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Concordia PhD's research paper on 'climate extraction' earns a Prix Relève étoile

University scholars have won 5 graduate Fonds de recherche du Québec prizes in 6 months
February 2, 2021
By Alexander Hackett

headshot of smiling man wearing collared shirt Patrick Brodie: “The main idea behind my paper is that media infrastructures use existing state and corporate arrangements to ‘naturalize’ their presence in various territories.”

2020 was an impressive year for Concordia’s researchers.

Patrick Brodie (PhD 20), who completed his doctorate in film and moving image studies last fall, won December’s Prix Relève étoile Paul-Gérin-Lajoie for his research paper “Climate extraction and supply chains of data.” It was published in the peer-reviewed journal Media, Culture and Society.

The win means that Concordia scholars nabbed five Prix Relève étoile awards in the second half of 2020 alone.

The Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC) confers the Prix Relève étoile Paul-Gérin-Lajoie prize monthly to promote and recognize exceptional research by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in Quebec.

“The increased number of Relève étoiles being given to Concordia-based projects and students is an important indicator of both the quality of these publications and the exceptional Concordia trainees that are moving research forward in meaningful ways,” says Michael Verwey (MA 06, PhD 11), advisor for fellowship development in the School of Graduate Studies.

“In addition to the people and discoveries these awards recognize, we also need to acknowledge the strategic choices Concordia has been making to empower researchers, the research supervisors participating in the initiation and guidance of these projects, as well as all the infrastructure, research centres and departments involved.”

Political scientist Audrey Gagnon, psychology doctoral graduate Kathleen Kennedy-Turner (BA 14, GrCert 19, PhD 20), communications researcher Felicity Tsering Chödron Hamer (BFA 12, MA 15) and information systems engineer Soroosh Shahtalebi were Concordia’s earlier winners in 2020.

Media infrastructure and ‘green’ credentials

Brodie’s work examines the intersections of media infrastructure, the environment and the geopolitics of capital.

“My research looks at how foreign investment has come to shape economic and cultural policy toward media and technology industries, such as internet data centres, in the particular context of Ireland,” he explains.

“The main idea behind my paper is that media infrastructures, especially those built by big tech companies like Amazon and Google, use existing state and corporate arrangements to ‘naturalize’ their presence in various territories. They do so in Ireland by promoting their ‘green’ credentials in spite of their astronomically unsustainable energy use.”

For example, Brodie points out, the Irish state frequently says that Ireland’s “cool” natural climate reduces electricity use and that technology companies are involved in creating new renewable energy sources for their operations.

“But the reality is that the promises of technology companies about data centres — that they bring new infrastructure and prosperity by connecting places to the global digital economy — are largely empty, as these operations tend to employ very few people, drain energy capacity and filter their profits elsewhere.”

Looking ahead

And what’s next for the scholar?

After finishing his PhD dissertation at Concordia last fall, Brodie began a two-year FRQSC Postdoctoral Fellowship at McGill University’s Department of Art History and Communication Studies.

“I’ll be working on my new project about data and energy politics across the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland post-Brexit. I’m also working on turning my dissertation ‘Wild Tides: Media Infrastructure and Built Space in Post-Financial Crisis Ireland’ into a book, which I’ll be shopping to publishers soon.”

Find out more about Concordia’s School of Graduate Studies.


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