The Image at the End of the World

The Image at the End of the World research strand analyses the photographic image as computational object, as data circulating within networks, and its ecological effects.

A graphic map over a pink and purple background, at the center of it there's a circle where it says 'less > more'. A great number of arrows depart from the circle to terms such as 'technologies', 'aesthetics' or 'communities and practices'.

The Image at the End of the World

The Image at the End of the World research strand analyses the photographic image as computational object, as data circulating within networks, and its ecological effects.

The project acknowledges the materiality and weight of this data, its carbon footprint, the hardware required to transmit, receive and view it, how these are produced, consumed and disposed of and asks what alternative practices currently exist that try to reduce its impact on the planet.

ICT’s carbon footprint is estimated to make up 3% to 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The networked image plays a central role in this, as it has become a commodity that is responsible for 80% of network traffic. Streaming media is currently (2021) responsible for 1% of global greenhouse emissions.

The project refuses the rhetoric of progress and a dismissal of alternatives based on scalability and universality and instead focuses on alternatives, existing practices that aim at providing situated solutions.

In partnership with the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image, based at the London South Bank University, Marloes de Valk was appointed as a Doctoral Researcher to study the potentials of alternative media ecologies on community-run servers and networks. She will engage with and analyse practices surrounding non-profit, artistic and activist servers, maintained by communities to suit their specific, often local needs, using existing networking tools and protocols as well as developing their own.

The title of the project references Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing's book 'The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins', published by Princeton University Press in 2015.

Selected Activities & Publications

Marloes de Valk, A pluriverse of local worlds: A review of Computing within Limits related terminology and practices (2021) in Workshop on Computing within Limits

Marloes de Valk, Refusing the Burden of Computation: Edge Computing and Sustainable ICT (2021) in APRJA: Research Refusal

Marloes de Valk interview with Joana Moll on 4004, her new commission by The Photographers' Gallery digital programmes and the role of artists and the art world in the transition to a less polluting society. Read it on unthinking.photography 

Marloes de Valk interview with Nestor Siré on the development of alternative networks that arose in Cuba, visual culture on SNET, as well as the social and physical aspect of digital networks. Read Part I & Part II on unthinking.photography