Digital sustainability

Kultur & språk
Naturvetenskap & IT
Samhälle & ekonomi

Ett öppet seminarium arrangerat av GRIDH och forskningsprogrammet DIGARV.

27 apr 2023 - 28 apr 2023
J222 (Stora hörsalen), Humanisten, Renströmsgatan 6, Göteborg
Sista anmälningsdag
19 april 2023

DIGARV och GRIDH, Göteborgs forskningsinfrastruktur för digital humaniora
Anmälan är stängd.


Torsdag 27 april

13.15 Introduktion – Cecilia Lindhé, Pelle Snickars och Anna Näslund Dahlgren

13.30 Annet Dekker, University of Amsterdam: "Please put it somewhere safe" 

14.15 Steven Gonzales Monseratte, MIT: "Clouds for Tomorrow:  Remaking Digital Ecologies for a Sustainable Future"

15.00 Fika

15.30 Malin Thor Tureby, Malmö universitet: "Ethical aspects of (not) digitizing vulnerable collections"

Fredag 28 april

09.00 Carina Westling, Bournemouth University: "The shadow side of software infrastructures"

10.15 Klas Grinell, Göteborgs stad: "Digital relations, democracy and (un)controllability"

11.00 Avslutande panel

12.00 Lunch

Om talarna

ANETT DEKKER: "Please put it somewhere safe" 

Annet Dekker is a curator and researcher. Currently she is Assistant Professor Archival and Information Studies and Compartive Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam and Visiting Professor and co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image at London South Bank University. She has published numerous essays and edited several volumes, among others, Documentation as Art (co-edited with Gabriella Giannachi, Routledge 2022) and Curating Digital Art (Valiz 2021). Her monograph, Collecting and Conserving Net Art (Routledge 2018) is a seminal work in the field of digital art conservation. 


Currently most preservation efforts and approaches for digital art focus on storage: from saving the hard-software or code to ‘innovative’ techniques of storing data in DNA either in liquid, glass or plants, methods that are perhaps closer to migration, another popular approach as well as emulation, virtualization, bit-preservation etc. Yet, these methods cope with the same technical challenges as the art they try to preserve. This situation leads to a preservation dilemma: on the one hand there is an emphasis on keeping digital heritage safe for future research, cultural memory or evidence, and on the other hand, the updating of technical tools and methods poses an increasing burden on organisational infrastructures and methods as well as on the ecological environment. In this presentation I will start by acknowledging the inherent contradiction in digital sustainability, and in turn propose a more sustainable approach for the future of digital preservation that is based on a deep understanding of the complex infrastructures in which digital artworksprosper, and the potential of the notion of 'networks of care' for institutional practices.

STEVEN GONZALES MONSERRATE: Clouds for Tomorrow:  Remaking Digital Ecologies for a Sustainable Future

Steven Gonzales Monserrate is a PhD Candidate in the History, Anthropology, Science, Technology & Society (HASTS) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is an ethnographer of data centers and his dissertation surveys the diverse ecological impacts of computing and digital data storage in New England, Arizona, Puerto Rico, and Iceland. His writing appears in Wired Magazine, Aeon, Popular Science, README, Anthropology News, Anthropology & Humanism, and New Media & Society.  Steven holds an MA in Anthropology from Brandeis University and a BA in Feminist Anthropology from Keene State College. He is also a speculative fiction writer and filmmaker.


Per the 2023 report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the window for radical action on climate change is rapidly closing. All spheres of human activity must be rethought and remade for sustainability. The Cloud is no different. Once thought of as a ‘green’ alternative to the analog data storage systems that preceded it, scholars and investigative journalists have shown that despite claims to the contrary, the Cloud’s ecological footprint is growing; data centers guzzle billions of gallons of water to cool their servers, which accelerates desertification; they proliferate toxic electronic waste that poison soils and watersheds; they emit noise pollution that harms public health; they require vast quantities of land and electricity to operate, pushing vulnerable power grids beyond their limits. Drawing on six years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in data centers in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Iceland, this keynote presents an insider account of our digital ecosystem, revealing a culture of excess and fundamental unsustainability. Inspired by the work of anthropologists, futurists, artists, and speculative fiction writers, the lecture surveys a range of alternative data ecologies for a sustainable tomorrow. 

MALIN THOR THUREBY: Ethical aspects of (not) digitizing vulnerable collections

Malin Thor Tureby is Professor of History. Her currently research interests lie in the history of survivor activism, Jewish women’s history, and the archival and digital practices of cultural heritage institutions. She is presently the PI for the Swedish Research team in the consortium Digital Heritage in Cultural Conflicts (DigiCONFLICT) funded by JPICH & the Swedish National Heritage Board and the PI/PL for the research projects Narratives as Cultural Heritage and Jewish and Woman, both funded by The Swedish Research Council. Among her latest publications are: Migration och Kulturarv [Migration and Cultural Heritage], together with Jesper Johansson; the report Survivors Recounting the Holocaust: Definitions, Collections and Uses of Holocaust ‘Testimony’ in Sweden, 1939-2020 (Forum för levande historia 2020 (in Swedish) and the article ”Digitization, Vulnerability, and Holocaust Collections” (Santander Art and Culture Law Review 2020:2). Thor Tureby is one of three chairs of the oral history and life stories network at the ESSHC the Swedish representative and co-organiser of the NOS-HS Nordic research workshop series: Histories of Refugeedom in the Nordic countries and NORDIC VOICES: The use of oral history and personal memories in public history settings. Thor Tureby worked as an appointed expert to the committee of inquiry on a museum about the Holocaust in Sweden (2019-2020).


