Monday, 16 March 2009

How Green is Web 2.0?

One issue I don't think we've addressed so far is the environmental implications of Web 2.0 and associated technologies.

This is a matter which exercises me quite a lot -- though I don't want to sound as if I'm trying to be greener-than-thou about it. We all have to have computers for our work: and if you've got all that expensive hardware on hand then it makes sense to get as much use out of it as possible. Similarly, I accept the argument that the virtual communication facilitated by new technology can cut down on unnecessary travelling and paper use (providing we're disciplined about such things as not printing emails).

What concerns me more is all the gadgets one can use in conjunction with Web 2.0 technologies, and their built-in obsolescence. I already have a PDA that I can't fully use any more because it's not compatible with Vista (and making it compatible is beyond my technical abilities). It took me a long time to decide to get an IPod and a digital camera: in each case I wanted one, but wasn't sure -- especially after the PDA experience -- that I would use it enough to justify the purchase. I now sometimes think I'd like an IPhone, but -- similarly -- don't feel that I can really justify depleting the planet's resources that little bit more.

This debate in my head has also been made more complicated by the fact that the IPod -- which I acquired only last autumn -- has proved to be an unexpected delight and has enriched my day to day life to a surprising extent. And I have also taken to carrying my digital camera around everywhere in case I see something good for this blog. Who said 'Enjoy blogging, but don't let it rule your life'?

But what do other people think about the green implications of what we're doing? This really does worry me.


  1. Not to forget the consequences of 'cloud' computing: all the blogs and mindmaps and delicious bookmarks are held on huge server farms which consume tons of electricity. Google alone uses about USD 2 million a month in electricity charges...

    But some gadgets/innovations actually save the environment, eg not having to print photo to look at them. I have now started distributing seminar readings as PDF files, which the students can read on-line rather than having to print them, and I also started collecting research articles as PDFs rather than paper copies.

    I can see the obsolescence aspect: I've got an old Psion, which of course I cannot sync to anything, and the cable for connecting it to a PC has a serial port (old-style, pre-USB). My old digital camera saves onto floppy disks (ideal at the time, but now obsolete), and I've still got a printer with a parallel port at home.

  2. Enjoy your life, but don't let it rule your blogging.