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"Big Data, Big Waste? A Reflection on the Environmental Sustainability of Big Data Initiatives [p.1025}"

by Lucivero, Federica (2020)


This paper addresses a problem that has so far been neglected by scholars investigating the ethics of Big Data and policy makers: that is the ethical implications of Big Data initiatives' environmental impact. Building on literature in environmental studies, cultural studies and Science and Technology Studies, the article draws attention to the physical presence of data, the material configuration of digital service, and the space occupied by data. It then explains how this material and situated character of data raises questions concerning the ethics of the increasingly fashionable Big Data discourses. It argues that attention should be paid to (1) the vocabulary currently used when discussing the governance of data initiatives; (2) the internal tension between current data initiatives and environmental policies; (3) issues of fair distribution. The article explains how taking into account these aspects would allow for a more responsible behaviour in the context of data storage and production.

Key Passage

The way in which institutions, media and industry speak of data as an immaterial and unlimited resource, the lack of recognition in metaphors like “the cloud” or adjectives like “superabundant”, conceal the material dimensions and environmental factors of data initiatives and data storing behaviour. ()


Big Data, Environmental Impacts, Materiality, Responsibility, Sustainability



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