33. Sensing Elementality

Nicholas Silcox, New York University;

Environments are compositions, arrangements that structure particular forms of knowledge and engagement. Environmental media scholars have attempted to explore the particular composition and arrangement of environments through two interrelated phenomena and approaches; sensing and elementality. Sensing technologies and infrastructures not only provide access to environments, but constitute them (Gabrys 2016). Nicole Starosielski, discussing temperature as a sensation, claimed that the most important messages of the 21st century, in light of climate crisis, will be sensed (Starosielski 2021). Concurrently, Starosielski has articulated an emergent thread in environmental scholarship from the past decade; the elemental. Elements, she writes, constitute both media and environments (Starosielski 2019). Sensing and elementality, attend to the material, relational, and cultural specificity of particular environments and the kinds of relations and knowledges that particular environments afford (Jue 2020). Sensors embedded in forests, oceans, atmospheres, the polar regions, urban centers, on human and nonhuman bodies capture qualities of those environments, elemental qualities, that are transformed into data and circulated. These sensing practices (Gabrys 2019) rely on nonhuman modes of knowing that trouble our understanding of environments, elements, and what it means to 'sense' something. This panel is particularly interested in considering sensing and elementality through the points at which they intersect, informing and conditioning one another as phenomena in the world. Considered together, sensing and elementality allow for the possibility of theoretical frameworks, figures, methods, and 'material heuristics' (Jue and Ruiz 2021) that alter how we understand both environments and mediation, offering new understandings of elemental conditions.

Contact: nrs365@nyu.edu

Keywords: Information, Computing and Media Technology, Infrastructure, Environmental/Multispecies Studies

Published: 04/07/2023