Creating digitization in the sense of post growth

Report from the Degrowth Summer School in the Land of Leipzig

This year’s Degrowth Summer School took place at the Klimacamp Leipziger Land. The versatile program also involved our research group on ” Digitalisation and social-ecological transformation ” with the two-day workshop “Attention, digitalisation is coming !?”. In glorious sunshine, the weather showed from its warmest side, matching the climate camp. In heated discussions, the participants explored the connection between digitization and post-growth goals.

A broad field of opportunities and risks

The first day took a closer look at the status quo of digitization: where does it come from, how has it developed so far? Collecting up-to-date narratives and promises of digitization has made it clear that the widespread field of application of digitization can be a long way off – from decentralized energy systems, digital currencies, sharing platforms, automation, social media, new access to education and information, e- Participation, Smart Everything, the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, all the way to compulsory self-driving cars. Conclusion: In almost every area of ​​our lives, the digital collection has held or is predicted this move at least ever. The technologies are constantly evolving. All the more difficult to outline a clear picture of opportunities and risks. For example, in the area of ​​consumption, it has become clear that today, due to the expanded access to information, action knowledge and sustainable consumption, sustainable lifestyles are greatly simplified – in fact, these offerings tend to stay in the niche, while sales-oriented online shops are booming in the double-digit growth area and the fast-paced ones Continue to cheer on consumption. Even though many hopes are linked to digitization, the promotion of sustainability in digital innovations is by no means a matter of course and heavily dependent on the motives of the actors who are currently shaping the digital environment.

From information exchange to data and material battle

So who are the actors who shape the digital spaces? As the age of digitization began, the Internet was initially established as a stable information network for military operations by military and research actors. However, civil society idealists also saw great potential: In the 1960s and 1970s, hackers and activists of the counterculture movement were already fighting against military-industrial power and a life-friendly technology. They saw the Internet as a democratic and emancipatory space in which everyone could participate and which could be freely designed. Well, some 50 years later, a somewhat sobering conclusion can be drawn: admittedly, access to information and networking has increased. At the same time, however, we are seeing monopolization, commercialization, and thus increasing consumption of resource-intensive goods and services through the Internet, which is largely dominated by a few commercial actors. In addition, data protection still remains unresolved, as network policy platforms never tire of stressing. In their current form, digital spaces are characterized by consumer incentives and surveillance risks. The thesis that digitization in its current direction would contribute to a more sustainable world seems daring from this perspective.

Conviviality and sufficiency: how digitization can become post-growth friendly

On the second day of the workshop, the focus shifted to the design of sustainable digitization. On the one hand, three guiding principles from the book “Smart Green World” by Steffen Lange and Tilman Santarius were discussed together. Under the premise that society and politics must make digitization much stronger, they propose digital sufficiency, consistent data protection and public interest orientation as guiding principles for sustainable digitization. Following on from that, it was then concretely about the design of digital technologies. The concept of convivial, ie life-friendly technique of Andrea Vetter shows on the basis of effects on interpersonal relationships, access, self-determination, interaction with the biological environment and resource consumption on the different social, social and environmental impact of technology. The group carried out this over the concept work New Economy provided exercise on the example of the smartphone. The result showed that there is still room for improvement in the life-friendly design of digital devices.

Billing with the smartphone – the workshop participants were in the red, especially in ecological, but also social effects

Invitation to join in the co-design

Due to the extent of the topic, the participants went home with more questions than answers. If and how digitization can contribute to a post-growth society; In any case, this question will continue to accompany us in the future. It became clear that it is high time to change the current digital trends, to roll up the sleeves and to become active.

A broad social debate on which aspects of digitization we want to implement for a sustainable future is long overdue. Above all, it is important to increase the diversity of the design actors and not leave the field to commercial players. This is what the nine sponsoring organizations of the conference “Bits & Trees – The Conference for Digitization and Sustainability” thought. Therefore, on November 17 and 18, they invite the communities of sustainability and techie movements to address these very questions. If you feel like joining in the design of digitization, the event is highly recommended. As participants, but also as active designers: the Call for Participation is still open until 19.8.18 and we are looking forward to receiving contributions, especially from the post-growth movement!


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