Call for Articles - Special Issue on Information Technology and the Environment


Rebecca Slayton  and Nathan Ensmenger are putting together a special issue of the journal Information and Culture on Information Technology and the Environment. Here is the call for papers:

Information technology has long played an important role in structuring relationships between humans and their environment. In recent decades, digital information and communications technologies have been heralded as the key to cutting carbon emissions through “smart” electric power grids, improved supply chain management, and other cybernetic visions. Computerized models and sensors have shaped and transformed ways of representing and intervening in the natural world, from efforts to study and manage localized eco-systems, to global climate modeling and proposals for geoengineering. While many environmentalists view computing as a key to protecting the natural environment, others have underscored the environmental damage done through global practices of mining, production, and waste disposal in the computing industry. This special issue aims to deepen understanding of the historically contingent and changing ways that information technology mediates between social and natural worlds.

We invite submissions of papers that address the role of information and communications technologies in structuring human and social experience of the environment in any historical period, including the contemporary one. Information and communications technologies are broadly defined and may include non-digital and non-electronic systems. We are particularly interested in papers responding to the following questions:

  • Has the digital turn in environmental studies transformed conceptions of local and global environment, and if so how?
  • How should we weigh environmentally-friendly uses of ICT against the significant levels of natural exploitation and waste by the global ICT industry?
  • How has the late modern environmental movement influenced the production and use of information technology?

Target dates

To propose a paper for inclusion in the special issue, please submit a short abstract (500 words or less) to by January 15, 2016. Full papers will be peer-reviewed by at least two external reviewers, and will be due for review by April 30, 2016. Authors may be invited to present their research at a workshop in the summer of 2016. Final papers that are accepted for publication will be due for copyediting by December 1, 2016.