Ecological ethics and the smart circular economy

Hoyng, Rolien (2023) Ecological ethics and the smart circular economy. Big Data & Society, 10 (1). pp. 1-12.

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The corporate discourse on the circular economy holds that the growth of the electronics industry, driven by continuous innovation, does not imperil ecological sustainability. To achieve sustainable growth, its advocates propose optimizing recycling by means of artificial intelligence and sets of interrelated datacentric and algorithmic technologies. Drawing on critical data and algorithm studies, theories of waste, and empirical research, this paper investigates ecological ethics in the context of the datacentric and algorithmically mediated circular economy. It foregrounds the indeterminate and fickle material nature of waste as well as the uncertainties inherent in, and stemming from, datafication and computation. My question is: how do the rationalities, affordances, and dispositions of datacentric and algorithmic technologies perform and displace notions of corporate responsibility and transparency? In order to answer this question, I compare the smart circular economy to the informal recycling practices that it claims to replace, and I analyze relations between waste matter and data as well as distributions of agency. Specifically, I consider transitions and slippages between response-ability and responsibility. Conceptually, I bring process-relation or immanence-based philosophies such as Bergson's and Deleuze's into a debate about relations between waste matter and data and the ambition of algorithmic control over waste. My aim is not to demand heightened corporate responsibility enacted through control but to rethink responsibility in the smart circular economy along the lines of Amoore's cloud ethics to carve out a position of critique beyond either a deontological perspective that reinforces corporate agency or new-materialist denunciation of the concept.

Item Type:
Journal Article
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Big Data & Society
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Research Output Funding/yes_externally_funded
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16 Mar 2023 14:35
Last Modified:
20 Sep 2023 01:59