Author Archives: Jennifer Gabrys

Program Earth

  Sensors are everywhere. Small, flexible, economical, and computationally powerful, they operate ubiquitously in environments. They compile massive amounts of data, including information about air, water, and climate. Never before has such a volume of environmental data been so broadly collected or so widely available. Grappling with the consequences of wiring our world, Program Earth: […]

Re-Thingifying the Internet of Things

Through the use of sensors, networks and data collection, the Internet of Things is meant to make everyday practices and infrastructures more efficient and “sustainable.” Yet these digital technologies also generate new material and environmental effects, particularly through increasing amounts of electronic waste. After first addressing emerging developments within the Internet of Things, this chapter […]

Speculating with Organisms in the Plastisphere

In a 1970s science-fiction tale set in London, Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater, plastics are undergoing a curious transformation. Products made with the novel plastic Aminostyrene, a compound cooked up by scientists that has a molecular structure halfway between protein and polystyrene, are beginning to melt. This material, which makes up degradable bottles as well […]

Plastiglomerates and Speculative Geologies

When one thinks of monuments, inevitably visions of solidity and stone come to mind. Ozymandias tipped over in a drunken fit of ambition, transformed into a pile of desert-marooned rock. Cleopatra’s Needle on the River Thames in London, a study in endurance and process that cryptically withstands centuries. And so the rocks, fossils and new […]

Electronic Environmentalism

“Powering the Digital: From Energy Ecologies to Electronic Environmentalism,” In Media and the Ecological Crisis, edited by Richard Maxwell, Jon Raundalen, Nina Lager Vestberg (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), 3-18. Pre-proof version of “Powering the Digital.” Electronics and all that they plug into are energy intensive. Energy is another form of waste, like electronic […]

Citizen Sensing in the Smart City

  Within current schemes for green cities, which span from urban wildlife initiatives to city agriculture and green transport networks, citizen sensing and smart cities projects are emerging that attempt to realize improved sustainability through greater urban connectivity. As another layer of infrastructure that enhances the efficiency and timing of cities, digital connectivity presents the […]

Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic

This edited collection explores the material politics of plastics. From food punnets to credit cards, plastic facilitates every part of our daily lives. It has become central to processes of contemporary socio-material living. Universalised and abstracted, it is often treated as the passive object of political deliberations, or a problematic material demanding human management. But […]

Depletion Design

As part of transmediale 2013 BWPWAP, I participated in a panel on the newly published text, Depletion Design: A Glossary of Network Ecologies, edited by Carolin Wiedemann & Soenke Zehle. Fellow contributors Marie-Luise Angerer and David M. Berry discussed aspects of depletion and exhaustion during the panel. My contribution covered the topics of “Natural History” […]

Citizen Sensing and Environmental Practice

This project, “’Citizen Sensing and Environmental Practice: Assessing Participatory Engagements with Environments through Sensor Technologies” (Citizen Sense), is funded by a European Research Council (ERC) starting grant, and led by Principal Investigator Dr Jennifer Gabrys. The project will investigate, through three case studies, the relationship between technologies and practices of environmental sensing and citizen engagement. […]

Plastic and the Work of the Biodegradable

Plastics are material substances often condemned for their inability to biodegrade in the environment. New forms of plastics have been developed with capacities for biodegradability, a material strategy that is meant to remedy the (visible) problem of plastics accumulation. This paper discusses the distinct types of work undertaken by humans and more-than-humans in the material […]

Becoming Urban: Sitework from a Moss-Eye View

Discussing an urban walking event, “Moss-Eye View,” held in the City of London as part of This Is Not A Gateway (TINAG, October 2010), this paper considers the ways in which cities may be understood from the view of more-than-human processes and incorporations. The walk explores how new insights emerge into ways of “becoming urban” […]

A Cosmopolitics of Energy

Numerous creative strategies now exist for materializing energy in order to reduce energy use. In a parallel way, social science research at turns engages with the materialities of energy as a strategy or formation that influences participation in energy use. This paper asks how specific materialities of energy are articulated across these social science and […]

Sensing an Experimental Forest

The use of wireless sensor networks to study environmental phenomena is an increasingly prevalent practice, and ecological applications of sensors have been central to the development of wireless sensor networks that now extend to numerous ‘participatory’ applications. How might environmental sensing projects be understood as giving rise to new practices for sensing environmental processes, and […]

