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ICT and environmental sustainability in a changing society: The view of ecological World Systems Theory
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Industrial Engineering & Management.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Industrial Engineering & Management.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Industrial Engineering & Management.
2015 (English)In: Information Technology and People, ISSN 0959-3845, E-ISSN 1758-5813, Vol. 28, no 4, p. 758-774Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to discuss the role of information and communication technology (ICT) for promoting environmental sustainability in a changing society. Isolated studies exist, but few take a holistic view. Derived from a Marxian tradition, the authors propose Ecological World Systems Theory (WST) as a holistic framework to assess the environmental impact of ICT. The theory is adapted responding to theoretical critiques of absence of change, namely state-centrism and structuralism.Design/methodology/approach– Theoretical study. Empirical examples derived from already published literature.Findings– Ecological WST focuses on the unequal distribution of environmental degradation, sees technological development as a zero-sum game rather than cornucopia and holds that technology is often seen as a fetish in today ' s society. The findings are that popular discourses on ICT and sustainability are since the 1990s becoming increasingly cornucopian, while conditions in the ICT value chain are less cornucopian.Research limitations/implications– Theoretical contributions to Marxian critiques of ICT, with more environmental focus than earlier Marxian critiques, for example Fuchs’ work. Develop a theoretical framework for ICT and sustainability which could be compared with works of e.g. Hilty, Patrignani and Whitehouse. The work is mostly based on existing empirical studies, which is a limitation.Practical implications– This theoretical framework implies that unequal environmental degradation in different parts of the world should be taken into account when assessing environmental impact, for example by means of LCA.Social implications– The framework brings together questions of environmental effects of ICT and global justice.Originality/value– The authors apply a rarely discussed theoretical framework to ICT and environmental sustainability. By doing this the authors suggest how the discourses and the value chain of ICT is intrinsically tied to the world system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 28, no 4, p. 758-774
Keywords [en]
Green computing/Green IT, Socio-technical theory, Literature review, Power, Critical theory, Theory building
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in industrial engineering and management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-267400DOI: 10.1108/ITP-09-2014-0219ISI: 000370546200003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-267400DiVA, id: diva2:873017
Available from: 2015-11-22 Created: 2015-11-22 Last updated: 2019-01-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Problematizing Sustainable ICT
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Problematizing Sustainable ICT
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

How should we understand the relationship between information and communication technology (ICT) and sustainability? Generally, it is assumed that while ICT products contribute to many environmental and social problems as they are produced and disposed of, the potential of using ICT to achieve a more sustainable society is immense. However, despite the fact that such a discourse is favored not only in the industrial but also in the political and academic spheres, we have yet to see this presumed sustainability-related potential of ICT fully exploited.

This thesis argues that conventional assumptions and understandings related to three abstractions in sustainable ICT research and practice – namely the technological, the social, and the sustainable – contribute to an overly optimistic discourse of sustainable ICT, which favors certain research approaches and practical applications. Adhering to such a discourse risks reinforcing, rather than breaking loose from, an unsustainable status quo. Through problematization, this thesis aims to unveil and challenge such underlying assumptions and understandings, based on insights from the social sciences and philosophy. New assumptions and understandings of sustainable ICT research and practice are suggested, and contribute with a perspective that among other things emphasize the ontological inseparability of the technological and the social, implying an anti-essentialist position embracing the value-ladenness and value and meaning mediatory aspects of such phenomena. The normative contributions include theoretical and methodological approaches to sustainable ICT design and sustainable ICT entrepreneurship – identified as two central practices for sustainable ICT to promote sustainability – that aim to mobilize politically charged discourses of our being together with each other, technologies and nature in order to facilitate collaborative action towards sustainable futures. This thesis should be seen as a critical contribution to fields interested in sustainable ICT, such as ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) and Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction (SHCI).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2019. p. 133
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1769
Keywords
Sustainable ICT, Sustainable human-computer interaction, Green IT, Problematization, Sustainable entrepreneurship
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified Human Computer Interaction Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in industrial engineering and management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-375131 (URN)978-91-513-0565-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-03-15, Häggsalen, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-02-26 Created: 2019-01-27 Last updated: 2019-03-18

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Lennerfors, Thomas TaroFors, Pervan Rooijen, Jolanda

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