Accepted Paper:

Guided perception: encountering and identifying birds through technology  


Andrew Whitehouse (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the role of technology in encounters between birders and birds. The focus is on how technology facilitates the identification of birds and also on the different roles that it plays in visual and aural processes.

Paper long abstract:

Birding is an activity in which the participants' primary aim is to encounter birds. In most cases it is also considered important to identify the birds that are found. This paper explores these encounters and the role of technology in initiating, regulating and recording them and in identifying the bird. In particular, a comparison is drawn between visual and aural identification and the part played by technology in each. Through a series of case studies from Britain and Brazil I explore the ways in which different technologies assist and direct the processes of finding, recording and identifying birds. Visual processes in birding are normally much more technologised than aural. I examine the reasons for this and the effects that this 'visual technology bias' has on the way that birds are perceived and identified and what is revealed about them. Technologies considered include binoculars and telescopes, cameras, sound recorders, sonograms and field guides. It is argued that the ways that birds are encountered and understood by birders is bound up in the technologies that facilitate and extend these.

Panel P13
Encountering living things through technology