Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationNew York U.
Grant numberGr. 10547
Approve DateApril 6, 2023
Project TitleWiessner, Megan (New York U.) "Digital Timber: Imagining and Automating Low-Carbon Architecture in the Pacific Northwest"
In the Pacific Northwest, wood is increasingly touted for its potential to sequester carbon within the built environment, as well as for its advantages in precision automated manufacturing. Swapping concrete and steel for timber is imagined to transform the relationship between cities and forests, even as it ensures the continuity and profitability of certain industries and forms of life in the face of global climate change. How is timber ‘ a commodity product long associated with environmental degradation’now mobilized as a sustainable but high-tech material, becoming itself a medium for new futures? This project traces the computational and discursive mediations that make this possible, and in the process opens up the relationship between digital technologies, imaginaries of sustainability, and the region’s past as a settler colonial resource frontier’as well as making the case for combining environmental and digital anthropology. Through six months of ethnographic fieldwork across the supply chain for mass timber in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, I will investigate up the rise of this charismatic building material, the digital practices that produce it, and the resulting (re)production of narratives that ecology, technology, and economic growth can be reconciled.