Sensors versus Senses. Control and the Perception of Reality in Climate-Smart Farming - Berlin-Brandenburger Kolloquiums für Umweltgeschichte

24. November | 18:30

Berlin-Brandenburger Kolloquiums für Umweltgeschichte

Sensors versus Senses. Control and the Perception of Reality in Climate-Smart Farming


Humboldt Universität zu Berlin


Birgit Müller
birgit.muller  ( at )  ehess.fr




In the face of growing uncertainty in weather patterns, weed infestations, crop pests and fungal diseases the industry proposes to provide the farmers with total surveillance of their crop via satellites, drones, sensors in the field and mounted on their agricultural equipment. In this paper I want to explore how digital farming reshapes the imaginaries and practices of large-scale grain farmers on the Canadian prairies of Saskatchewan. How does it affect their relationship to the crop plants they seeded and the weeds that spontaneously emerged? How do their skills to work with the natural elements grow, diminish or simply change through the new technology? How are weeds perceived by sensors and how are the data produced competing with the perceptions and the sensorium of the farmers? What do plants tell farmers and can they still listen? Underlying these practical questions is a broader concern with the nature and future of our technology addicted/trusting industrial system. Farmers still have to compose more directly than city dwellers with the natural elements. They cannot pretend to have broken free from the daily dictates of the weather, nor ignore what non-humans are up to. I will take as a point of departure Marx’ insight that human work is part of nature and explore what happens to the interactions between plants and humans if human senses are mediated through electronic sensors and algorithms that belong to powerful agricultural corporations.
This talk is part of a series of lectures this fall by Birgit Müller in Berlin on Farmers, Soils and Seeds in the Globalization. This lecture series will explore the visions of the world and of the future that underlie the everyday practices of agricultural producers. I will examine the intimacies of agricultural practices in both industrial agriculture and subsistence farming. In a historical situation where farmers around the world face multiple forms of dispossession, their practices interact with the complexity of ecosystems and the influence of climate change, and are exposed to state interference and the dominance of multinational corporations in agricultural markets. I will explore how the lives of soils and seeds are deeply rooted, not only in the physical environment, but also in the political and economic power structures that have become global.
Short Bio:
Birgit Müller is professor of anthropology and Directrice du Laboratoire de l'anthropologie des institutions et organisations sociales (LAIOS) and Directrice de Recherche au CNRS, Paris

https://hu-berlin.zoom.us/j/66478482134?pwd=SGQzeWczUFB2bGdnSXlMU3lNOEwvZz09 ; Meeting-ID: 664 7848 2134, Passwort: 005056


Hybrid : Simmel-Saal & Online