(How) can our digitalized society operate within planetary boundaries?


  • Jan Bieser
  • Vivian Frick
  • Maike Gossen
  • Prof. Dr. Lorenz Hilty
  • Dr. Steffen Lange,
  • Johanna Pohl
  • Friederike Rohde
  • Prof. Dr. Tilman Santarius

This workshop will be hosted by the Junior Research Group Digitalization and Sustainability based at the Technical University of Berlin in cooperation with the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), Berlin and the Informatics and Sustainability Research Group at University of Zurich.


Nowadays, the resources and energy necessary to produce and use digital appliances oftentimes countervail the savings they induce. Furthermore, their usage in everyday life may induce additional consumption such as video streaming or online shopping, which also goes along with energy and resource demand. Thus it currently looks like digitalization might intensify environmental problems, rather than solving them. In this workshop, we want to discuss how digital appliances should be designed to create a more sustainable society. We do this by applying the concept of sufficiency to the context of digitalization. Such a digital sufficiency encompasses (at least) three dimensions:

(1) technical sufficiency, implying that devices and software are designed and used in such a manner that they last for a long time, can be extended and tinkered with, but also that their complexity and resource use doesn’t surpass the purpose they are designed for, meaningnot to crack a nut with a sledge-hammer;

(2) data sufficiency, meaning that software is programmed so that data traffic is as low as possible, respecting privacy as well as minimum energy use;

(3) promoting sufficient lifestyles, entailing that digitalization enables individuals to organize their life in a sufficient manner.

Along these three dimensions of digital sufficiency, we want to address the following questions: What are useful design principles for the three dimensions, and how can they be implemented in practice? How do devices and software need to be designed for longevity? What are software features that reduce data traffic? How exactly can people use digital tools to live sufficiently? And how do we get there?

Workshop aim

In this participatory workshop, we aim to gather participants from academia as well as from industry to jointly develop the vision of digital sufficiency.

Workshop programme

  1. Brainstorming/Gathering Knowledge:
    • What is the relationship between digitalization and the environment?
    • Solutions to use digital tools for sustainable ways of living?
  2. Inputs
    • The relation between digitalization and the environment
    • The concept “digital sufficiency”
  3. Discussion
  4. Working Groups
    • Technical Sufficiency
    • Data Sufficiency
    • Promoting sufficient lifestyles
    • Other aspects 1
    • Other aspects 2
  5. Presentation of group results