The Networked Condition: How To Use the Digital Carbon Calculator

Wed 13 Jul 2022

At the beginning of 2020, Abandon Normal Devices, Arts Catalyst and Fast Familiar began The Networked Condition: Environmental Impacts of Digital Cultural Production, a collaborative research project exploring digital arts through an environmental lens. The project is part of The Accelerator Programme (led by Julie’s Bicycle and Arts Council England), which helps artists to advance their sustainable practice and share insights with their peers and the wider sector.

As part of The Networked Condition we’ve been speaking to artists and arts organisations whose work encompasses digital tools and environmental sustainability or activism, hoping to gain insight into a broad range of ideas and approaches. Alongside a series of case studies, in November 2021 we launched a free-to-use carbon calculator designed to help anyone who wants to better understand and reduce their digital carbon footprint.

Digital Carbon Footprint

The idea of a digital carbon footprint isn’t new; you are probably already aware that the content we make and share in the digital world ultimately has an environmental impact, much like the waste created when physical exhibitions, events or productions take place. However, our digital impact might be less immediately visible to us and so might be easier to forget about.

Being able to accurately assess the impact of our digital production is the first step towards reducing carbon emissions. In the production of digital art, environmental impact can derive from (amongst others):

  • laptops, PCs and tablets
  • networks, such as LAN, WLAN
  • phones and telecoms infrastructure, such as switchboards
  • TVs and projectors
  • data centres
  • printers and paper
  • Information and Communication Technology waste

The Networked Condition Digital Carbon Calculator

In order to better understand and reduce this impact, we came up with a useful tool: The Networked Condition Digital Carbon Calculator. Created in collaboration with Arts Catalyst and Fast Familiar, our free-to-use resource supports artists and arts producers to calculate the impact of past and planned projects, which might include: live-streamed events, in-person digital artworks or other digital events. It can also just be used to measure the likely impact of the video calls you have. 

The tool is most useful for project planning, but can also be used at the end of a project, to calculate its footprint and start to understand how to plan more sustainably in future. 

The Networked Condition Digital Carbon Calculator has been featured as an Accelerator Programme case study in the annual Arts Council England Culture, Climate & Environmental Report 2020/21 in collaboration with Julies Bicycle.

How the Digital Carbon Calculator Works

Simply head to The Networked Condition, enter the site and answer a simple set of questions.

The form is easy to use, and covers two stages of production: Development and Delivery.

All the data you are asked for will be readily available to you; for example, the type and number of computers used to plan the project, the number of meetings held over zoom or the amount of tech used to present the work. No additional research or sums involved!

You will then be presented with a calculation, based on your data. The amount of carbon calculated is presented in kilograms alongside a real-world equivalent to make this quantity more understandable. These estimates are based on the best data available from peer-reviewed academic papers and attributed sources. You are also able to link through to these sources from the website.

In order to better understand how the calculator is being used, and how we can make improvements we have included a short survey which will appear at the point that the calculations are revealed to the user. The survey takes less than 5 minutes to complete with an option to agree to a more in-depth follow up, we would really appreciate your feedback if you can complete the survey.

If you find this tool useful, please share it with your networks.

The Networked Condition is a collaboration between Abandon Normal Devices, Arts Catalyst and Fast Familiar, part of Julie’s Bicycle Accelerator Programme, supported by Arts Council England


Additional Links

Recent Journals

Other Journals