How we design rural communities away: Historical lessons from the fishery
by Phoebe Sengers, Cornell University
This talk is part of the Rural Computing Speaker Series and is presented by the Rural Computing Research Consortium
In the 1950’s, the new Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador embarked on an ambitious project to modernize its fishery, with the goal of using technology to make the fishery more productive, efficient, and reliable. These modernization efforts eventually led to the destruction of its fish stocks and decimation of its rural communities. Determined to not meet the same fate, Iceland introduced pervasive data collection throughout its fisheries starting in the 1980’s. Now one of the most high-tech fisheries in the world, Iceland has been able to maintain its fish stock; but these technologies have also raised the barriers for entry into the industry and led to profits and control of the fishery accruing to urban firms. Both projects were well-intentioned efforts to use technology to improve rural food production, but both systemically undermined the rural communities that rely on it. Why did this happen, and how can we avoid a similar fate for future rural infrastructure design such as digital agriculture (DA)? In this talk, Dr. Sengers will describe how these social impacts are tied to specific problem framings in technology design, and suggest alternative framings that may be useful for DA.