måndag 26 september 2011

Is the Internet sustainable?

I've been exploring the idea of how to explore this idea ("Is the Internet sustainable?") for the better part of a year - ever since I wrote and presented the paper "Ubiquitous information in a world of limitations" at the NordForsk event (seminar, conference) "The culture of ubiquitous information" in Copenhagen last October.

I gave a presentation at Södertörn University last week. This is it - after before having hedged my bets and carefully threaded my way around sensitive words and concepts, the invitation to this seminar was more straight-forward and hard-hitting that I have previously allowed myself to be:

Abstract: How can a passion for the Internet and all the wonders it has brought us during the last decades be combined with a dawning realization that our current lifestyles are not really sustainable? Are we "fiddling while Rome burns down" when we obsess about the latest gadgets, the latest services and the latest trends on our way to a (perceived) future techno-utopian computer-mediated hive-mind Singularity? While we live in a world of possibilities, we also live in a world where severe limitations in terms of energy, economy and ecology (the "triple crisis") are making themselves knows with increasing frequency and amplitude.
Daniel's talk is partly structured as a travelogue of how an "awakening" to ecological planetary limits can be combined with communications and media technology interests.

About: Daniel Pargman is an Assistant professor in Media Technology at KTH. He read copious amounts of future-oriented techno-utopian science fiction in his youth. A positively brilliant view of the future, with hopes that the colonization of space would begin in the span of his lifetime has over time gradually been tarnished and replaced by a realization that we have large problems to solve in our back yard before we direct our gaze to space.

The talk was, despite its grim contents, well received and generated an hour-long discussion as well as a 45 minutes long continued discussion with a handful of persons after the seminar was finished. I'm a little surprised by the lack of protests and dissent, despite the fact that the picture I present is very different from the business-as-usual scenarios that we are fed every day. I guess the European debt crisis and the Greek meltdown might have something to do with audiences' willingness to consider "disruptive" narratives of where we are, how we came here, and where we are heading?

I've also recently given talks about "Social media in higher education" (to students at the Master of Science in Engineering and of Education) in the project course "Learning and ICT" and "Digital media and collective action" (to students at the Master of Science in Urban Planning and Design) in the course "Urban Theory, Advanced course".

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