Category Archives: CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Simply Opaque

Minimalism

In the last years, minimalistic design has been facing a great decline in its appeal to both designers and consumers. The shift from this 50-year-old trend has philosophical roots and it is related to the way designed objects mediate and filter reality.
Minimalistic design is often the result of a functionalist approach. Every finalized element has been passing through a series of selecting processes and all the rest has been cleared away for it has been labeled as irrelevant. In other words, to make the object interface or surface as simple as possible, the designer reduces reality into a metaphor with limited prescribed ways of interpretation and action. As a result, the sometimes over-simplified external layer has no clues of the technological complexity hidden behind and within itself. The simplicity of contemporary design is a property of the surface or, using Tommaso Labranca’s words, only a lie. [1]

Veil of Maya

The reason why maximalism is on the rise is to be found in the fact that it respects the complexity of reality, whereas minimalism acts as a filter where accessibility is obtained through opacity. When the general user interacts with an object, he does not need to know what is behind and within it: consequently, a veil of Maya is put on these aspects for the sake of simplicity. Indeed, Mattew Fuller and Andrew Goffey quote Jean Baudrillard’s The System of Objects while asserting that certain recessiveness is often a crucial aspect of the efficacy of certain design objects. [2]

Camouflage

This argumentation can be applied to the entire mediasphere. As the computer scientist Bran Ferren defined it, “technology is stuff that doesn’t work yet,” [3] and the remaining, what is smoothly working and it does not need to be understood by the general user, is consequently infrastructure. [4] Indeed, media infrastructure is deeply characterized by dynamics of obscureness and difficulty of accessibility: as Bruno Latour suggests, any technology that is taken for granted for its near impossibility of failure becomes opaque, [5] since the user is not supposed to understand the mechanisms behind and within the object anymore.
However, this opacity can take shape in different ways. As Fuller and Goffey point out, “black boxing is perhaps too clear a term, for boxes are rather too sharply edged to describe all kinds of operations or practices of mediation.” Sometimes, it is more of a grey “cognitive camouflage” that marks everything that is intended to be uniformly dull and uninteresting, making the process of knowing boring. [2] In other cases, secrecy is deliberately the modus operandi of companies such as Google or Amazon, whose “data centers are information infrastructures hiding in plain sight.” [6]

Maximalism

The more a technology works, the more complex it becomes due to both its intrinsic developments and to the eco-socio-relational implications, since more people are adopting it in their daily life, evolving into infrastructure. The combination of growing complexity and the need for general accessibility generates the necessity of minimalism: reassuring (but not realistic) simple surfaces and interfaces let the users focusing on other issues. Maximalism is then the aesthetic reaction that denounces the limits of this mechanism; whereas media archaeology has the task of discerning structures of power through technological and industrial analysis behind the metaphors and the imaginaries that media companies provide. [6]


Notes:

[1] Tommaso Labranca, Andy Warhol era un coatto. Vivere e capire il trash, Roma, Castelvecchi (1994)

[2] Mattew Fuller and Andrew Goffey, Evil Media, MIT Press (2012)

[3] Douglas Adams, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet, The Sunday Times (29th August 1999)

[4] Jamie Allen, Critical Infrastructure, Aprja (28th February 2014)

[5] Bruno Latour, On Technical Mediation, Common Knowledge, #2 (1994)

[6] Jennifer Holt and Patrick Vonderai, Where the Internet Lives from Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, University of Illinois Press (2015)

The Gods must be crazy

The film ´The Gods must be crazy´ tells about San tribe living in Kalahari desert,  away from industrial civilisation. One day, a glass Coca-Cola bottle is thrown out of an airplane by a pilot and falls to the ground unbroken. Initially, San people assume the bottle to be a gift from their gods, just as they believe plants and animals are, and find many uses for it. Unlike other bounties, however, there is only one glass bottle, which causes unforeseen conflict within the tribe. As a result, Xi, a member of the tribe,  decides to make a pilgrimage to the edge of the world and dispose of the divisive object. (1)

The film criticizes the features of Western culture, the lack of community, and the culture of matter. While it ridicules Western culture through comedy, it raises us ethical as well as practical questions: how legitimate is it to take our own internet or culture to other cultural areas, what are the motives for cultural export and digitalization, and what are its implications?

