Academic Profile

Helge is a postdoctoral researcher in the NERC project Community Water Management for A Liveable London. He works with London residents and hydrological modellers to build computer models that empower communities to have a say in decisions about the city's water infrastructure. Helge also integrates computational social science methods with qualitative evidence in order to understand how people perceive the water environment.

As a Clarendon scholar, Helge received his DPhil in Geography and the Environment from Oxford University. He also holds an MA with distinction in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths' College, University of London, and a BA in Communications from the Berlin University of the Arts. Helge is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and formerly a visiting research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Current Research

Many researchers are excited about finding new ways that computers can help us solve environmental problems. But the novelty and excitement surrounding digital technology makes it difficult to see how environmental software can be programmed with assumptions about how people and nature hang together that are not very new or exciting at all.

As a human geographer Helge examines what happens when simplifying assumptions about the 'human dimension' of environmental change encounter the ambiguity and diversity of ways in which people make sense of the natural environment.

That is why Helge's research concerns a critical understanding of environmental computation. Being critical means asking how the makers and users of environmental software arrive at their assumptions about people and nature (ontology), how computers help them know some things about the world but not others (epistemology), and how they would like the world to be (normativity). Being critical also means asking how we can do better (reflexivity). Helge is curious about making environmental computing more equal and democratic (politics), for instance by including those who live with its consequences (participation).

Helge mainly conducts research by spending time and speaking with makers and users of environmental software and those affected by its use (ethnography). Sometimes he also works together with others to develop software (inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration). He is interested in a broad range of environmental software: from fairly simple spreadsheets to complex simulations of socio-ecological systems.

Helge's latest paper (under review) looks at the appraisal of blue and green infrastructure (rivers, parks and the like) in London. He describes how London residents find meaning in urban rivers and examine how funds are gained but meaning lost when technical experts use software to calculate an economic value of nature that justifies public spending on the water environment. Please feel free to ask for a pre-print of the paper.

Teaching

Helge is happy to advise postgraduate dissertation projects. Please contact Helge to discuss a topic broadly relevant to his research interests.

Selected Publications

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