Digital technologies are frequently framed as a solution to environmental, social and political dilemmas.

This seminar questions the assumptions underlying such practices and argues that more needs to be done to ensure the digital is sustainable, rather than a contributing agent to the Anthropocene. As well as situating this research in the digital geographies field and in relation to global environmental and urban thinking, early findings from a pilot project on digital sustainability in the University of Sydney will be presented.

The politics of the Anthropocene are contested and partially produced by digital contexts, both conceptually and physically. At the same time, digital production, consumption and storage are not frequently core concerns when evaluating the sustainability of everyday life in the Anthropocene.

Assumptions about digital lives being sustainable abound but we infrequently consider what we could do to ensure that digital use does not exacerbate environmental degradation. Structural forces also impinge on evaluating the sustainability of digital lives, including a lack of corporate disclosure and limited government regulation of digital technologies.

Early promises of digital technologies in urban settings to free us from environmental costs, via claims such as paperless offices, commonly shape understanding of digital sustainability. With digital spaces firmly entrenched in everyday life and continuing to extend their reach, the challenge to make the digital sustainable lies in wait.

This paper will present early findings of empirical research on digital sustainability in Sydney-based case studies and frame these in relation to the troubling Anthropocene.

About the speaker

Jess McLean is a Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Planning at Macquarie University. As a geographer, her research has included work on digital spaces, water cultures and diverse knowledges; this research has called for critical, engaged and situated research praxis, building on collaborations with individuals, institutions and community groups who are working in Indigenous, feminist and digital rights contexts. Jess has published a range of academic and literary publications on topics relating to environmental justice, digital lives and the Anthropocene. Her book on ‘Changing Digital Geographies: Environments, technologies and people’ is now available (published by Palgrave Macmillan).

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RMIT University Building 13, Level 1, Room 1


21 November 2019