108. Bodies to Bytes: Multispecies Embodiment in the Digital Era

Pamela Perrimon, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism; Hamsini Sridharan, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism;

The world is ever-increasingly digitally mediated, even as ecological crisis threatens the existence of many species-including our own. This panel seeks narratives of multispecies precarity in the digital era. We solicit research on the transition from the corporeal to the digital in cases where nonhuman life comes to live online in the majority, asking what happens when the digital presence of a species eclipses its corporeality. In what ways are agency/actancy transformed in this process, undergirded by what values? Animals are monitored, datafied, and managed through collars and microchips (Benson, 2010). Biodiversity platforms like iNaturalist and eBird mobilize publics for species surveillance (Altrudi, 2021). 'Species' are preserved in digitized genetic archives (Hogan and Roberts, 2023; Svalbard Global Seed Vault, 'Our Purpose'). Technology increasingly shapes how the nonhuman is governed, while the nonhuman serves as model, metaphor, and mediator for computation, from viruses to swarms, hives, and webs (Parikka, 2010; Berland, 2019). While animals are often invoked, other 'phylogenetic kingdoms' are also implicated: mushroom agriculture is monitored remotely in data centers 500 miles away (Smallhold.com, 'Our Farms'); 'tree thinking' pervades algorithmic logics (Mattern, 2021); digital technologies facilitate poaching (Soroye et al., 2022). We invite papers that explore and document the shift of embodied nature into digital spaces. We welcome contributions from academics and practitioners investigating the (human) incorporation of models, metaphors, and materiality of the nonhuman into digital life as it structures how we orient ourselves to climate crisis and extinction.

Contact: perrimon@usc.edu, hamsinis@usc.edu

Keywords: Governance and Public Policy, Information, Computing and Media Technology, Environmental/Multispecies Studies, data, digital technology, ecologies, mediation, endangered species, charismatic species, models and metaphors

Published: 04/07/2023