Digital Decarb – Getting Into Fights With Data Centres

Posted on 30 August 2023

Our Digital Decarb day back in April included a fantastic workshop with Canadian researcher Anne Pasek about the flow of information from data centres to your computer. Anne’s now built on that workshop to make a zine, Getting Into Fights With Data Centers; OR – A Modest Proposal For Reframing The Climate Politics of ICT.

The zine delves into the world of data centres and the issues around them, including their huge demand for water and electricity. For those of you curious about where the Castlefield Gallery website is hosted, the zine includes a step-by-step guide to tracing website hosting using as an example.

Anne made the zine because she keeps getting asked about the carbon footprint of our digital lives. Her view is that, rather focussing on and trying to reduce our individual digital carbon impacts, as consumers, it’s more fruitful to think about how we can stop the next data centre from being built. This makes digital decarbonisation a collective, rather than individual, concern; keeps our focus on the infrastructure rather than the content; and encourages us to think about sufficiency and degrowth.

This approach also encourages us to keep the relative scale of things in mind, rather than just our personal actions – “i.e. ChatGPT emits way way way way way way way more than your cat photos ever will” – and opens the door to exciting coalitions.

You can download the zine here

Anne Pasek led on the Digital Decarbonisation strand of art, climate justice and collaborative learning project Sunlight Doesn’t Need A Pipeline and is an Assistant Professor and the Canada Research Chair in Media, Culture, and the Environment at Trent University, Canada. Her research explores the cultural politics of climate change, with a particular emphasis on the social and technical means through which carbon is enumerated and mobilized within diverse social formations, including climate denialism, the tech sector, and the arts.

Anne is also the director of the Low-Carbon Research Methods Group, a network of scholars examining the climate and equity impacts of decarbonizing academic work, and the Experimental Methods & Media Lab, a hub for research-creation and critical making at Trent with a particular focus on emerging climate tech. In addition to her academic work, she maintains an activist and art practice, focusing on tactics for building power for a just transition. /