Digital Media Research Seminar

Co-hosted by
the School of Humanities and Communications Arts and
the Institute for Culture and Society
University of Western Sydney

Dr Jennifer Gabrys
Department of Design, Goldsmiths, University of London
Programming Environments: Politics and Practices of Urban Sensing

Jennifer Gabrys' visit was supported by the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales

Thursday 23 August

University of Western Sydney, Parramatta campus

Looking across the harbour to Sydney's Circular Quay.

Urban sensing technologies are an increasing feature of urban design and media design. From ‘Senseable’ to‘Sentient’ cities, as well as numerous projects that deploy mobile and embedded sensors to monitor everything from air pollution to traffic patterns, urban processes are now unfolding through wireless sensor technologies. This paper focuses on a particular aspect of urban sensing projects, namely those actual and speculative proposals that suggest wireless sensing technologies are a way to achieve more sustainable and efficient cities. Initiatives in this area propose on one level to make infrastructures more efficient. But on another level, citizens who monitor and make more efficient their everyday urban activities become central to urban sustainability projects. These monitoring practices in some ways may translate into ground-up contributions to urban environmental policy. But in what ways do these projects constitute a form of environmentality, or the distribution of governance within and through environments and environmental technologies? And what are the implications of these newer distributions of power for urban citizens and ways of life?


Jennifer Gabrys is Senior Lecturer and Convenor of the MA Design and Environment at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research investigates environments, material processes and communication technologies through theoretical and practice-based work. Projects within this area include a recently published book, Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011), which examines the material processes of digital media through electronic waste; and a study currently underway on citizen sensing and environmental processes, titled Program Earth: Environment as Experiment in Sensing Technology.

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NIEA Event

Jennifer Gabrys will also speak at Sense of Planet: The Arts and Ecology at Earth Magnitude (opens in a new window)on 25 August.

A National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) symposium, University of New South Wales.

Black and white drawing: Oyvind Fahlstrom's World Maps, Aurel Scheibler; and event logo.