Eco-Pedagogy and Digital Nature Connections

This 2020 special issue of the Digital Culture and Education open access, online journal explores contemporary issues in digital eco-pedagogy, particularly in relation to the education of children.

The worldwide youth climate strike on March 15 reflects young people’s growing frustrations with the lack of political response to the escalating ecological crisis. It also reflects the impact of efforts already underway to highlight environmental concerns. The ecological turn has been gaining ground in social and theoretical discourse since at least the 1970s. During that time environmental education has been a concept in progress. Early debates concerning the notion of eco-citizenship and even the definition of nature itself express the growing realisation that environmental stewardship in the age of the Anthropocene (when humans dominate the earth) is a multi-dimensional cultural project incorporating everything from emotional re-learning of nature connectivity, through to eco-media literacy training, scientific witnessing, philosophical/economic reassessment and citizen action.

Alongside this, the growing ubiquity of digital culture has fuelled concern. In Last Child in the Woods (2008) Richard Louv blames the rise of digital screen culture for what he calls children’s ‘nature-deficit disorder’. Indeed, a 2013 study revealed that only 1 in 5 UK children felt sufficiently connected with nature, raising the question of potential consequences for that 40 % of the world’s species already at risk of extinction and reliant upon human passion and dedication to save them.

View the Connection Measure study here

Nevertheless, the role that digital culture plays in this crisis is still unclear and also in flux. Büscher’s (2016) concept of Nature 2.0 to describe the emerging digital representations of nature and networked engagements with the natural world points to the growing research interest in eco-digital cultures. Indeed, as Dobrin (2014: 205) observes, digital environments are “themselves natures … environments in and with which humans and non-humans forge relationships”. The ways that digital culture and nature are becoming increasingly enmeshed invites more discussion, particularly in relation to the role that eco-pedagogies play within thesesocial and material assemblages. Recent provocations include Fletcher’s (2017) discussion of the “environmental values behaviour” gap between the mediated appreciation for nature, versus the lack of societal commitment to conservation action. While nature-relatedness research (Richardson 2015, 2018) indicates that in order to build a joyous connection with nature, children, in particular, will often need to do so by focusing on the positives, free from the impending fear of environmental collapse. More evidence is required to help better understand the role that digital eco-pedagogy plays regarding these sorts of tensions.

This special issue invites researchers to explore these contemporary issues in digital eco-pedagogy.

Empirical studies are particularly welcome. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Engaging pedagogy with mediated experiences of nature relatedness
  • Interplays of real/virtual, action/simulation, inside/outside, the physical world and digital space in environmental education
  • Eco-media literacy, including awareness of the creative, economic and material modes of digital production
  • Progressive and social constructions of ecological citizenship
  • Navigating the limits, as well as the potential benefits of digital nature connections
  • The intercultural, multi-dimensional, interdisciplinary and/or inter-generational dimensions to eco-citizenship
  • Digital eco-pedagogy and cultural theory
  • The digital mediation of inter-species relationships
  • Digital representations of climate change, e.g. abstraction, versus digital photo-realism
  • Links between mediated play, expectations of nature and off-line behaviours
  • Digital green-washing
  • Testing the educational and social impact of digital nature connections across genres and platforms
  • The use of portable, personalised, automated and/or ubiquitous technologies in digital eco-pedagogy
  • Digital eco-feminist interventions
  • Digital citizen science initiatives
  • Collaborative Design of digital nature

There is no charge to submit or publish papers in the Digital Culture and Education journal, which is a non-commercial, open-access academic journal that is distributed freely, at no charge.

5000 – 7000 word paper submission is due Nov 30, 2019.

Author guidelines here

Please direct your questions to Bronwin Patrickson at floatingblueseen@gmail.com in the first instance, or alternately Alexander Schmoelz at alexander.schmoeltz@univie.ac.at

Deadline for submission of full paper: 30 November 2019