Planting Trees with Digital Media: Reimagining Ecological Care

Desai, Shruti. 2019. Planting Trees with Digital Media: Reimagining Ecological Care. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In the last decade, planting trees through the internet, social media, and web and mobile applications has become popularised as a means to express care and consideration for the earth and distant others. The advent of digital tree planting coincides with the rise of environmental marketing and agendas for sustainable development that stress the good of trees for addressing environmental change, alongside swelling interest in everyday digital technologies and consumption as mediums for environmental action.

Against this backdrop, the thesis critiques how digital tree planting campaigns are promoting ecological care at a distance. It explores how such campaigns represent trees as valuable and situate them in relations of care for others and the environment. This critical exploration develops through an investigation of how particular uses of digital media technologies are framed as facilitating planting and care. Three empirical cases are chosen, which shed light on the three overarching digital strategies that companies and organisations are employing for this purpose: (i) online shopping; (ii) apps, games, and crowdfunding sites; and (iii) cryptocurrencies, credit cards, e-cards, and e-donations. A set of corresponding campaigns is analysed for each case using multimodal ecocritical discourse analysis, which attends to trees as subjects of environmental discourse and practice.

The resulting case discussions illustrate how the promotion of various kinds of digital consumption affects the kinds of relations with, and regard for, trees that can be imagined. In so doing, it is argued, the campaigns also draw selective lines of ecological connection between contributing individuals and distant others and environments, provoking productive questions about the terms of caring that are being forged.

Intellectually, the critique unfolds through a conversation between ecological ethics and media and cultural studies, and is variously inflected by environmental anthropology, critical studies in marketing and consumption, and geography.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


care, environment, trees, digital, ethics, media, ecological, consumption, promotional

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


30 April 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Jun 2019 13:48

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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