Critical friendships, technology myths, and the design of just sustainability


The deep entanglement of information technology with our societies has raised hopes for a transition to more sustainable and just communities—communities that phase out fossil fuels, distribute public goods fairly, and support free access to information. In principle, information technology should be able to help. But in practice, we live in a world in which opaque algorithms steer us toward misinformation and unsustainable consumerism.

In this talk, I position the role of information technology in environmental sustainability, social justice, and the intersection of the two, and explain why designing IT for just sustainability is both technically and ethically challenging. I show that the conversation about designing for sustainability and justice in IT is often distorted by a set of myths: deep-seated, flawed narratives that prevent important questions to surface and important conversations to take place. These myths limit our imagination and the practice of technology design.

I will go on to suggest that the field of information can help overcome these barriers because it can be a place to nurture critical friendships: encounters between fields with very different origins and commitments, such as feminist science and technology studies and computer science. These encounters with others on the grounds of information can help those who design overcome the grip of technological myths and forge new paths for information, technology, and design.

Jun 6, 2023 1:15 pm — Jun 6, 2022 2:45 pm

Christoph Becker is a Professor at the Faculty of Information and the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto and directs the Digital Curation Institute. With a background in computer science and informatics, his research today focuses on enacting meaningful change in computing to meet the urgent need for sustainability and social justice (converging in just sustainability) through (1) critical examination of the politics, values, and cognitive processes of design, (2) development of methods and tools for just sustainability design, and (3) design projects to bring forth just sustainabilities in urban contexts. His book Insolvent: How to Reorient Computing for Just Sustainability launches at MIT Press on June 6, 2023 ( Find out more or follow him on mastodon: