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Digital Rebound – Why Digitalization Will Not Redeem Us Our Environmental Sins

Reference Type: 

Conference Paper

Coroama, Vlad, and Mattern, Friedemann. 2019. “Digital Rebound – Why Digitalization Will Not Redeem Us Our Environmental Sins.” In Proceedings of the 6th international conference on ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S 2019). Lappeenranta, Finland.

Digitalization as a technological phenomenon of the 21st century has the power to redeem most environmental sins of our 20th century technology. This seems to be a popular belief shining through many of the optimistic media reports on digitalization. We believe, however, that this mindset is far too simplistic and counterproductive. The many indirect economic and social effects of digitalization, which turn efficiency gains into increased resource consumption, are often ignored. We discuss these countereffects in general, as well as their digitali-zation-specific flavor (i.e., the digital rebound). We give exam-ples of digital rebound, and also analyze several conditions that seem to lead to its eschewal. Altogether, we try to make the case for a faithful consideration of the rebound effects of digitalization.

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