Un) scaling computing

Ida Larsen-Ledet, Ann Light, Airi Lampinen, Joanna Saad-Sulonen, Katie Berns, Negar Khojasteh, Chiara Rossitto

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The tech industry thinks in terms of scale. Growing, expanding the user base, and developing smaller hardware to cram more processing power into smaller spaces are rarely questioned drivers of digital innovation. Companies with revenue larger than most countries seek planetary monopolies. Mainstream narratives associate big data with useful or good data. But is big always good? Global commercial platforms, such as Airbnb and Uber, are regarded as examples of successful digital technologies by virtue of their global take-up, despite their negative impact on local contexts and communities.

This way of measuring progress purely by size and numbers ignores culture and flattens local contexts into sameness: Scoping technical development through metaphors of growth makes technology design inattentive toward locally relevant ecological relations and eco-social goals. It also misses the possibility that using metaphors of size repeatedly shapes design strategies that are not helpful as societies wrestle with the fallout of environmental change and the need to rethink cultures of production and consumption. Views of technology that consider growing and expanding to be the only processes that matter leave little room for more-sustainable lives and alternative and fairer economies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)72
Number of pages77
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Scale
  • Scaling
  • computing


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