Accepted Paper:

Data Metabolisms, Waste Heat & Speculative Futures: Investigating Waste Heat, Sustainability and Climate Change  


Stephanie Creighton (York University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is an exploration of how meanings of climate change, energy, waste and sustainability are negotiated. As a preliminary investigation of a data centre in Paris, France, it asks how actors produce understandings of and speculations about climate change, energy, waste and sustainability.

Paper long abstract:

Bringing together anthropological studies of energy, infrastructure and the environment this paper is an exploration into how meanings of climate change, energy, waste and sustainability are negotiated by a variety of actors such as corporations, scientists, government bodies, computer servers, big data and heat. This paper engages closely with how the concept of "energy" has been used by anthropologists and their interlocutors and seeks to critically engage with current debates around "energy crisis" and the way that this notion of crisis is addressed by corporations and scientists. As a point of departure, this paper looks at the eco-efficiency and heat recovery program implemented by a data centre located near Paris, France. This site is unique in that the waste heat recovered from the data centre is used to heat a Climate Change Arboretum where researchers experiment with plants to evaluate survival in climate change conditions. Research in the arboretum is conducted by the French National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA). As the INRA is a government institution, this collaboration provides an interesting opportunity to explore the effects of public-private partnerships on both political and corporate environmental policy. Central to this project is a concern with the materiality of 'big data', energy and heat - a process that I call "data metabolism".

Panel T124
Energy Beyond Crisis: Energetic Bodies, Ecologies, and Economies