Problematizing Sustainable ICT
- Location: Häggsalen, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala
- Doctoral student: Fors, Per
- About the dissertation
- Organiser: Industriell teknik
- Contact person: Fors, Per
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).