Author Archives: Qianyu Fang

“Digital Media” is All Material

The last paragraph of the article mentioned an example: “Exploring these entanglements reveals that we carry with us microelectronics devices that are not only hewn from African tungsten, South American copper, and Chinese rare earth elements but that contain the refined remnants of prehistoric life.[1]”

A study collects the information about where does 62 elecments of our phone come from. Top3 iron producers: China (44%), Australia (20%), Brazil (12%); Top3 Copper producers: Chile (30%), China (9%), Peru (8.5%); Top 3 Aluminum producers: China (50%), Russia (7%), Canada (5%); Top 3 Nickel producers: Philippines (21%), Russia (9.5%), Canada (9.5%); Top 3 rare earth producers: China (90-95%), Australia (3-9%), United States (~1-4%).[2]

fig.1 Where do rare earths come from? ( Image from

It makes me think that when we use our cellphones; we are not simply using an object; we are using resources all around the world, which means that we are connected to globalized space. It also means that we are consuming resources generated in the past, which refers to our current life to geological time. All these happen physically, not digitally. We also need to think that if we are using resources generated in the past, the future generation also needs to use resources that are generated today. So potentially, what we are doing is influencing future life. In short, no one is isolated in time and space.

But considering we cannot change history and what we or our society already did, It is worth making more people realize. As a student who studies New Media, which is regarded as “digital media”, we must give up thinking that media is virtuality or immateriality. Instead, We must critically think about material culture in a globalized spatial scales and geological time scales.

About the final project of this course, I would like to make a project that demonstrates to people how material our “digital” media is, and also, how new “New Media” could be in the future context.



[1] Sy Taffel, Technofossile of The Anthropocene.

[2] Where does phone come from?

Digital Media Exists Materially

Thermal manipulation is essential in transforming raw material into media and maintaining media work regularly[1]. When I saw the term “thermal manipulation” for the first time, I was at home with my air conditioner on, and I always appreciate the inventor of air conditioners. After reading the article, I realize that instead of designing for humans who are afraid of heat, it was designed to cool media printers and lithographers in the first place.

I feel surprised how complicated it can be only to maintain the media stable. When I use digital devices on a daily basis, I did not realize the complicated process behind them. Although those screens and devices seem harmless and green, digital media exists materially. It produces heat and makes up of a lot of materials. My former company has a sign next to a printer and papers: If you can send a document digitally, please do not use paper. But is digital documentation more environmentally friendly? We know that using too many papers can harm our forests, but digital communication, documentation, storage, also cause heat produce, waste of earth’s raw material. Which one is a more harmless way for us to do? From fig 1., we can see that electric consumption is increasing[2], so is it a worse way to use digital paper instead of physical?

If we print out a brunch of paper, we feel guilty because we can easily realize that we are wasting energy. But When we post on social media or send something to the “cloud”, we might not feel guilty at all, because what we did just clicking mouse or touch screen. But we actually transform the guilt or responsibility to other people who deal with the engineering, cables, and thermal manipulation[3].

[1]Starosielski, N., 2016. Thermocultures of Geological Media. Cultural Politics, 12(3), pp.293-309.

[2] Francisco Velásquez, Energy & The Internet – How Much Energy Does The Web Consume?

[3]Andrew Blum, What Is The Internet, Really?

Anthrobscene and the Neocolonial

The author of Anthrobscene mentions China as an essential part of the global chains of production and abandonment of media technologies and gives multiple examples. In my opinion, using China as an example is not only because China is a typical country that exists in the Anthropocene, but also due to neocolonial issues caused by Anthrobscene.

Anthropocene, was first defined as relating to the current geological period, also denoting the age in which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. While Anthropocene, is marked by the human ability to move vast quantities of geologic material. Anthrobscene, is another name to describe Anthropocene, but emphasize its obscene part. As Peter mentioned, the environment is always related to media studies. Anthrobscene relates to Issues of energy, which are caused by heavy reliance on polluting forms of nonrenewable energy production and through the various chemicals, metals, media cultural aftereffects of the geological strata.

To conclude how china contributes Anthrobscene is rather easy: China itself lacks raw materials to support industrial development, so importing scrap metals is inevitable. To support the infrastructure of modernizing society, China becomes the largest scrap importer of recycled metal, although the profit margin is less than 1%. However, China has a new restriction policy about reducing the import of scrap metal. Given is a line graph that shows the trend of The recovery of waste nonferrous metals in china between 2014-2018. It is obvious that the quantity of recycling has increased, even reach 111 million tons in 2018. Nevertheless, the trend of import scrap metal has decreased by 36%.

It comes to the worry of neocolonialism: Instead of the previous colonial methods of direct military control, developed countries now use economics and conditional aid to influence a developing country. Shipping their electronic waste to developing countries can be regarded as an example. If not China, there must be some other countries or some other area to pay for electronic garbage.