  • San
    Bushmen

GLOBALIZATION

Globalization has accelerated since the 18th century thanks to advances in transportation and communications technology. Globalization is generally divided into three main areas: economic, cultural, and political globalization. Building the Internet in developing countries affects all three sectors. The Internet and mobile phones have been significant factors in globalization and have continued to create interdependence and economic and cultural activity around the globe. (2)

Globalization means taking on the positive sides of the world, but globalization is also sparking a debate about Westernisation. Democracy, fast food, and American pop culture can all be examples that are considered Western in the world. According to the publication “Theory of the Globe scrambled by Social network: a new Sphere of Influence 2.0” published by Jura Gentium (University of Florence), social media dominates the growing role in Westernization. A comparison to Eastern realities that decided to ban American social media (such as Iran and China with Facebook, Twitter) signifies a political will to avoid the Westernization of their own population and the way they communicate. 

Globalization also involves challenges such as global warming, water and air pollution, overfishing and the unequal distribution of raw materials and resources, as well as the mindsets created by colonialist thinking.

In his book The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World, Kishore Mahbubani calls for national interests to be balanced with global interests and power to be shared. (3)

 

EQUALITY

The gender gap is global. In several European countries, two thirds of Internet users are men. In Brazil, men control the Internet with 75 percent of users, in China with 93 percent, and in Arab countries with 96 percent.

The linguistic and cultural gap is also significant. Although English is spoken by only six percent of the world’s population, 80 percent of websites are in English. Thus, for the majority of the world’s population, the majority of the Internet is completely inaccessible or only partially comprehensible. (4)

In some places, only the rich have access to the Internet in developing countries.

Illiteracy is one of the challenges. More than 75% of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are found in South Asia, West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and women represent nearly two-thirds of all illiterate adults worldwide. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 64% of the illiterate (2015). (5)

Whether the spread of the internet will increase or eliminate inequality in society remains to be seen.

 

ECOLOGY

Data centers consume more than 400 terawatt hours of electricity globally, accounting for about two percent of the world’s energy consumption. Emissions are now at the same level as aviation, but by 2025, data center electricity consumption is predicted to double and emissions to be generated more than from aviation.

In addition to energy-efficient data centers, cleaning up digital waste also has an impact on data emissions. In the digital age, less paper may be generated, but even more useless bits are produced. Each of them has a carbon footprint. Files stored in cloud services accumulate the amount of data stored in data centers and increase the carbon footprint. One email with attachments can produce up to 50 grams of carbon dioxide. (6)

The ICT sector has an important role to play in enabling a more climate- and environment- friendly society. (7) It should be possible to build carbon-neutral data centers in developing countries. It is problematic in countries where environmental protection and governance are not even close to European standards.

 

DIGITAL COLONIALISM

Data centers are currently without a doubt one of the fastest growing industries in the world

Africa has a population of over 1 billion and is expected to grow by more than 2.5% annually, according to UN forecasts. A large portion of the population is young people who have grown up in the digital age but live in one of the least utilized areas of data centers and telecommunications companies in the world. The Asian continent is expected to be the largest data center market by 2021. (8)

Sociologist Michael Kwet (9) warns of the dangers of Silicon Valley’s plans for Africa – in a scenario he calls digital colonialism. According to Kwet, the problem is this: U.S. technology companies are working to control the digital ecosystem and thus the entire transfer of information to the continent. Within a short period of time, it changed into a technological system controlled by a handful of companies

The race to control Africa’s digital market is dominated by US tech giants: Amazon, Google and Facebook, as well as China’s Huawei. (10).
Facebook plans to install a submarine fiber optic cable around the entire African continent. The cable is three times the connectivity capacity of existing submarine cables serving the continent.
(11)

 

 

DIGITAL DEVIDE

More than one and a half billion people do not have access to the internet, and at least 300 million of them live in Africa. (12)

Africa itself exhibits an inner digital divide, with most Internet activity and infrastructure concentrated in South Africa, Morocco, Egypt as well as smaller economies like Mauritius and Seychelles.

In 2000, Subsaharan Africa as a whole had fewer fixed telephone lines than Manhattan, and in 2006 Africa contributed to only 2% of the world’s overall telephone lines in the world. (13)

As a consequence of the scarce overall bandwidth provided by cable connections, a large section of Internet traffic in Africa goes through expensive satellite links.  In general, thus, the cost of Internet access (and even more so Broadband access) is unaffordable by most of the population.  According to the Kenyan ISPs association, high costs are also a consequence of the subjection of African ISPs to European ISPs and the lack of a clear international regulation of inter-ISP cost partition.The total bandwidth available to Africa was less than that available to Norway alone (49,000 Mbit / s).

