Political Ecologies of Digital Water — Towards a critical insight into the digitalisation of the water sector (Working Title)
Christina Walter, M.Sc.
Prof. Dr. Matthias Schmidt
Water, as well as our relationship with water is being transformed to react to the rising demand for water, climate change and water quality issues. The water sector is transitioning towards more sustainable water management, whilst simultaneously encountering the megatrend of digitalisation — which introduces big data analytics, artificial intelligence and other new technologies such as sensors to implement new functionalities for water management. This for example enables the monitoring of water quality and quantity in real time as well as directly engage with the consumers and increase the knowledge of water supply, water demand and other water data which can be used to inform public policy or for new investments.
This transformation of the water sector is often called Digital Water. Digital Water is a new conceptual approach for the management of water systems, through the implementation of sensors, processors and other new technologies.
Applying a Political Ecology approach and combining it with insights from Science and Technology Studies and Digital Geography, this project aims to gain insights into the relationship between water, society and the digital. It is concerned with current developments, discussions and effects following the implementation of digital technologies in the water sector and is separated in three sections. Each section approaches the topic from a different perspective.
The emergence of digital technologies is not only changing the physical structure and organisational practice within the water sector. It also alters and impacts the meaning as well as societies’ understanding of water. This section focuses especially on the discourse over digital water and its impact on societies’ perception of possible future pathways.
- Water Governance
The increasing implementation of digital technologies does not only impact the social relations with water but also the way water is governed and controlled in the future. This section analyses the actors, their aims and interests.
- Theoretical Conceptualisation
This part centres on the definition of digital water, how it is conceptualised and created. This is examined trough Political Ecology as well as insights from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Digital Geography