This is the process and result of a project in the System Oriented Design master course at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design. The course is based on designing with a systemic mindset and to look at the cause and effect in why things turn out the way they do.

In the project we have looked into storage of data and the infrastructure that surrounds it. We’ve spent time on
understanding the system and mapping out the impacting factors with the use of design methodology and system thinking. This has resulted in findings related to the social and environmental consequences connected to data, data storage and the Internet focusing on the direct and physical impacts of these systems. 

There’s a great deal of actors operating within this area, but it is challenging to locate a responsible authority covering all fields. There is also a vast amount of information about the direct impacts of the increasing data amount and consumption in the world, but there’s a lack of public discussions on how to handle this, both today and in the future.

Our contribution is to uncover the data challenges and make them more visible for people and encourage discussions. To communicate the challenges about data use, energy consumption and sustainability we have established a fictive ministry; The Ministry of Technology (Teknologidepartementet). We have used established, low threshold channels like Instagram and Wikipedia, and put up posters around the city, to spread the message and provoke to get reactions. Our aim is not to come up with one answer or solution to the challenges, but to create conversations and raise awareness for the development we are facing in our digital future.

 We started this project knowing almost nothing, not even that the topic existed. As the process has developed we have gained insight in a complex theme, but we have still just touched the surface. As we have gained knowledge we’ve also learned to know that the decision makers and the people in the ICT-industry are oblivious to the subject at hand. Environmental issues as a consequence of the expanding digital society are monumental and needs to be addressed. 

Throughout the process we have strived to get reactions from various key political institutions and professionals in the industry. The reactions have been few and far between and almost without exception focused on privacy and data security. Environmental challenges and impact does not seem to be of significance. The statement we got from the current responsible Ministry regarding the topics of environment, economy, privacy and security was evasive. 

Our campaign set out to provoke reactions in the general public as they have major influence on the industry. And at the same time we reached out to political parties, environmental organizations and other organizations and individuals convenient to the purpose through social media.

Bjarte A. Misund & Theodor Henriksen

Birger Sevaldson, Manuela Aguirre, Linda Blaasvæ, Adrian Paulsen & Mosse Sjaastad (AHO 2014)