Digitalisation, sustainable industrialisation and digital rebound : – Asking the right questions for a strategic research agenda

Kunkel, Stefanie and Tyfield, David (2021) Digitalisation, sustainable industrialisation and digital rebound : – Asking the right questions for a strategic research agenda. Energy Research and Social Science, 82: 102295. ISSN 2214-6296

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Digitalisation is likely to change established economic development processes. This raises questions about the distribution of the potential welfare gains from industrialisation highlighted by, among others, the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 ‘sustainable industrialisation’. In parallel, industrialisation and digitalisation must be made environmentally sustainable if other pressing sustainability goals, such as climate change mitigation (SDG 13), are to be met. Yet, under the current political and economic system, efficiency gains in material resources and energy associated with digitalisation are prone to aggregate to macro-level growth (‘digital rebound’) that may exacerbate ecological harm of industrialisation, rather than alleviating it. In this article, applying the CPERI/CSPK approach (cultural political economy of research and innovation/complex systems of power-knowledge approach), we argue that digital rebound should be a central research parameter in research on digitalisation and sustainability. Thinking strategically about different models of digitalization, which we call the ‘human-machine associational model’ and the ‘machinic micro-efficiency model’, may enable not only change in the trajectory of digitalisation itself. Yet, it could simultaneously but indirectly address the dominant regime of political economy at system-level, which will either propel or contain digital rebound. We conclude the article by opening up lines of enquiry, for both research and practice to approach a ‘system-questioning’ model of digitalisation.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Energy Research and Social Science
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Energy Research and Social Science. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Energy Research and Social Science, 82, 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2021.102295
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? digitalizationdigital reboundsustainable industrializationpolitical economy approachsustainable development goals (sdgs)green growthdegrowthrenewable energy, sustainability and the environmentenergy engineering and power technologynuclear energy and engin ??
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Deposited On:
01 Jun 2022 10:35
Last Modified:
12 Feb 2024 00:42