Greening through IT

Tomlinson, B. 2010 (forthcoming). Greening through IT. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Green IT is a field that explores the juncture between two growing trends - the spread of environmental concern across many human communities, and the rapid adoption of digital tools and techniques for manipulating information. Information technology is transforming societies around the world, affecting many different topics from communication between people to the workings of international politics. Green IT brings together these two areas, examining the role of information technology in supporting human responses to the world's current environmental issues. Human minds are not well suited to thinking about problems that occur over long periods of time, large distances, and vast complexity; nevertheless, environmental problems often occur on these scales. By helping bridge from human scales to environmental scales, information technology can help our civilization launch an appropriate response to these critical concerns.

The book provides a human-centered framework for understanding Green IT systems. The first several chapters of the book include a brief summary of the world's environmental issues, a description of various biological and cultural factors that limit humans' ability to respond to these issues, and an examination of how information technology can help us approach the issues more effectively. In particular, the book explores the disconnection between the broad scales of time, space, and complexity across which environmental issues take place and the relatively narrow horizons of human understanding and action. In addition to a broad analysis of these topics, the book also contains numerous examples of Green IT systems, including in-depth analyses of several research projects by the author and his collaborators. By presenting and analyzing these projects using an extended human-centered perspective, the book seeks to understand how Green IT can help people come together to address the environmental concerns currently facing the Earth.

The intent of this book is to help IT researchers and practitioners understand how they can enable human civilizations to move toward environmental sustainability, and help environmentally-minded researchers and concerned citizens see how they can use IT in support of these same goals. This is the first book to explore the ways in which IT broadens human horizons, and thereby can help us orchestrate a viable response to the significant environmental problems currently facing the world.

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