Dematerialization Through Electronic Media?

Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 310)


While the traditional roles of the computer as a machine for scientific calculations, text editing, and graphic design are still significant, computers are increasingly perceived as means of accessing information and interacting with other people—i.e., as electronic media. The aim of this chapter is to analyze digital electronic media and their effects on environmental sustainability. Two fields of application are addressed: electronic media that may replace or augment traditional print media such as newspapers or magazines, and videoconferencing as a potential substitute for traveling to a face-to-face meeting or conference. In both cases, the environmental costs of the electronic media are compared to those of their conventional counterparts. The examples show that electronic media can represent an energy-efficient alternative to traditional activities such as long-distance travel. But they can also be added on top of existing activities instead of replacing them. In such cases, a net increase in the environmental impact results. The availability of small, energy-efficient devices being used as electronic media does not guarantee dematerialization. The overall resource use and emissions throughout the life cycle of the media product systems and, more importantly, at the macro level of total global production and consumption need to be considered. To achieve the dematerialization potential of new electronic media solutions, their efficiency needs to be combined with sufficiency; thus additional measures are necessary to turn the dematerialization potential of electronic media into environmental relief.


Electronic media Print media Videoconferencing Virtual meeting Life cycle assessment Environmental assessment 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Measure-IT ResearchBucharestRomania
  2. 2.Division of Environmental Strategies Research FMSKTH Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Centre for Sustainable Communications CESCKTH Royal Institute of TechnologyStockholmSweden
  4. 4.Department of InformaticsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  5. 5.Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and TechnologySt. GallenSwitzerland
  6. 6.Centre for Sustainable Communications CESCStockholmSweden

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