International and national policy makers promote digitalization of cultural heritage to nurture cohesion in society and to diversify and democratize the heritage sector. The main argument for policies on digitalization is that digital heritage will increase public and citizen engagement with cultural heritage and that digitizing collections at archives, museums and libraries increase accessibility and creates new opportunities for research. (Prop. 2016/17:116; UNESCO 2016; Council of Europe 2017). In addition, it is often argued that digitizing collections will make available material from groups that have been marginalized in the public discourse and contribute to a more inclusive writing of history. Digitization, however, is a complex and intricate process that depends on a deep knowledge of the non-digital archive and the cultural stereotypes embedded therein. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Sweden saw an upsurge in state-sponsored memory projects pertaining to the country’s controversial and largely unspoken relationship with the Holocaust. The Holocaust memorial in Stockholm, the then Prime Minister Göran Persson’s informational campaign Living History, and the Stockholm International Forum Conferences all demonstrated a heightened interest in the Holocaust—as history, as memory and as educational instrument. Central to these endeavors was the collecting of survivor testimonies. However, the collections that were created in the 1990s, containing hundreds of ego-documents—interviews, letters and pictures—have not been made accessible to the public. Instead, they are hidden away, protected by institutions who deem the archival subjects too vulnerable for public exposure. In these cases, “vulnerability” is often used as the main argument for why Holocaust collections should not be digitized. In this presentation I will discuss the current gap that exists between cultural heritage practice and government policy on digitization, accessibility, and research ethics. By discussing Swedish examples of Holocaust collections that have not been digitized because of internal policies of secrecy and confidentiality, I attempt to demonstrate how discourses about vulnerability affect the ways in which certain archival practices resist policies of accessibility.

CARINA WESTLING: The Shadow Side of Software Infrastructures  

Dr Carina Westling is a digital humanities and cultural studies scholar, specialising in interactive experience design and the interfaces and infrastructures that support them. Her research draws on digital media cultures and their complex relationship with embedded incentivisation mechanisms in multimedia environments. At the heart of her research are questions around how we conceptualise, model and measure human participation in distributed interactive systems across digital and physical materialities. Dr Westling’s research is informed by an ongoing relationship with immersive theatre designers Punchdrunk and extensive professional experience in the creative and digital industries. She is a member of the AHRC Peer Review College, the British Academy ECR Network and the Internet Society. Her publication record is cross-disciplinary and includes sole and collaborative publications in media and cultural studies, digital humanities, HCI/Informatics and health science. She is Creative Director at the Nimbus Group, which produces interactive AI, AR and XR projects including Crucible, a permanent interactive installation for the new Sussex Royal Hospital that will be inaugurated in April 2023. 


King’s Digital Lab was created as a separate entity from the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London in 2016. It inherited the responsibility for managing one hundred digital humanities research assets created over 30 years, spanning complex digital humanities projects, personal research blogs, and experimental research software projects.  

A major audit and cataloguing of the inherited digital humanities assets, their technological needs, relevance, the estimated cost of secure onward hosting, software updates and maintenance, and the available funds of commitment to raising funds to secure their future availability commenced in 2017. It allowed KDL to put half of the legacy projects that it inherited on secure footing with funded software maintenance and hosting, and the other half either archived as stable HTML sites on a dedicated server or gracefully retired.  

An unflinching audit of the necessary resources and cost of creating and maintaining digital humanities projects during and after funded periods enabled us to clearly articulate the resource needs for not just building, but also managing, hosting, and where appropriate, archiving digital humanities assets securely. The insights gained from this process supported KDL’s evolution from an in-house research and technical support entity to a dedicated research software design agency. Based on the projections and test cases produced by the audit, a model for realistic costing of the full software lifecycle was built into costing protocols for new and existing clients, including quotations for research funding applications. 

In a seeming paradox, creating a boundary between KDL and DDH and establishing the Lab as a separate entity allowed KDL to preserve and futureproof a significant body of pioneering digital humanities research that was previously in limbo between lack of funding on the one hand, and reluctance to make executive decisions about its future on the other. It also created an opportunity to generate unique insight into the cumulative resource needs of digital humanities legacy projects over time, which in turn informed the design of processes and protocols for new projects.

KLAS GRINELL: Digital relations, democracy and (un)controllability 

 Klas Grinell, development manager at Gothenburg museums. Historian of ideas interested in heritage politics, cultural theory, digitalization, and democracy. Former director at the Center for European Research at University of Gothenburg, curator of contemporary global issues at the Museum of World Culture, cultural strategist at the City of Gothenburg, board member of Cultural Heritage without Borders, et al. 


Digital curating is increasingly dependent on extensive tracking of users and AI-filtering provided by commercial actors. Massively accessible digitized heritage might in this context risk contributing to increased surveillance and what Hartmut Rosa calls controllability and a numbing of experience. Do we need to re-think how public institutions such as museums can be spaces promoting a sustainably democratic society, and yet be digitally relevant for their audiences?