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SEI Research: Digital Sustainability Survey

Do you think about the sustainability of your digital technologies? Do you try to reduce the environmental impact of your digital life? SEI researcher Jess McLean is looking to hear from University of Sydney students, staff and affiliates about the sustainability of their digital technologies.

Image by Christin Hume, via Unsplash

SEI researcher Jess McLean, visiting from the Department of Geography and Planning at Macquarie University, is currently conducting research on digital sustainability and is looking to hear from University of Sydney students, staff and affiliates about the sustainability of their digital technologies in their everyday lives.

This research aims to deepen our understanding of urban digital technologies in the Anthropocene, focusing on how we make our digital lives and if we take seriously environmental challenges relating to the digital. We invite students and staff of the University of Sydney to participate in a short survey on their use of digital technologies in everyday life.

Conversations about the sustainability of many other consumerist practices, such as transport and food systems, are becoming more common, but digital technologies are often framed as inherently more efficient and sustainable than other technologies, despite the fact that there are significant gaps in how we account for the resources that are used to support our digital lives. For example, the digital ecosystem that enables smartphones – servers, data centres, internet infrastructure and more – are frequently hidden. And the management of more and more data requires larger, and more energy-reliant, digital infrastructure.

Drawing on a human geography approach, this research aims to contribute to a conversation about environmental sustainability and digital technologies, and to bring attention to these dilemmas. Publications coming from this research will only use deidentified data to maintain participants’ privacy. Participants will be able to access a summary of research results if they are interested in getting feedback.

The survey, which takes only a few moments to complete, can be accessed here. Participants are welcomed to contact Jess with any further questions at jessica.mclean@mq.edu.au 

Ultimately, the responsibility for producing sustainable digital technologies does not lie with individuals but with corporations and governments who produce, regulate and dispose of digital tools and infrastructure. For this research, Jess will also be talking with sustainability leaders in university, government and corporate settings to gauge current efforts to increase digital sustainability.