The Routledge Handbook of Ecomedia Studies, Taylor & Francis Group, 2023
In this chapter, we argue that in order to fully assess the environmental impacts of the internet, we need to view internet infrastructure in its disaggregated parts. This disaggregated view requires infrastructural literacy, a precondition, we show, of a sustainable future for the internet. Our chapter first gives an overview of the different infrastructures that compose the internet and how they traditionally figure into its carbon footprint. From there, we evaluate the phenomenon of edge caching and its environmental implications for Netflix’s streaming services. Finally, we explore the possibility of alternative approaches to infrastructural design. We suggest that a disaggregated approach opens up the possibility to leverage the capacities of specific localities and infrastructures along the network toward a more sustainable global system. At the same time, we show that the environmentalist ethos of situating things locally does not easily translate to digital networks.