If you’re interested in the digital mediation of nature and planning on attending this year’s Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, come check out the following panel that I put together and say hello:

G13. Designed Environments: Public Landscapes, Digital Ecologies, and the Visualization of Complexity
(Traditional Panel/Scholarly; Stream 11)

Friday, June 24, 2011

8:30 – 10:00AM


Alenda Chang, Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, “Your Cow is 90% Ready: Back to the Virtual Farm”

Danielle Svehla Christianson, Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, “Seeing the forest for the trees: Using digital environments in ecological science and education”

Melody Jue, Literature, Duke University, “Google Oceans: Virtually Representing Ocean Space”

Panel Description:

Conventional environmentalism and what Lawrence Buell has described as “first-wave ecocriticism” have generally been susceptible to criticisms that what counts as “nature” or “natural” has tended to exclude designed landscapes as well as modes of mediated interaction that purportedly detract from direct experience of the natural world. However, as populations continue to shift toward urban centers and modern media gain unprecedented entry into everyday life, it seems increasingly vital to turn our attention to nature as a mediated experience, whether that mediation takes the form of the city skyline, the public park, climate models, Google Earth, or popular game environments.

Our panel brings together diverse perspectives—environmental design, game studies, economics, ecology and marine biology, and science education—in an attempt to trouble the often assumed divisions between the natural and the technological (what we could also call the real and the virtual). Chang’s work reveals how the issue of right environmental relations can arise even in the unlikely realms of online gaming, particularly the recent spate of “farm” simulation games. Christianson’s work speaks to how technological visualizations may overlay reality in ways that make it easier, not harder, to understand the complexities of ecological interdependence. And Jue’s work explores the increasing “digitalization” of the world’s oceans through a detailed consideration of Google Ocean.

Our work deliberately juxtaposes these various analog and digital natures in order to demonstrate their often uneasy but just as often gratifying complementarity—the virtuality inherent to the real and reality’s subsistence in the virtual.