Can we 'reduce, reuse, refuse'.. the digital? Digital Politics Summer School, 5-6 June, 2023

Our third online Digital Politics Summer School is here! The school will consist of keynotes and workshops, and will offer participants a possibility to join a follow-up publication. Attendance is free but places are limited - please click here to register.

Digital technologies can inflict substantial human and environmental harms: from extractivist economies of mining to toxic e-waste; from unsafe and oppressive working conditions to rising carbon and heat emissions and electricity use; from individual and collective surveillance to economic subordination and emotional depletion. These harms are unevenly distributed and deeply connected to social, economic and racial injustices. And yet, conversations about digital sustainability, climate change and environmental justice rarely use the logic of 'refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle' with regards to digital technologies. Scholarship and policy on digital sustainability continues to insist on green digital growth, instead of posing crucial questions of degrowth and reduction. This summer school brings together principles of environmentally driven degrowth; decolonial and anti-racist environmental justice; and digital disengagement and opt out to explore whether and how we can reduce, reuse and perhaps even refuse the digital.


The conference will take place on Zoom. All times are in UK/London time zone.

Keynote 1, 5 June, 1-2.30pm Grace Akese, The University of Bayreuth, Germany. Electronic waste politics in Accra, Ghana

Geographical scholarship on the spatialities of e-waste asks where e-waste travels, who works with it, and under what conditions. Studies across the "global south" shows that instead of trails of e-waste leading to dumpsites overflowing with debris, the paths of discarded electronics also lead to production sites where electronics are transformed and recirculated through reuse, repair, repurposing, and remanufacturing activities.The talk will explore the relational entanglements of e-waste geographies as they manifest in ideas and practices of circular economies (ethical design, repair, reuse, care & maintenance, and marker space cultures).

Workshop 1, 5 June, 7-9pm Laura Marks, Simon Fraser University, Canada. Small Files for a Small World

This workshop will guide participants in analyzing the carbon footprint of the internet, with a focus on streaming video, and discuss ways to reduce that footprint. I'll introduce the Small File Media Festival, which invites artists to submit movies of no more than 1.44 MB/minute, and we will explore the practices and aesthetics of making alluring work with minimal carbon footprint.

Keynote 2, 6 June, 10-11.15am Esperanza Miyake, Strathclyde University. Connect, Disconnect, Re-Connect and Repeat: the labour and consumption of digital disengagement

As work emails pile up, app notifications spring up and QR codes need scanning, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate our lives from institutionalised digital infrastructures and practices that are constantly structuring, regulating and monitoring our everyday lives. Being digitally connected is exhausting, and the idea of disconnection is fast becoming a popularised ‘necessity’, even a social trend. From digital detox holidays, Unplugging politics, to screen-time apps: there is a rise in people actively reducing, rejecting and refusing the digital….only to have to then ‘return back to normal’. What are the mechanisms of this dis/connective cycle? What are implications of buying digital disengagement? Can we ever escape the digital? Who really is able to just disconnect? This talk addresses such questions through the theoretical lens of digital disengagement, considering interdependent issues around labour and consumption. Based on her specialism in technology, identity and consumer culture, Miyake will talk through some of the related chapters on labour and consumption from her recently co-authored published book with Adi Kuntsman, Paradoxes of Digital Disengagement: In Search of the Opt-Out Button (2023).

Workshop 2, June 6, 1.30-2.30pm Adi Kuntsman, Manchester Metropolitan University. Can we 'reduce, reuse, refuse' the digital? Informal discussion with participants, interested in contributing to the follow-up publicaiton

Every year, our Summer School offers PhD students and early career researchers an opportunity to contribute to a follow-up publication by submitting a chapter, a short reflection, or a creative piece. This year, we are expanding our support also to those interested in co-editing a book. This workshop is for participants, interested in taking part in this year's publicaton opportunities linked to the topic of the Summer School, and woud like to know more about the process.


Grace Akese is a geographer and discard studies scholar interested in the geographies of electronic waste (e-waste). Joining the African Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bayreuth as a research fellow, she is currently exploring the relational entanglements of e-waste geographies as they manifest in ideas and practices of circular economies(ethical design, repair, reuse, care & maintenance, and marker space cultures).

Laura U. Marks works on media art and philosophy with an intercultural focus and an emphasis on appropriate technologies. Her fifth book, The Fold: From Your Body to the Cosmos, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. A co-founder of the Substantial Motion Research Network, Marks founded the Small File Media Festival and leads the research group Tackling the Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media. She programs experimental media art for venues around the world. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Marks teaches in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Esperanza Miyake is a Chancellor’s Fellow in Journalism, Media and Communication at the University of Strathclyde, and the Director of Postgraduate Research for the School of Humanities. She specialises in the interdisciplinary examination of gender/race, inequality and technology in culture, media and society. Published widely in Media, Cultural and Digital Studies, Miyake has also acted as consultant on issues around digital justice and public data for the Scottish Government, as well written for international news outlets such as The New York Times and Newsweek.

Adi Kuntsman is a Reader in Digital Politics, the founder of Digital Politics Summer School and the coordinator of Digital Politics research group and PhD programme at the Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University. Adi is the co-editor (with Erinma Ochu and Liu Xin) of the new book series on digital materialities and sustainable futures at Emerald. Adi has published several monographs and edited collections and is currently working on a project on digital environmental harms and a book on smart cities (with Liu Xin, Bristol University Press).