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Making the intangible consequences of data choices tangible

Date Published: 03 December 2021

Members of the public were given the chance to play a new arcade game designed by researchers at Imagination Lancaster this weekend.

In the game, participants navigated an interactive story in which they played a skilled hacker and explored the environmental effects caused by their data footprints and the consequences this has on CO2 emissions and the wider ‘state of the world’.

The game aims to make the intangible consequences of data choices tangible. These may be the choices we all make as active beneficiaries of using the Internet and therefore producers of data, or they may be the choices made by those who design the infrastructure and systems we use, collecting unnecessary data in the background.

“I care deeply about the environment but I have never considered the impact of my data before. Thank you for making me think about it.” Event participant

The research project behind this event is Edge of Tomorrow which aims to improve the acceptability and adoption of more secure and sustainable IoT devices and systems. The project is funded by PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Cybersecurity and works in close collaboration with project partners BBC R&D.

The number of active IoT devices is expected to double in 2020-2025 and with this rapid expansion comes more opportunities for human and machine actors to carry out cyberattacks upon devices and systems. Such attacks can increase both the volume of datafication generated and the amount of energy consumed by the IoT. Crucially, greater energy use results in the release of greater amounts of harmful carbon emissions (CO2) which directly contribute to climate change. The project will raise awareness of the environmental costs of IoT cyber-attacks and datafication at the Edge with the aim of helping society and government progress towards crucial 2050 net-zero decarbonisation targets.

“The project navigates a complex space and focuses on digital interactions and how they are situated in the larger network of things. We do ultimately want people who play the game to ask themselves questions about their online activity, but it’s not about punishing and stopping ourselves from using technology completely, it’s about being more responsible and conscious with the way we use that technology.”

Franziska Pilling, RA on the Edge of Tomorrow project

The event took place in Lancaster Castle and was Imagination Lancaster’s contribution to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Science at Lancaster University: an annual celebration of the social sciences, with this year’s Festival having a strong environment focus to tie in with the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Click here to watch the video  https://twitter.com/JoeBourne/status/1464651955838480386?s=20


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