 

The International Telecommunication Union has held the first Connect the World meeting in Kigali, Rwanda (in October 2007) as a demonstration that the development of telecommunications in Africa is considered a key intermediate objective for the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals (14)

A new report calling for urgent action to close the internet access gap suggests that around $ 100 billion would be needed to achieve universal access to Broadband connectivity in Africa by 2030. This is a formidable challenge, as about a third of the population remains out of reach of mobile Broadband signal in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report estimates that nearly 250,000 new 4G base stations and at least 250,000 kilometers of new fiber across the region would be required to achieve the goal. (15)

Bill Gates has stated that the poor do not need computers but basic security such as food, water and health care. For the price of one computer, 2,000 children could be vaccinated against six killer diseases. If developing countries’ debts are not canceled, the G8’s actions will remain empty gestures,” commented Ann Pettifor on the decisions of last summer’s  Okinawa meeting on the Jubilee 2000 campaign, under which the DOT Force working group leaves its proposals to leaders of rich countries in Genoa to close the digital divide. (16)

 

CULTURAL GAP

While there are many benefits to expanding the network, there are also problems to be solved on different continents, with infrastructure and quality standards at the forefront. However, the shortage of skilled labor and ignorance of the need for data center security solutions is expected to be a significant challenge.

  The location of data centers on different continents and in different countries poses new challenges, as safety-related legislation and applicable building standards can differ significantly.

The conversion of existing buildings into functioning data centers is a particular trend in developing countries, which from a security perspective, this poses new challenges as well. (8)

 

OFF-LINE

Shutting down the Internet has been used as a policy instrument. Governments in Tanzania, Chad, Ethiopia and Uganda have used internet switch-offs and social media blackouts as a weapon against a rising opposition, to ensure they restrict the flow of information thereby getting re-elected against the will of voters. The Internet shutdown caused huge losses for example as businesses, government agencies, organizations and web-based operations such as banking, electronic file transfers, e-tax payments were disrupted.

From Caracas to Khartoum, Protesters are leveraging the internet to organize online and stand up for their rights offline. In response, in the past year governments in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar and Zimbabwe shut down the internet in all or some parts of their countries, perhaps with the hope that doing so would shut off their problems. Governments are increasingly using closures in crisis situations, claiming that they are necessary for public security or curbing the spread of misinformation.

When the internet is off, People’s ability to express themselves freely is limited, the economy suffers, journalists struggle to upload photos and videos documenting government overreach and abuse, students are cut off from their Lessons, taxes can’t be paid on time, and those needing health care cannot get consistent access.

Long internet shutdowns and social media blackouts between January 2020 and February 2021 have been termed “counterintuitive and a violation of human rights” in the digital age, according to social media giant Facebook’s East Africa spokesperson, Janet Kemboi. (17)

 

 

references:

(1)   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gods_Must_Be_Crazy

(2)  https://en.qaz.wiki/wiki/Globalization

(3) https://en.qaz.wiki/wiki/Westernization

(4) https://www.maailmankuvalehti.fi/2001/3/yleinen/digitaalinen-kuilu-kasvaa/

(5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_count_to_literacy_by

(6) https://www.telia.fi/yritysille/artikkelit/artikkeli/datakeskukset-ovat-unohdettu-paastojen-lahde

(7) https://puheenvuoro.uusisuomi.fi/rikureinikka/173841-sivilisaation-evoluutio-a-history-of-the-world-in-our-time

(8) https://www.stanleysecurity.fi/siteassets/finland/meista/data-center/tulevaisuus-datakeskus-raportti.pdf

(9) Michael Kwet is a Visiting Fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. He is the author of Digital colonialism: US empire and the new imperialism in the Global South, and hosts the Tech Empire podcast. His work has been published at The New York Times, VICE News, Al Jazeera, Wired, BBC World News Radio, Mail & Guardian, Counterpunch, and other outlets. He received his PhD in Sociology from Rhodes University, South Africa.