Ecological Observatories: Fluctuating Sites and Sensing Subjects

I presented recent work on citizen sensing and environmental computing as part of the “Sense of Planet: The Arts and Ecology at Earth Magnitude” symposium, an event organized by Jill Bennett and Douglas Kahn at the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA), University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia (25 August 2012). The presentation drew […]

Citizen Science and the Politics of Sensing

“Citizen Science and the Politics of Sensing,” was a presentation I delivered as an invited keynote speaker for “The Citizen Scientist on the Move: Digital Play, Politics and Epistemology,” a co-hosted event held at the University of Utrecht and Waag Society Amsterdam, Netherlands (25-27 June). In this presentation, I focused on creative practice engagements with sensing […]

Cooling Station / Kühllabor

  As part of the Regionale 12 event in Murau, Austria, Weather Permitting is taking part in “Kühllabor” / “Cooling Station: Worldwide Geoengineering and Local Weather-Making.” The event is curated by Klaus Schafler in collaboration with Christina Nägele, and runs from 25 June – 21 July 2012. Kühllabor is an arts-sciences exhibition focused on planetary […]

Arts, Sciences and Climate Change

Within climate change debates, writers and scholars have called for expanded methods for producing science, for proposing strategies for mitigation and adaptation, and for engaging with publics. Arts–sciences discourses are one area in which increasing numbers of practitioners and researchers are exploring ways in which interdisciplinarity may provide a space for reconsidering the role of […]

The Art of Gathering Environmental Data

The 2012 version of Pixelache took place as “Camp Pixelache” from 11-12 May at Arbis in Helsinki. The main theme for the unconference was “Do It With Others” (D.I.W.O), and addresses practices of co-production and collaboration. Some of the speakers for this event include Marc Garrett of Furtherfield, Owen Kelly, and Pedro Soler. The Finnish […]

Bluebottle Flies, Biodegradability and Urban Matter

The trophic ecologies of cities play a distinct role in how urban matter—and particularly urban waste matter—biodegrades. Insects are key participants in eating, breaking down and “recycling” refuse, and at the same time waste sites provide unique ecologies for insects. While first sketching a picture of the some of the distinct insect ecologies that may […]

The Politics and Affect of Environmental Computing

  “The Politics and Affect of Environmental Computing” was a working group that I participated in at the Field_Notes / Cultivating Ground arts and sciences environmental data workshop, hosted by the Finnish Bioart Society and held at the Kilpisjärvi biological station, Finland (26 September – 2 October 2011). During the workshop, I focused on the […]

Climate Change and the Imagination

This review article surveys the complex terrain of the imagination as a way of understanding and exploring the manifestations of anthropogenic climate change in culture and society. Imagination here is understood as a way of seeing, sensing, thinking, and dreaming that creates the conditions for material interventions in, and political sensibilities of the world. The […]

Digital Rubbish

Digital Rubbish is a study of the material life of information and its devices; of electronic waste in its physical and electronic incarnations; a cultural and material mapping of the spaces where electronics in the form of both hardware and information accumulate, break down, or are stowed away. Electronic waste occurs not just in the […]

Atmospheres of Communication

Communications have often been understood as bound up with media devices. Wireless communication, however, presents distinct ways of understanding media as it exceeds the devices, interfaces, and wires through which we typically conceive of the medium of communication.   Working initially with Marconi’s transmission of wireless signals between Cornwall, England, and Newfoundland, Canada, this chapter […]

Telepathically Urban

Proposals for ubiquitous computing have taken a variety of forms, from “utility fogs” to “pervasive networks.” This chapter considers smart dust as a hypothetical and actual proposal made for pervasive computing in an urban context. Proposals for smart dust have been developed in the form of tiny wireless sensors that could be released en masse, […]

Sink: The Dirt of Systems

Sinks are a device within environmental studies that describe spaces and processes that capture and channel wastes. This paper first explores sinks both as a cultural figure of environmental understanding, and as an important technoscientific instrument within current attempts to describe the global carbon cycle in relation to climate change. The movement of wastes to […]

Forecast Factory

Snow globes offer a window into imaginary and speculative landscapes. They present landscapes within submerged and drifting scenes that are intended to be turned upside down and unsettled. This Weather Permitting project explores how the snow globe is an ideal device for projecting and examining the new natures that emerge through the imminent environmental disturbances […]

