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Ryan Michael Penney

Ocean digitization is fundamentally changing the way we know and interact with the sea. New kinds of sensors and autonomous underwater vehicles are generating vast quantities of oceanographic data, while AI/ML-based tools like fish image recognition and ocean health forecasting software are harnessing this data explosion to reshape management practices. My research uses participant observation methods to understand how digitization is transforming communities of ocean tech innovators. As these communities rapidly expand with diverse actors from philanthropy, finance, and industry alongside traditional marine scientists, my research asks: How do differing values, desires, and ethics stimulate innovators to propose, revise, imagine, and re-imagine what kinds of downstream products and services will power the digital ocean and shape our future engagement with the sea? My ethnographic work addresses a pressing concern across various disciplines and sectors to better understand processes of “blue tech” innovation in the context of rapidly declining ocean health.