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Nature Management, Reindeer Herding and Digitalised Sociality Beyond the Human

This study is an extension of Marianne Lien's ongoing research in Finnmark where she focuses on nature management and reindeer herding.

Image may contain: Reindeer, Antler, Wildlife, Deer, Barren ground Caribou.

Photo: Marianne Elisabeth Lien

Already in the 1960s the snowmobile changed the mobility patterns of reindeer herders and animal herds. Simultaneously people, and as part of state-driven colonization and "Norwegianisation", Sámi became more settled and the relationship between humans and animals changed.

When snowmobiles were introduced in reindeer herding in the 1960’s it represented a significant shift, in relation to animal and human mobility, affecting Sámi practices of dwelling  and human animal relations .

Today, mobile phones, GPS-tracking, satellite/aerial photos and digital tagging of individual reindeer are part of the herders’ tool-kit, embedded in and shaping the ways in which reindeer lives are seen, known and interpreted. Digital devices also facilitate remote surveillance by environmental authorities and are mobilized in nature management controversies (wind power, mineral extraction).

Exploring the digitalization of herding practices, this study asks how the ongoing digitalization of human and animal’s whereabouts shape and inform human understanding of landscapes, animals and their relations. We ask how these digitalized glimpses into reindeer’s "private lives" and their internal group dynamics (when they are physically out of sight) inform the herders’ practices, and how this, in turn, might change the reindeer? How might these innovations reconfigure reindeer domestication in the 21st century, and to what extent are traditional practices maintained?

Published May 15, 2020 9:40 AM - Last modified Jan. 28, 2021 1:03 PM