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Accepted Paper:

Infrastructuring control and scalability in digital water (eco)systems  
Jonas Jessen (Aalborg University)

Paper short abstract:

As smart water technologies are increasingly integrated in Danish water management systems, data on water shifts local and global water regimes. This paper investigates the promises and materialities of smart water. What kind of (un)commons will the future history of (digital) water unlock?

Paper long abstract:

What I define as ‘Digital Water’ infrastructures, or the uptake of datafied smart technologies within water management systems, is envisioned by leading industry stakeholders and utilities to carry a great promise. A promise that takes on local and national forms, but that is global in its aspirations. It is a promise of optimization and access, of equitable water futures and of responding to current and future climatic challenges. For the most inventive, it is even a promise of a new international export enterprise. The narrative is that, with the smartification of sensing and monitoring systems, decision-making in everyday water management transitions from being driven by “gut feelings”, to solid and data-driven accuracy through integrated data provided by imaging satellites, sensors, and AI-empowered predictions. However, to utility operators, automatization prompts a sense of loss of situated knowledges and control over the infrastructure...

This paper engages ethnographically and speculatively with the promise, experience, and materiality of ‘digital water’ in the Danish water sector.

I ask how smart technologies alter the ecology of sensing practices of the Danish water sector, and what repercussions these transformations have on water-human-data relations. What happens to water and data on water as commons and/or commodities if the future history of water is digital, and its water flows are controlled by data? And what does it take to make ethnographic sense of digital water technologies, when making sense of water, to “know it” and act upon it – its management, infrastructure, and future history – is altered?

Panel P040a
Digital Transformations and Social Life [Future Anthropologies Network] I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -