14 May 2021
Digital Consumerism, Digital Infrastructures, and Ecological Crisis
Presented By Dr Leslie Meier as part of the CRCC Seminar Series
- 1pm - 2pm
- Microsoft Teams Live Event
About this event
This talk investigates the resource intensiveness and environmental implications of digital consumerism, considering the transition of formerly novel forms of personalised consumption, such as media streaming and shopping via mobile phone, into increasingly standard features of everyday life in affluent societies. Powerful companies such as Amazon – whose dominance traverses e-commerce, streaming, and cloud computing – are shaping a sweeping array of consumer practices via the provisioning of both digital goods and services, including media, and manufactured goods. I will unpack ways the information technology (IT) industry, which relies on perpetual change and innovation as means to financial success, is reconfiguring the landscape of contemporary consumer society. I will advance a critique that draws on critical theory, the sociology of consumption, and more recent accounts of capitalism as a driver of ecological crisis. The analysis foregrounds the role of the digital infrastructures that enable an ‘always on’ internet and ‘lock in’ increasing demand, focusing on data-intensive streaming practices and data centres as engines of convenience and speed. I then shift from dilemmas related to internet traffic to those of road traffic, exploring the resource intensiveness of the courier-based delivery systems on which online shopping relies. Overall, I highlight environmentally problematic consequences of escalating expectations of comfort and convenience (Shove, 2003) within a context marked by technological acceleration (Rosa, 2013) and, arguably, technological dependence.
Leslie Meier joined the University of Leeds as a Lecturer in October 2013 after obtaining her PhD from the University of Western Ontario (2013). Her research interests include critical perspectives on advertising, marketing, and promotional culture; consumer society critiques; digital media and the environment; music industries; media and cultural industries; popular music, culture, and society.
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