Advanced Search

The wired wilderness : electronic surveillance and environmental values in wildlife biology

Research and Teaching Output of the MIT Community

Show simple item record

dc.contributor.advisor Harriet Ritvo. en_US Benson, Etienne Samuel en_US
dc.contributor.other Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US 2008-11-07T19:17:15Z 2008-11-07T19:17:15Z 2008 en_US 2006 en_US
dc.description Thesis (Ph. D. in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS))--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2006. en_US
dc.description Includes bibliographical references. en_US
dc.description.abstract In the second half of the twentieth century, American wildlife biologists incorporated Cold War-era surveillance technologies into their practices in order to render wild animals and their habitats legible and manageable. One of the most important of these was wildlife radio-tracking, in which collars and tags containing miniature transmitters were used to locate individual animals in the field. In addition to producing new ecological insights, radio-tracking served as a site where relationships among scientists, animals, hunters, animal rights activists, environmentalists, and others involved in wildlife conservation could be embodied and contested. While scholars have tended to interpret surveillance technologies in terms of the extension of human control over nature and society, I show how technological, biological, and ecological factors made such control fragmentary and open to reappropriation. Wildlife radio-tracking created vulnerabilities as well as capabilities; it provided opportunities for connection as well as for control. I begin by showing how biologists in Minnesota and Illinois in the early 1960s used radio-tracking to establish intimate, technologically-mediated, situated relationships with game animals such as ruffed grouse, which they hoped would bolster their authority vis-a-vis recreational hunters. I then show how the technique was contested by environmentalists when biologists applied it to iconic "wilderness wildlife" such as grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park in the 1960s and 1970s. One way for biologists to render radio-tracking acceptable in the face of such opposition was to emphasize its continuity with traditional practices, as they did in a radio-tagging study of tigers in Nepal in the 1970s. en_US
dc.description.abstract (cont.) Another way was to shift to less invasive techniques of remote sensing, such as the bioacoustic surveys of bowhead whales off Alaska's Arctic coast that were conducted in the 1980s after a proposal to radio-tag whales was rejected by marine mammalogists and Ifiupiat whalers. Finally, wildlife biologists could reframe radio-tracking as a means for popular connection rather than expert control, as they did by broadcasting the locations of satellite-tagged albatrosses to schoolchildren, gamblers, and the general public via the Internet in the 1990s and early 2000s. en_US
dc.description.statementofresponsibility by Etienne Samuel Benson. en_US
dc.format.extent 244 p. en_US
dc.language.iso eng en_US
dc.publisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology en_US
dc.rights M.I.T. theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission. See provided URL for inquiries about permission. en_US
dc.rights.uri en_US
dc.subject Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US
dc.title The wired wilderness : electronic surveillance and environmental values in wildlife biology en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS en_US
dc.contributor.department Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society. en_US
dc.identifier.oclc 259204849 en_US

Files in this item

Name Size Format Description
259204849-MIT.pdf 16.19Mb PDF Full printable version

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show simple item record