Environmental Humanities

Urban Digital Technologies in the Anthropocene

This research project 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. The research will invite students and staff of the University of Sydney to participate in a survey on their use of digital technologies in everyday life. If we are to get out of this unwanted capitalist-driven epoch, taking account of the digital lives we’re weaving will be a part of any transition.

There are important conversations about the sustainability of many other aspects of consumption practices, including for transport or relating to food choices, but digital technologies are often framed as simply an environmental solution. These assurances that digital technologies are going to produce sustainable futures are not frequently tested. Of course, 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. I will also be talking with sustainability leaders in university, government and corporate settings to gauge current efforts to increase digital sustainability.

Digital technologies are put forward as inherently more efficient and sustainable than other technologies but there are important 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. Participants will be able to access a 1 page summary of research results if they are interested in getting feedback.

Complete the survey here.