Unsettling Participation by Foregrounding More-than-Human Relations in Digital Forests

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Westerlaken, Michelle  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8352-3736
Ritts, M 

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThe question of who participates in making forest environments usually refers to human stakeholders. Yet forests are constituted through the participation of many other entities. At the same time, digital technologies are increasingly used in participatory projects to measure and monitor forest environments globally. However, such participatory initiatives are often limited to human involvement and overlook how more-than-human entities and relations shape digital and forest processes. To disrupt conventional anthropocentric understandings of participation, this text travels through three different processes of “unsettling” to show how more-than-human entities and relations disrupt, rework, and transform digital participation in and with forests. First, forest organisms as bioindicators signal environmental changes and contribute to the formation and operation of digital sensing technologies. Second, speculative blockchain infrastructures and decision-making algorithms raise questions about whether and how forests can own themselves. Third, Amerindian cosmologies redistribute subjectivities to change how digital technologies identify and monitor forests within Indigenous territories. Each of these examples shows how more-than-human participation can rework participatory processes and digital practices in forests. In a time when forests are rapidly disappearing, an unsettled and transformed understanding of participation that involves the world-making practices of more-than-human entities and relations can offer more pluralistic and expansive forest inhabitations and futures.</jats:p>

participation, more-than-human, smart forests, digital technology, multispecies
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Environmental Humanities
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Duke University Press
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) ERC (866006)
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No.866006).