Material Concerns – Part 3 – Digital Art

person with digital background

Instant Connection

Sharing art online in some ways is the ultimate in eco-friendly. You can make an image and disseminate it around the world immediately. Wherever you happen to be in the world, someone on the other side can see your work and have a reaction to it. There is no other way of making art that shares so broadly and so quickly. Aside from the initial investment in equipment for creating, sharing and broadcasting you are not generating multiple copies that require materials.

However the materials used to create all the computers that run the internet leave a pretty big mark on the landscape and require constant energy to run and maintain. Minerals are mined and transported, refined, then manufactured into parts that are assembled into electronic devices, packaged, marketed and transported. There’s a lot that is kept opaque about the manufacturing and labor practices. The devices require energy to run as well as servers around the world to share art. The digital world in total is responsible for about 9% of green house gas emissions.

There is the additional concern about AI and the manufacturing of visions by computers. Algorithms can be fed copies of an artist’s original ideas and then replicate new “art” in their unique style. This is causing concern in the art community and there is worry that work will be taken away from illustrators and people who create visual ideas for a living. It is already difficult for artists to survive financially because artists in general have not been fairly compensated for their work, and sometimes are even expected to work for free or for “promotional value” and because they enjoy making art and would do it anyway. At the end of the day, artists need to eat and have a place to live like everyone else and free promotion and giving your art and time away is not going to put food on the table.

People are spending more and more time in front of screens and less outside. This has an impact on quality of life. Being out in nature has been shown to improve mental health and well-being. Having connection with friends and family in person is very beneficial. We miss out on these when we sit alone in front of a screen. Of course, I see the irony of me sitting here in front of my screen typing this in order to share it with someone else sitting in front of theirs. It’s important for us to find a balance between these realms. There is a lot of value in sharing your ideas on the world stage via the internet, but it’s also a good idea to step away, put down the phone, go for a walk, make some art with your hands and give someone a hug.


Written by jennalex

Artist and designer who explores the relationship between the natural world and the digital world and aims to create art and design that expands people's consciousness and creates meaningful experiences.

January 18, 2023