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Smart Forests: Transforming Environments into Social-Political Technologies

Project description

Studying smart forests’ social-political impacts

Digital technologies such as smart forests are developing as important strategies for addressing environmental change. Smart forests aim to increase the climate benefits from forests and the forest sector. However, these new technologies can lead to unanticipated social-political impacts, and smart forests, unlike smart cities, remain understudied. The EU-funded SmartForests project will investigate how smart forests are established and how digital technologies influence environmental management. Taking into consideration the fact that smart forests potentially run the risk of creating social-political inequalities and undemocratic governance, the project will explore and analyse how digital technologies transform forests and forest communities by examining practices of monitoring, mitigating, regulating and transforming environmental change.


Forests are crucial to acting on environmental change. They are key contributors to the carbon cycle and biodiversity, as well as air and water quality. At the same time, digital technologies are reshaping forests in order to manage and enhance their environmental contributions. However, these new technologies are generating social-political impacts that have yet to be extensively researched. For the first time, this groundbreaking project addresses the vital question of how forests are becoming “smart” through the increasing use of digital technologies to manage these environments. Smart forests span locations from Germany to New York City to Thailand, and from remote to urban areas. While there is now extensive research on smart cities, other “smart” environments have been less well studied. This is problematic, since it is necessary to assess how these technologies enable and constrain particular modes of governance and engagement. Without this research, smart environments such as smart forests run the risk of producing social-political inequities and undemocratic governance, as has been identified with smart cities. Using inventive digital practices, fieldwork, participatory workshops and mapping, the research will investigate the transformation of forests and forest communities through digital technologies. Through 5 case studies, the project will analyze the ways in which forest technologies are transforming practices of observing, mitigating, participating in, and regulating environmental change. SmartForests asks not just how digital technologies are remaking forests, but also investigates how forests become social-political technologies for addressing environmental change. Situated at the intersection of science and technology studies (STS) and digital media studies, the research will demonstrate how these technologies impact socio-ecological relations, and will propose more equitable approaches to digital and environmental practice and policy.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 996 004,00
CB2 1TN Cambridge
United Kingdom

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East of England East Anglia Cambridgeshire CC
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 996 004,00

Beneficiaries (1)