EVENT 17 May: Technology in Human-Animal Relations

On the 17th of May, the Environmental Humanities Center welcomes Finn Arne and Dolly Jørgensen at the Vrije Universiteit for an afternoon dedicated to their research in technology and human-animal relations. Both are Professors of History at the University of Stavanger in Norway and, together, they direct the environmental humanities initiative ‘The Greenhouse’.

Finn Arne Jørgensen will examine the historical impact of GPS tracking systems in the shaping of deep spatial relationships between hunter, dog, prey and landscape in his study titled: “Dogs with Antennas: The Co-Production of Hunting in a GPS-Enabled World”. His lecture will be followed by Dolly Jørgensen’s historical investigation of urban bird houses. Her talk “Building for Birds: Cohabitation, Design, and Animal Agency” raises questions about the interaction between non-human animals and human built structures and demands for a recognition of non-human animals as users of technology.

The lecture takes place on the 17th of May from 15:00-17:30 at the Vrije Universiteit, room 12A33.

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More information about the lectures:

Finn Arne Jørgensen “Dogs with Antennas: The Co-Production of Hunting in a GPS-Enabled World”

In this presentation, I explore practices surrounding GPS and radio tracking technologies in moose hunting.  By looking at the history of these technologies and how Scandinavian hunters have used technologies like GPS trackers to enable and reshape deep spatial relationships between humans and animals, I investigate the integration of informational media, digital communication, and navigation technologies into moose hunting practices in Scandinavia. This presentation explores how such devices find their way into—and how we might use them to understand—the multisensory mediated landscapes of hunting. What were the consequences for the way hunters know and value nature, negotiating between “tradition” and “authenticity”? What does the GPS mean for the relationship between hunter, dog, prey, and landscape? The presentation builds on both historical research and field work among multispecies hunting teams (involving both humans and dogs).

Finn Arne Jørgensen is Professor of Environmental History at University of Stavanger, Norway, where he is also co-director (with Dolly Jørgensen) of the environmental humanities initiative The Greenhouse. In his current research, he examines the points in which technology intersects with people’s experience and understanding of nature, on local and global scales. In June he starts a large project exploring the relationship between locative technologies and the human sense of place, funded by the Research Council of Norway. His background is as a historian trained in Science and Technology Studies (PhD, Trondheim, 2007). His new book Recycling: Essential Knowledge will be out with MIT Press in the fall.

Together with Sarah Elkind (San Diego State University) he is founding editor of the new book series Intersections: Histories of environment, science, and technology in the Anthropocene with University of Pittsburgh Press.

Dolly Jørgensen “Building for Birds: Cohabitation, Design, and Animal Agency”

One of the most common ways for humans to encouraging thriving desirable bird populations in urban areas is to set up houses / nesting boxes and bird feeders. This paper will examine the history of birdhouses in the West, focusing on the purple martin in the US, to expose how the technologies and designs of birdhouses are modified over time to reflect both human and nonhuman preferences. The non-human in history of technology and environmental history has typically been characterized as an ‘unmotivated’ agent. But in this presentation, I will adress  non-humans as actual users of technology by highlighting the ability of non-human animals to make choices. I will discuss the idea of umwelt as the animal’s subjective world of meaning explored by Jakob von Uexküll. The presentation will use writing about birdhouses by nature protection advocates and backyard birding enthusiasts, birdhouse designs and patents, as well as scientific studies, to place these birds as users of these human-built technologies.

Dolly Jørgensen is Professor of History at University of Stavanger, Norway specializing in histories of environment and technology. Her scholarship is unconstrained by typical periodization boundaries: she is just as comfortable writing about 11th century forest management or 15th century urban sanitation as she is writing about 20th century offshore oil operations or contemporary efforts to resurrect extinct animal species. Her current research agenda focuses on cultural histories of animal extinction and recovery. Her book on that topicRecovering Lost Species in the Modern Age: Histories of Longing and Belonging will be coming out with MIT Press in 2019. She has previously co-edited two volumes at the envirotech intersection—New Natures: Joining Environmental History with Science and Technology Studies (2013) and Northscapes: History, Technology & the Making of Northern Environments (2013)—and one volume in premodern studies, Visions of North in Premodern Europe (2018).

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