‘Rage against the machine’? The opportunities and risks concerning the automation of urban green infrastructure

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Journal Article

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Landscape and Urban Planning




Natalie Marie Gulsrud
Christopher M. Raymond
Rebecca L. Rutt
Anton Stahl Olafsson
Tobias Plieninger
Mattias Sandberg
Thomas H. Beery
K. Ingemar Jönsson

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Contemporary society is increasingly impacted by automation; however, few studies have considered the potential consequences of automation on ecosystems and their management (hereafter the automation of urban green infrastructure or UGI). This Perspective Essay takes up this discussion by asking how a digital approach to UGI planning and management mediates the configuration and development of UGI and to whose benefit? This is done through a review of key issues and trends in digital approaches to UGI planning and management. We first conceptualize automation from a social, ecological, and technological interactions perspective and use this lens to present an overview of the risks and opportunities of UGI automation with respect to selected case studies. Results of this analysis are used to develop a conceptual framework for the assessment of the material and governance implications of automated UGIs. We find that, within any given perspective, the automation of UGI entails a complex dialectic between efficiency, human agency and empowerment. Further, risks and opportunities associated with UGI automation are not fixed but are dynamic properties of changing contextual tensions concerning power, actors, rules of the game and discourse at multiple scales. We conclude the paper by outlining a research agenda on how to consider different digital advances within a social-ecological-technological approach.