Mission to Earth: Planetary Proprioception and the Re-Greening of the World


Session Title:

  • Sustainability

Presentation Title:

  • Mission to Earth: Planetary Proprioception and the Re-Greening of the World




  • Our sense of the self and its relation to its surroundings is being increasingly reshaped by telematic prostheses. Geotagging, Google Earth, biomapping, telepresence, augmented reality (AR), and distributed intelligence are creating new locative sense-perceptions, unprecedented narratives, and new feelings (and praxes) of agency-at-a-distance.

    Can locative media deepen our sense of embeddedness, recreating those ancient reality-maps where selfhood was co-extensive with community and Nature, perhaps spurring us to address today’s urgent social and ecological challenges? Or will these media further abstract actual relatedness, narrowing it to more quantifiable and qualifiable instrumental operations?

    In particular, this paper will ask how new media technologies might help achieve a level of collective agency to effect actual transformation.

    One project developed by the charity Green World Campaign proposes to use interactive geolocation to catalyze global treeplanting. Media facade installations planned for major cities will enable people to use cellphone shortcode to fund the planting of trees on degraded land, with stands of trees geo-tagged and displayed on a dynamic map. The project also encourages “global citizens” to upload the geocoordinates of trees they have themselves planted and embellish them with their own media content, embedding personal narratives of a “green world” into a growing forestation map. (Deleuze and Guattari’s strategy of “reterritorialization” becomes particularly relevant.)

    Could a “global brain” with cyber-mediated hands and feet instantiate verifiable alterations in the natural world? With civilization itself threatened by environmental crisis, the conventional sense of where our own body begins and leaves off is incomplete without an intimately felt sense of the world we inhabit. Could a cyber-enhanced collective self extend its proprioception  to the very “skin” of the Earth? Could we harness the transformative potential of the Web by jacking into the planet itself? New media technologies and collaborative “social sculpture” (Joseph Beuys term) introduce fresh imaginal dimensions to our relationship with the natural (and human) environment, perhaps leading to a more tender and generative embrace.

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