MLA 2020 Session: Climate Change, Technology and Academic Responsibility

Universities have been aggressive in their efforts to go green, to develop eco-conscious practices, and more importantly, to capitalize on the global thrust for sustainability and climate change mitigation. These efforts have also presented opportunities to innovate and promote curricula, strategic planning and institutional advancement around these areas of research and development.

As an example, the MIT Media Lab refers to its research efforts on climate change as “antidisciplinary.” The suggestion here is that true efforts by universities to make tangible contributions to the conversations and actions on climate change require a paradigm shift away from disciplinary limitations and towards experimentation with unlikely intersections of technology, disciplinary theory and methods, and environmental justice activism. This MLA panel is an attempt to think more actively through this idea by centering the place of the university and its technologies in climate change efforts. The aim is to address academia’s participation in environmental issues with a view to explore avenues for a green academia.

Some of the questions we want to engage in this panel include: how can universities and academics harness the power and potential of technology to improve the social, economic and environmental health of communities they serve within and outside the institutions? What are the environmental benefits, but also the costs of digital work? What are the unacknowledged environmental factors at play in academia?  

This panel aims to explore the place of academia in the complex push and pull of forces working to imagine sustainable futures against the clock of global warming and capitalist-driven skepticism. Proposals are invited on topics that consider if and how digital humanities and its place within the university structure can move us closer to sustainable dialogue, higher education models and a more just society within and beyond academia.

Topics might include:

  • climate change, digital humanities and academic infrastructure
  • the future of knowledge production in the context of climate change
  • climate violence, Indigenous communities and ethics of academic research
  • universities, land use and environmental impacts
  • environmental racism
  • the role of academia in environmental justice
  • the role of digital humanities and responses to disaster
  • e-waste and the anthropocene


Christina Boyles (Michigan State U)

Schuyler Esprit (U of the West Indies, Open Campus)

Charles LaPorte (U of Washington)


Schuyler Esprit (U of the West Indies, Open Campus)