The Lives and Afterlives of Plastic

A nearly carbon-neutral conference held entirely online between June 26th and July 14th, 2017.

It’s our great pleasure to welcome participants from around the globe to the “Lives and Afterlives of Plastic” conference. This event was conceived as a forum to facilitate and an interdisciplinary dialogue on the social and environmental issues that surround plastic. We hope that the work done at this conference will encourage collaborations that cross boundaries between the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities.

This conference is fully online, and aims to be nearly carbon neutral. While traditional conferences involve academics flying from all over the world to a specific venue, emitting huge amounts of fossil fuels into the stratosphere, an online format means that there are no carbon costs associated with transportation. There are still significant ecological issues surrounding the mineral extraction, manufacturing, waste disposal, and energy costs of the computational and networking technologies required for an online conference. However, unlike the carbon emissions associated with travel to a venue for a conference, the costs associated with computers, cameras, and undersea fibre-optic cables do not correspond to a one-off event; they will continue to be used long after the conference finishes. Indeed, when UCSB attempted to calculate the relative carbon costs of online and in-person conferences, their conclusion was that an online event reduced the carbon footprint by around 99%.

For each of the three weeks the conference is live, there will be one keynote speaker and several panels running. Each panel will have its own webpage consisting of the video presentations that have been submitted by presenters. Each panel will go live on the week scheduled in the conference programme. Each panel of video presentations will be accompanied by a comments section. The comments section for each panel will be open during the week that panel is programmed to go live. After that week, we are not expecting presenters to be checking the page for comments to respond to, and hope the focus of the conference moves towards the next set of panels. This means that presenters are able to receive more substantive feedback on their presentations than is common at traditional conferences. Following the third week of the conference, we will have a plenary discussion, with the aim of catalysing future collaborations and reflecting upon the format of the online conference.

We hope these discussions open up new conversations, perspectives and debates about the lives and afterlives of plastics.

‘Lives and Afterlives of Plastic’ Programme

Comments 4

    1. Thank you for this link Daniel. Welcome to the conference! The impact on contributors and visitors will no doubt be significant. Absolutely stunning! Is this a colleague of yours?

  1. Hello there ! Thank you so much for this awesome conference project, I am so happy to be able to follow it from Switzerland !

    I am a socio-anthropologist and artist, making creations with plastic waste I find on the shores of Lake Leman in Switzerland to raise awareness on waste in nature and consumerism issues in a more creative way.

    You can have a look at my work on !

    1. Hi Emilie. Thanks for sharing your work with us. I really enjoyed the still life photography. Hope you continue to enjoy the conference!

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