DISAGGREGATED FOOTPRINTS: An Infrastructural Literacy Approach to the Sustainable Internet

Nicole Starosielski, Hunter Vaughan, Anne Pasek, Nicholas R. Silcox

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, we argue that in order to fully assess the environmental impacts of the internet, we need to view internet infrastructure in its disaggregated parts. This disaggregated view requires infrastructural literacy, a precondition, we show, of a sustainable future for the internet. Our chapter first gives an overview of the different infrastructures that compose the internet and how they traditionally figure into its carbon footprint. From there, we evaluate the phenomenon of edge caching and its environmental implications for Netflix’s streaming services. Finally, we explore the possibility of alternative approaches to infrastructural design. We suggest that a disaggregated approach opens up the possibility to leverage the capacities of specific localities and infrastructures along the network toward a more sustainable global system. At the same time, we show that the environmentalist ethos of situating things locally does not easily translate to digital networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Ecomedia Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781000955590
ISBN (Print)9781032009421
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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