Professor of Media, Culture and Environment, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge
Professor Jennifer Gabrys is a leading scholar addressing a number of crucial interfaces that are reshaping both society and the discipline, including the relationships between digital technology, citizen data, and emergent forms of political engagement. She leads the Planetary Praxis research group, and is Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, Smart Forests: Transforming Environments into Social-Political Technologies. Smart Forests investigates the increasing digitalisation of forests for the purposes of monitoring, managing and transforming these environments in response to planetary change. The project has built an open research infrastructure, the Smart Forests Atlas, which documents ongoing project research and builds a stakeholder network. She is also currently Co-I on the Centre for Landscape Regeneration (CLR) project funded by NERC, where she is investigating how to co-create community regeneration toolkits.
She was previously Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, Citizen Sense (2013-2018), a pioneering investigation into the public engagement with environmental sensing technologies and citizen-data generation in both urban and rural locations in the US and the UK. The findings and outputs from this innovative work comprise one of the most detailed bodies of sociological research ever assembled analysing the relationship between citizen sensing, citizen data and environmental change, especially in relation to air pollution. As such, the study is a major contribution to our understanding not only of digital societies, but also to the core premise of the Anthropocene, namely that the very forces reshaping the planet must now be seen as sociological, political and technological. Gabrys was awarded an ERC Proof of Concept grant, AirKit (2019-2020), to further develop Citizen Sense research. The Citizen Sense project has also received multiple awards, including the John Ziman award for public engagement in science and technology awarded by the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) in 2018.
Gabrys’s work combines insights from social theory and science and technology studies with environmental sociology and the study of digital technologies to address questions about new social and political formations and identities. Her most recent monograph is Citizens of Worlds: Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle (2022, University of Minnesota Press). This study collects and analyses work from the Citizen Sense project and asks how to make more breathable worlds through citizen engagement with air pollution monitoring. Her additional publications include How to Do Things with Sensors (2019), Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (2016), and Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (2011).
Jennifer is co-editor of Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic (Routledge, 2013). She has co-edited a special issue on “Sensors and Sensing Practices,” with Science, Technology & Human Values (2019); and a special issue on “Environmental Data,” with Big Data & Society (2016). She is managing editor with Big Data & Society, and she co-edits the “Planetarities” book series published through Goldsmiths Press.
She is a member of the Social Science Expert Group for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). She has contributed to the Review of Public Engagement conducted by Defra’s Social Science Expert Group in 2022.
Her work can be found at planetarypraxis.org, smartforests.net, citizensense.net and jennifergabrys.net.