Digital Life & The Environment

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What is the relationship between information and communication technologies and the environment?

It may not be a core part of this project, but I wanted to make a footnote of this question. I think it’s an important one that often gets overlooked (and, a topic that belongs on the list of digital challenges!). As every aspect of our daily lives comes to rely more heavily on digital devices, what do we know about how they relate to the planet? Do ICTs have an environmental impact? How so? Are they helping us be more sustainable, or less so? Do they help us pay more attention to the changes our planet is undergoing, or less? The answer is probably a mix of both.

On the downside ICTs can have some serious environmental consequences. For instance, it takes a whole lot of energy and resources to produce and power laptops, smart phones, and other digital devices.  In fact, according to some calculations, it can actually be more environmentally friendly to write a letter (on paper, which is a renewable resource) than to send an email (which relies on a vast infrastructure of computing technology). What role do we have as students, researchers, consumers in vis-a-vis this issue?

The book Radical Simplicity and The Institute for Sustainable Communication go into more detail on the topic. Also, this interview with Casey Harrell, who leads Greenpeace’s greener electronics initiative, gives some interesting insight.  Bill Tomlison’s book Greening Through IT provides an optimistic, textbook-like look at the emerging field of Green IT.

Digital Challenges?


In this blog, we’ve discussed digital living from several angles. Most recently, we’ve addressed a specific topic — time — and then elaborated on it by a collaborative effort on autoethnography, self-analysis.

Now I would invite everyone, Fordham students and anyone else reading this, to go ‘from micro to macro’. In other words, now that we have observed/read about others’ observations of digital living, what does that mean to us as a society? Remember, communication and media studies are often said to be about real-life problem solving.

So the core question to you all is: What, in your opinion, is the biggest communication/media related challenge/problem in our digital era for all of us as a society?

Fordham students (and others): This time around, let’s take blogging further and truly interact with one another here, comment on each others’ posts, debate, complement them…

Here are some comments to a similar question by a group of communication studies MA students from around the world: They are addressing the challenges in the field of media in general, ranging fro the safety of journalists to network neutrality. And they talk about the web 2.0, too. You can use those as your inspiration, too (especially if you’re an early blogger and there’s not much to comment on here). And here’s an earlier blog entry, The Internet is a Scary Place, that addresses one challenge — just something to perhaps inspire your thinking.