Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

CSTPR Noontime Seminar

Materiality of the virtual: Digital technology and the climate crisis?

by Hunter Vaughan, Media Studies in the College of Media, Communication, & Information, University of Colorado Boulder

Abstract: Increasingly integral to many facets of everyday life, digital technology has emerged as a crucial tool for climate science, environmental communication, global environmental movement organizing, and popular culture messaging strategies relating to climate change. However, the digital revolution also has enormous material environmental impacts, and has been a driving force in reshaping global dynamics of resource mining, labor rights violations, greenhouse gas emissions, toxic pollution, and energy infrastructure demands. Dr. Vaughan will address this paradox of the digital era: from undersea cables to orbiting satellites, from Icelandic server farms to digital dumping grounds in Ghana, the digital era is both enabling climate science and climate change activism, and wiring the planet to perpetuate the very anthropogenic practices that have invoked the climate crisis.

Biography: A cultural historian and environmental media scholar, Hunter Vaughan's research, service, and teaching focus on the relationship between media, ethics, social power and the environment.  His most recent monograph, Hollywood's Dirtiest Secret: the Hidden Environmental Costs of the Movies (Columbia University Press, 2019), is an ecocritical and materialist counter-narrative to Hollywood history, merging industry and archive study, production culture studies, textual analysis, sociological approaches to epistemology and power, and environmental studies to analyze the environmental ramifications of film practices. He is co-PI (with Pietari Kaapa, University of Warwick) on an AHRC grant to build a Global Green Media Production Network, based in the UK and Europe and with pilot studies in East Asia, India, and Latin America to facilitate green film production initiatives in conjunction with local media professionals, policy makers, and environmental experts. He is the author of Where Film Meets Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2013); Founding Editor (with Meryl Shriver-Rice) of the interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental Media (Intellect Press); and co-editor with Tom Conley, of the Anthem Handbook of Screen Theory (Anthem Press, 2018). His current scholarship focuses on bridges between environmental humanities, media studies, and social sciences, including a study of the role of digital media in heritage sites and cultural institutions, analyzing the use of screen technologies (such as 3-D projections, immersive media, and augmented reality apps) in the construction of local identity in the era of globalization; a reception study addressing the efficacy of short-form environmental messaging; and a research and outreach project on interactive media, storytelling, and visions of climate futures in education.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm





  • CIRES employees
  • CU Boulder employees
  • General Public
  • NOAA employees
  • Science collaborators


  • Seminar
  • Open to Public



CSTPR Conference Room