Jennifer Gabrys: Forests that Compute


Online talk
Time: 18 November, 13:30 CET
Venue: Østre, Østre Skostredet 3
The talk will be streamed live at

Environmental digital technologies are now planetary in scope, monitoring oceans and farms, cities and atmospheres. Remote sensing satellites and in-situ sensors, Lidar and environmental robots are deployed to monitor, manage and transform environments. In this context, forests have also become increasingly digitalised. Digitally monitored forests connect to expanded networks for documenting and managing a changing planet. Whether to prevent deforestation or enhance carbon storage, smart forest technologies are often programmed to optimise or augment forest services for addressing the climate crisis. 

While computation is transforming forests, at the same time, forests are also computational. Environmental events course through them as they record longer durations of environmental change and sense seasonal variations in ways that offer a different form of analog computation. In this sense, forests perform computational functions. Yet they do this in complex and extended communities over vast stretches of time. In so doing, they rework the scope of what computation is and how it could operate in and on the world. 

This talk will consider how computation takes place across digital, organismal, and ecological processes. Gabrys will analyse processes of computing forests and “forests that compute” by looking at the proliferation of digital technologies now monitoring and managing forests while also asking how forests vegetalise technology. Building on an autumn 2023 workshop and walk with BEK, and by walking through the Smart Forests Atlas research infrastructure, Gabrys will discuss examples of how smart forests and vegetalized technologies materialise through field observations, new collectives and vegetal policies for flourishing forest environments.


Jennifer Gabrys is Chair in Media, Culture and Environment in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. She leads the Planetary Praxis research group and is Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, Smart Forests: Transforming Environments into Social-Political Technologies. She is the author of Citizens of Worlds: Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle (2022); Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (2016); and Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (2011). She co-edits the “Planetarities” short-monograph series published through Goldsmiths Press. Her work can be found at and

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Images: 1, 5, 6) From the workshop “Forests as Environmental Media: Vegetalizing a Smart Forests Atlas” in Bergen 12-13 Sept 2023. Photos: Åse Løvgren and Kaeto Sweeney, drone photos: Thomas Bugaj. 2, 3, 4) Jennifer Gabrys.