Christoph Becker

Associate Professor at the Faculty of Information and the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto and directs the Digital Curation Institute
Christoph Becker is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Information and the School of the Environment at the University of Toronto and directs the Digital Curation Institute. With a background in computer science and informatics, his research today focuses on enacting meaningful change in computing to meet the urgent need for sustainability and social justice (converging in just sustainability) through (1) critical examination of the politics, values, and cognitive processes of design, (2) development of methods and tools for just sustainability design, and (3) design projects to bring forth just sustainabilities in urban contexts. His book Insolvent: How to reorient computing for just sustainability will appear at MIT Press in 2023 (

Prof. Beckers work is supported by grants from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Ontario Research Fund. Previously, it was funded by the European Commission and by agencies in Germany and Austria. Prof. Becker has also consulted for the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Before joining the University of Toronto, he developed and coordinated international consortia of universities, cultural heritage organizations and commercial partners and created decision support tools for digital curation, some of which won a number of awards. As Director of the Digital Curation Institute at the University of Toronto, he now brings together graduate students, appointed fellows, faculty colleagues and partners to conduct research at the intersection of digital curation and systems design (
Talk: Designing for Just Sustainability: Is Computing Insolvent?
The deep entanglement of information technology with our societies has raised hopes for a transition to more sustainable and just communities — a just transition to societies that phase out fossil fuels, distribute public goods fairly, allow free access to information, and waste less. In principle, computing should be able to help. But in practice, we live in a world in which opaque algorithms steer us toward misinformation and unsustainable consumerism.

In this talk, I will focus first on how computing understands its role in sustainability and justice. I position the role of information technology and computing in environmental sustainability, social justice, and the intersection of the two, and explain why designing IT for just sustainability is both technically and ethically challenging. I show how the dominant frame of thinking in computing is conceptually insufficient to address our current challenges, and why computing continues to incur societal debts it cannot pay back. I then suggest how we can reorient design perspectives in computer science to better align with the values of sustainability and justice.

I will argue that computing can be aided by critical friends—disciplines that draw on critical social theory, feminist thought, and systems thinking—to make better sense of its role in society. Finally, I will give examples that demonstrate that it is possible to fuse critical perspectives with work in computer science, showing new and fruitful directions for computing professionals and researchers to pursue.