table of Contents


The Limits to Computational Growth: Digital Databases and Climate Change in the Caribbean
Sarah E. Vaughn
PDF | Pages: 1–27
Sensing in and Beyond the Digital Anthropocene
Saadia Mirza
PDF | Pages: 28–47
Repairing the Anthropocene: Toward Civic Validity for Environmental Data Justice
Lourdes Vera
PDF | Pages: 48–79 
Biotechnology and the Climate Emergency: Speculating with Grow Your Own Cloud
James Maguire, Cyrus Clarke and Monika Seyfried
PDF | Pages: 89–102