Sensing ecologies of digital water

Aktivitet: Foredrag og mundtlige bidragKonferenceoplæg


The management of water has always been carried out in networks of humans with artefacts, technologies and infrastructures, and information about water – its availability, flow, demand, and pressure (among others) – has been crucial for securing water supply for as long as humans have built water infrastructures. In recent decades, this information has increasingly taken form as digital data. With computerization and automation, and the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI), water, waterflows, and the human relations around these are altered, demanding renewed ethnographic attention.
We explore modes of sensemaking in a Danish water supply system and in the Danish water industry more broadly, and how these are transformed in times of digitization. How do technologies of automation and control alter the ecology of sensing practices within the Danish water industry, and what repercussions do these transformations have on human-water relations?
The automation of water management systems through the introduction of machine learning, data integration and intelligent devices, promises accuracy and better decision-making. The narrative goes that decision-making in everyday water management is changed from human-centred “gut feelings” to rational and machine-centred accuracy. To utility operators, automatization prompts a sense of loss of control over the water infrastructure, and of situated knowledges. Nevertheless, digital water technologies are perceived by its developers and pioneers to be modular - comprised of independent and potentially scalable units that may unlock great socio-economic benefits. Smart water technologies promise to solve global water problems through context-based solutions along with a new global export adventure for the Danish water industry. How the digital (in)forms the present and future history of water (Ballestero 2019), raises novel questions on the forms and relations between holism and the particular in more-than-human networks of sensemaking. How is ethnographic sensemaking transformed when making sense of water is datafied?
Periode8 jun. 2022
BegivenhedstitelRAI: Anthropology, AI and the Future of Human Society
PlaceringStorbritannienVis på kort
Grad af anerkendelseInternational


  • Water
  • Ethnography
  • technologies
  • Infrastructure
  • Sensing
  • Data
  • Digital Water