During the spring and summer of 2023, postdoc Michelle Westerlaken carried out fieldwork about the digitalisation of biodiversity technology together with Ecodorp Boekel, in the south of the Netherlands. Over the course of five months, they used different technologies to collect and experiment with local biodiversity data. The main questions that guided this project were 'how is multidimensional biodiversity knowledge produced and used by local communities?', and 'how does digital biodiversity data gain meaning in local participatory contexts?'. This fieldwork is part of a wider case study about environmental Digital Twins, that investigates attempts at creating advanced digital simulations and other immersive technologies to engage with environmental data.
Digital Kins: A Biodiversity Data Portal, is a data installation that was installed at Ecodorp Boekel in August 2023 to undertake community workshops and further investigate local biodiversity data in immersive contexts. Rather than attempting to create a digital copy - or twin - of the local biodiversity, Digital Kins challenges intensified automation and datafication practices and instead seeks to build relations of multispecies kinship between humans, other species, sensors, and digital data.
The installation consists of 101 data points - in the form of hand drawn illustrations with QR codes - that each connect to their online (open data) sources. These cards are connected with cotton wires to the circular roof structure of 'Het Expo Huisje' at Ecodorp Boekel. All materials that were used in this installation are recycled and/or sustainably sourced. The wooden structure of this building formed the inspiration for new modes of exploring, categorizing, discussing, and questioning the meaning and usefulness of data practices with local participants at this site. Seven community workshops with a total of 27 participants were hosted to encourage playful exploration, to discuss data practices, and to add new data to the installation. This process led to important new insights that will be analyzed and shared over the next months. This video summarizes the development process and some of the workshops:
The 101 online data points that formed the basis for this installation are brought together from many different data practices. The Smart Forest Atlas contains many Logbook, Radio, and Map entries that are included in this project. These include local Camera Trap Footage, Forest Walks, Local Contributors, Biodiversity Monitoring Workshops, interviews about automated biodiversity monitoring technologies, and many other entries. Zooming-in on the south of the Netherlands via the Map, or searching for the tags 'biodiversity' and 'monitoring' from the search bar at the top of this page will show an overview of all this data. Besides the Smart Forests Atlas, many other data sources were also part of this installation. These include biodiversity observations via ObsIdentify, open-data maps on local tree density and forest fires, local community stories, national biodiversity platforms, and many other open-data initiatives.