Sensing Sferics

Electromagnetic Noise and Environmental Signal

Jeffrey Moro
Jeffrey Moro
Assistant Clinical Professor of Digital Humanities and Digital StudiesAADHumUniversity of MarylandWebsiteRead Bio

Please note time change to 5:15pm. Each time lightning bursts in the Earth's atmosphere, it releases radio waves that ricochet between the planet's surface and its ionosphere, a layer of charged air lying between eighty and a thousand kilometers over our heads. Drawing together environmental studies, digital media studies, and sound studies, Dr. Moro's talk explores these radio atmospheric signals, or "sferics," across a range of artistic and scientific practices, from random number generation to cryptocurrency to field recordings. He argues that even as artists idealize sferics as a direct path to a kind of planetary unconscious, there remain attempts to incorporate sferics into existing cultural models of environmental data. These models, which his talk tracks across the work of sonic and digital artists who deploy sferics within their work, insist that environmental phenomena, no matter how immaterial, serve some aspect of human productivity. This talk will be of particular interest to those working across the sciences and media arts, as well as anyone who has ever wondered what's hiding behind the static between radio stations.

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Jeffrey Moro is a Assistant Clinical Professor with the African American Digital and Experimental Humanities (AADHum) Initiative at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on how media technologies facilitate our cultural understanding of the natural world, with particular interests in the creative and technical applications of environmental data in contemporary cultural production. He has published in the journals AmodernMedia FieldsISLE, and Qui Parle, and is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is currently at work on a book project titled Atmospheric Media, which explores media techniques and technologies for computing the air and their consequent relationships to climate change. Before joining AADHum, he completed a PhD in English with a certificate in Digital Studies at the University of Maryland and worked as a Post-Baccalaureate Resident with Five College Digital Humanities, serving Amherst, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is also a founding member of the Immersive Realities Lab for the Humanities, an independent workgroup for digital and experimental humanities research. His website is

A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues page.

Unable to attend the events in person? Archived podcasts can be found on the MITH website, and you can follow our Digital Dialogues Twitter account @digdialog as well as the Twitter hashtag #mithdd to keep up with live tweets from our sessions. Viewers can watch the live stream as well.

All talks free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunches.

Contact: MITH (,, 301.405.8927).