Dr George Iordachescu will present a paper at the Digital Ecologies Workshop taking place at the University of Cambridge on 29-30 March 2021. His presentation is titled ‘Untouched for the very first time: Digital virgin forests, gamification and cyberactivism on the Eastern European wilderness frontier’ and will take place on 29 March at 16:00-17:30.
Digital Ecologies seeks to foster critical conversations at the interface of more-than-human geographies, political ecologies, digital humanities and media studies to understand the varying ways in which nonhumans are digitized and for what purposes.
This paper will explore and theorize how virgin forests were turned into digital socio-political technologies for addressing environmental crises in eastern Europe. Untouched, vulnerable and scarce – digital virgin forests represent more than just drone images circulating on social media or screened by activists to policymakers in Brussels.
From Slovakia to Romania, the general public has been lured into the environmental campaigns over the last five years by multi-sensorial experiences involving 3D tours, VR technologies, a variety of sounds and hybrid cultural productions. From their homes’ comfort, nature lovers could get immersed in iconic virgin forests of various Carpathian regions and find out details about fungi and dead wood while listening to bird songs or mixing pre-recorded nature sounds. In many eastern European countries, smartphone apps offer a virtual environment where users feel empowered and in charge of monitoring and reporting illegal logging cases. By far the most popular web 2.0 app, the Forest Guardians offers citizens the possibility to save these forests, for free, at home or during lunch breaks. Once logged in, users participate in ‘investigations’ comparing satellite images from different periods, report disturbances, confirm or dismiss other users’ reports, upload pictures of logged areas or discuss legal issues on the forum.
Charismatic ecosystems and an object of desire in several EU strategies for meeting climate and biodiversity targets, virgin forests are increasingly produced as an imagined ecology whose materiality remains unquestioned. This contribution will examine forms of encounter and engagement with digital virgin forests and critically assess their role in conservation.
The full conference program can be viewed here.