From digital solutionism to materialist accountability: Calling for a paradigmatic shift in digital media research
309 Regent St
Marylebone, London W1B 2HT
Adi Kunstman (Manchester Metropolitan University) – From digital solutionism to materialist accountability: Calling for a paradigmatic shift in digital media research
This talk aims to propose an intervention into the field of digital media and communication studies and its dangerous myopia around the environmental damages of digital technologies. Those damages come from mining and destruction of natural resources to produce digital devices; toxic e-waste at the end of devices’ life; and rapidly rising energy demands of data centres, needed to sustain our digital life, work and leisure, as well as the digital industry and the Big Data science. At present, most research into digital communication, digital culture and digital society – whether celebratory or critical – pays little to no attention to digital technologies’ negative environmental impacts, nor to such impacts’ unequal global distribution.
Recent critical interventions notwithstanding, the field of digital media, white and Western-centred, does not tend to acknowledge digital communication’s complicity in environmental degradation, nor does it tend to account for the materiality of the digital, when discussing culture and communication. Despite decades of critical voices from feminist, post-colonial, diasporic and “global South” scholars, mainstream digital communication studies have enjoyed – and continue to enjoy – the luxury of ignoring the deeply damaging consequences of the tools and devices we use and write about, due to the fact that such consequences mostly impact those in the global South and the disenfranchised, racialised and colonised communities in the global North.
Bringing together a recently completed collaborative project analysing myopias in environmental sustainability studies (with Imogen Rattle), with the notion of “digital disengagement” as a conceptual and political framework for studying digital cultures (with Esperanza Miyake), this talk will lay out ways of moving away from digital solutionism towards materialist accountability.
Dr Adi Kuntsman is Senior Lecturer in Communication and Digital Politics at Manchester Metropolitan University. Kuntsman’s recent work includes social media politics; digital militarism; digital refusal and data justice; and the environmental impacts of digital communication.
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