SHARECITY Working Paper 3: Disruptive technologies?

Published by SHARECITY on the 5th June 2018.

SHARECITY Working Paper 3

Weymes, M. and Davies, A. R. (2018) Disruptive technologies? Scaling relational geographies of ICT-mediated surplus food redistribution, SHARECITY working paper 3, Trinity College Dublin.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is increasingly mooted as a disruptive and even empowering tool for improving food systems, not least with respect to food waste prevention and the redistribution of food surplus. However, detailed analysis of the practices and impacts of such ICT-mediated redistributive mechanisms is limited. In response, this paper draws on a collaboratively designed database and interviews with key stakeholders in a redistribution ecosystem in order to critically examine how ICT is being used to augment surplus food redistribution, and to interrogate the contention that its role in the process is disruptive and empowering. First, the landscapes of ICT-mediated surplus food redistribution initiatives across 100 cities are mapped, detailing their location, form, function and ICT-mediation, followed by an in-depth analysis of one transnational ICT-mediated surplus food redistribution initiative, FoodCloud, who has matched thousands of retailers and charities and redistributed nearly 10,000 kilograms of surplus food across the UK and Ireland since 2014. Although ICT has been a necessary element in their rapid scaling and radical disruption of the landscape of surplus food redistribution, particularly within Ireland, this research finds that ICT alone is insufficient to build and maintain the required relationalities between donors and recipients, and systemic restructuring of agri-food systems to eliminate food waste and food insecurity is not resolvable by a technical fix. Ultimately, the impact of ICT-mediated surplus food redistribution efforts on state, market and society is still emerging and requires longitudinal analysis and agreed systems of assessment to capture both the affect and effects of ICT-mediated surplus food redistribution.

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