EPISODE 11: SILICA SIGNALS
As you read this message, light is traveling through millions of miles of silica strands at 186,000 miles per second, transferring data from a server to your eyes. Like the movement of information on the Internet, the storage of information is also physical. One email can produce 0.3 grams of carbon emissions (or equivalent), while one bitcoin transaction can produce 402 kilograms of carbon emissions (or equivalent)—a transaction 20,000 times more resource-intensive than using a credit card. Like microwaves or radio waves, things that are seemingly invisible can often have incredible material effects, especially in the context of a warming planet. Discussions about sustainability are most often centered on physical resources, but what about informational and communication resources? What kind of fuel is our digital infrastructure supported by? When all digital media has a carbon footprint greater than the aviation industry, should we fly to meet people rather than using Zoom, Facetime, or DMs? To reduce our global greenhouse gasses, should there be limits on digital transactions or their carbon footprints? As the world warms, how will the culture of immediate information, communication, entertainment, and consumption transform or be transformed by the built environment?
Anne Pasek is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Media, Culture and the Environment at Trent University. She studies how carbon is communicated and contested within different social formations, including climate denialism, the tech sector, and the arts. She also directs the Low-Carbon Research Methods Group and the Experimental Methods and Media Lab.
Nicole Starosielski is an associate professor of media, culture, and communication at New York University. She is an author or co-editor of over 30 articles and five books on media, infrastructure, and environments, including The Undersea Network (2015), Media Hot and Cold (2021), Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructure (2015), Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment (2016), and Assembly Codes: The Logistics of Media (2021), and she is co-editor of the Elements series at Duke University Press. Starosielski’s most recent project involves working with the subsea cable industry, which lays the transnational links of the Internet, to make digital infrastructures more sustainable.
Mark Wigley is a professor of architecture at Columbia University. He is a historian, theorist, and critic who explores the intersection of architecture, art, philosophy, culture, and technology. His books include Konrad Wachsmann’s Television: Post-Architectural Transmissions, Passing through Architecture: The 10 Years of Gordon Matta-Clark, Cutting Matta-Clark: The Anarchitecture Investigation, Are We Human? Notes on an Archaeology of Design (with Beatriz Colomina), Buckminster Fuller Inc.: Architecture in the Age of Radio, Casa da Música / Porto, Constant’s New Babylon: The Hyper-Architecture of Desire, White Walls, Designer Dresses: The Fashioning of Modern Architecture, and Derrida’s Haunt: The Architecture of Deconstruction. He has curated exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, the Drawing Center, Columbia University, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Power Station of Art. He was the co-curator of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial in 2016 and, most recently, Passing Through Architecture: The 10 Years of Gordon Matta-Clark at the Power Station of Art, Shanghai (2019–20).
Lindsey Wikstrom is the cofounding principal of Mattaforma, a design and research practice, and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Her Core I architecture studio explores the generative potential of material sourcing, commons, and renewability, while her Advanced IV studio focuses on the architectural and urban implications of biodiverse mass timber. Her research has been supported by the SOM Foundation, published in Embodied Energy and Design: Making Architecture between Metrics and Narratives, and exhibited at the XXII Triennale di Milano, Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival. Wikstrom has a forthcoming essay in Cite and a book project with Routledge.
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This session will be led virtually through Zoom, a free video-conferencing software. Participants are encouraged to use a computer, smart phone, or tablet with a camera and Internet access, if possible. Participants may also dial in using a phone line. Participants will receive a Zoom link upon registering.
This event was made possible through a generous gift from Emilio Ambasz. The Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment is a platform for fostering dialogue, promoting conversation, and facilitating research about the relationship between the built and natural environment, with the aim of making the interaction between architecture and ecology visible and accessible to the wider public while highlighting the urgent need for an ecological recalibration.