Nature 2.0: the political economy of conservation in online and Southern African environments
02 / 2012 - 02 / 2015
Web 2.0 and social media applications that allow people to share, form and rate online content are crucial new ways for conservation organizations to reach audiences and for concerned individuals and organisations to be (seen as) 'green'. Recent research indicates that these developments might significantly change the political economy of conservation: the production and consumption of conservation and their social effects. Two important changes relate to how online activities stimulate and complicate the commodification of biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes and how they help to reimagine ideas and ideals about 'pristine' nature. Above all, this 'nature 2.0' now (seemingly) allows those concerned about global biodiversity and ecosystem decline to more directly engage with and influence the governance of socio-ecological realities in other parts of the world. The research aims to investigate these transformations in relation to biodiverse areas in Southern Africa, a region with a chequered history of western-imposed conservation. Three questions are central: How do online, web 2.0 and social media conservation activities relate to and influence the governance of biodiverse areas in Southern Africa and the people who live there? Why and how do these activities depend on the reimagination and commodification of nature? What are the implications of these dynamics for (theorizing) the global political economy of conservation? Innovatively combining insights and methods from political ecology, anthropology and media studies, the research will engage these questions by studying how online activities relate to, shape and reflect other social, political and economic practices. It transcends conventional empirical research by connecting actors, actions and technologies involved in the production and consumption of conservation across space and time. In times of increasing tensions between biodiversity decline and demands for human development, the practical and theoretical implications of the study will be highly relevant for sustainable global and local natural resource governance.