Bipolar

  Bipolar is an interdisciplinary polar archive developed by Kathryn Yusoff in collaboration with Arts Catalyst and the British Library. Created for International Polar Year 2007-08, the collection is  published in conjunction with a symposium held at the British Library in November 2007, which brought together leading artists, scholars, scientists and thinkers to explore how […]

Bear Life

This paper discusses the keeping of polar bears in the Singapore Zoo, where they undergo a displacement from the Arctic to the tropics. In the context of this bear life, which is at once contingent upon the status of environments, and is also faced with the threat of extinction, we ask, ‘What is life?’ and […]

Automatic Sensation: Environmental Sensors in the Digital City

This paper discusses the use of environmental sensors, wireless networks and mobile media as technologies of sensation in the city. While these devices enable a “digital city,” in many respects they appear to be immaterial, operating beyond sense. Drawing on two case studies developed by the Digital Cities project in Montreal, the paper considers how […]

Media in the Dump

  “Media in the Dump” examines the phenomenon of electronic waste through five locations, from sites of manufacture (Silicon Valley) to disposal (China). Not only are digital media not “immaterial,” this essay suggests, but the wastes that they generate circulate through complex material global geographies. This 2006 essay is published through Alphabet City’s special collection, […]

Time Lapses: Robert Smithson’s Mobile Landscapes

In 1970, the artist Robert Smithson proposed a Floating Island to Travel around Manhattan Island. Composed of a tug boat and barge planted with trees and rocks, the small pastoral island would form a displaced geography against the looming skyline of that other urban island. While this project was never realized during Smithson’s lifetime (1938-73), […]

Ephemeral Systems in Silicon Valley

This photo-essay documents fieldwork conducted in Silicon Valley in 2005, which contributed to the book-length study on electronic waste, Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics. Published as “The Quick and the Dirty: Ephemeral Systems in Silicon Valley” in “Ephemera,” Thresholds, Issue No. 31 (Cambridge: MIT Department of Architecture, 2006; ISSN: 1091-711x), 26-31.  

Paper Mountains, Disposable Cities

  Paper, that disposable medium, constitutes the bulk of material found in landfills. This essay investigates the printed matter that turns up in one particular landscape, the Fresh Kills Landfill in New York City. Fieldwork at the landfill was conducted in 2001 while participating in the “Landfill to Landscape” competition with Rios Clementi Hale Studios. […]

Machines Fall Apart: Failure in Art and Technology

Technological failure is often considered to be central to the logic of innovation. Artists working with technology at the inception of widespread post-war automation, including Jean Tinguely and Gustav Metzger, focused particularly on machines geared toward failure. At the same time, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), an organization founded to enable collaboration between artists […]

The Art of Salvage

  “The Art of Salvage” consists of a series of postcards written, designed and installed at the USED / Goods exhibition held at the Salvation Army, Montreal (November 2004). An essay was developed from the postcards, and included in the catalog documenting the event. Postcard text excerpts: Scan the crammed interior of any thrift store. […]

Airdrop

  The far distance between sky and ground gives way to a space full of anxiety and conjecture. Supplies and leaflets scattered from the upper altitudes arrive inexplicably, as heavenly debris, meteorites, a threatening hail. Like pennies from heaven, airdrops occur in many guises, from food to fleas, from prosthetic limbs to exploding decoy frogs, […]

Residue in the E.A.T. Archives

  This research report, “Residue in the E.A.T. Archives,” documents work undertaken while I was Researcher in Residence with the Daniel Langlois Foundation Centre for Research and Documentation (2004). The project area, “From Outside Art to E-waste: Translating the Research Environment of E.A.T.,” focused both on the relationships between art, technology and materiality within Experiment […]

Leaflet Drop: The Paper Landscapes of War

  This essay investigates the use of leaflets as a tactical weapon of war. The paper was first presented at “Casting Doubt,” a conference held at the University of Rochester, New York, in 2003. The full essay is available to read online at Invisible Culture (2004). This research later developed into a short artist’s book, […]

Noise in the Information City

The information city, like an updated version of the garden city, presents an encompassing vision of an ideal metropolis. Instead of harmonious integration with a green landscape, this speculative and actual city fuses with the organic flow of information technology. Yet in the process of wiring our cities toward a new urban connectivities, we discover […]