(10) /https://www.dw.com/en/digital-colonialism-cheap-internet-access-for-africa-but-at-what-cost/a-48966770

(11) https://www.tivi.fi/uutiset/facebook-ymparoi-koko-afrikan-kuitukaapeli

(12) https://unric.org/fi/afrikkalaiset-maalaiskylaet-paeaesemaessae-internetis/

(13) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_Africa

(14) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_Africa

(15) // https://blogs.worldbank.org/digital-development/africas-connectivity-gap-can-map-tell-story

(16) /https://www.maailmankuvalehti.fi/2001/3/yleinen/digitaalinen-kuilu-kasvaa/

(17) /https://allafrica.com/view/group/main/main/id/00076816.html

 

PHOTO & ILLUSTRATION CREDITS

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_people
  2. Nairobi Business Monthly
  3. http://echosante.info/environmental-protection-a-strong-regulatory-framework/
  4. https://bluetown.com/
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_Africa
  6. Empower Africa

afrikka nettikaapeli : https://web.asn.com/en/

Agbogbloscene

 

 

The ever-increasing amount of electronic waste is a major global problem. Based on international studies, it has been calculated that a total of about 5,000 tonnes of electronic waste would leave Finland for developing countries each year, i.e almost a kilo per capita. The amount corresponds to less than five percent of the electronic waste generated annually in Finland. (1) The ‘recycling’ of e-waste in developing countries is much cheaper. The largest recipients of e-waste in Africa are Ghana and Nigeria, in Asia China, India and Pakistan. (2) It is estimated that more than half of the world’s electronic waste passes through official channels to developing countries, where only precious metals are collected from equipment, regardless of the health of workers. (3)

The interest of mining companies is based on the fact that recycling metals is cheaper than digging from the ground./(4)

It is not always so easy to separate used equipment from scrap. Many devices considered waste in Finland still get a new life in the hands of a West African repairman. Along with Nigeria, Ghana is Africa’s largest recipient of European used electronics. (1)

Ghana’s economy has grown rapidly, but living standards are still so low that there is a huge demand for used televisions and computers in homes, offices and internet cafes. Computers and other equipment are also repaired in small workshops.

Cows with open wounds graze on the site

The Agbogbloshie Scrap Yard is located a stone’s throw from the center of Accra, the capital of West African Ghana. There are several similar waste treatment sites on the outskirts of the city, but Agbogbloshie is Ghana’s largest and most researched – and has received the most negative publicity. “Sometimes we inhale toxic gases, and that filth accumulates in the body. But this work is the only way for us to survive, ”says scrap sorter Baba Adi. No one seems to have a respiratory protection. In Agbogbloshie and similar waste treatment areas, Finnish equipment will almost certainly also be disposed of. This is despite the fact that the export of electronic waste from Finland to developing countries is prohibited. Many working in the area are poor people who have moved from northern Ghana to the capital.

Adjoa, nine, sells small water bags to the workers. They drink it and use it to extinguish fires

They are attracted there by big earners. Sorters like Baba Ad can earn between € 150 and € 250 a month, about four times the Ghanaian minimum wage. The electronics waste business in Ghana generates an estimated € 200 million a year and directly or indirectly supports 200,000 people.

Cough and chest pain are common problems in Agbogbloshie. High levels of heavy metals such as lead and iron have been found in workers ’blood and urine samples. They end up in the body from air, water and food purchased from the waste area.

 

Kwabena Labobe, 10, plays on the site. His parents are not able to send him to school and forbid him to burn e-waste

Heavy metals are especially dangerous for toddlers living in the surrounding slums, who play in the scrap yard. Heavy metals end up in babies through breast milk. High levels of heavy metals have been linked in studies to nervous system damage in children and fetuses. There is no use for worthless parts of electronic waste. They are being dumped in informal landfills in Ghana. (1)

In Finland, the value minerals of equipment are collected mainly in industrial plants. Shipping goods to China is cheaper than a truck ride from Jyväskylä to Helsinki. According to one study, it is 13 times cheaper to separate gold, aluminum and other precious metals from electronic waste in China than to dig minerals underground. (1)

Most of the environmental impact of a smartphone, for example, comes from production. Digging metals and making components, or mobile phone parts, requires a lot of energy. (4) Even if you think of a basic cell phone or laptop, they may contain about 30 different metals. These metals come from all over the world. After the metals have been excavated, they go to a smelter or refinery, they may be made into various chemicals, then they go to a component plant and from there to an assembly plant where the equipment is assembled. There may be a real number of factories and operators before the metal ends up in the finished device and from there to the consumer. This is perhaps the main reason why it is really difficult to know where all the particles come from and under what conditions they are made.There can be dozens, hundreds or, for example, Samsung has 2,500 suppliers. (5)

According to a new study, if Europeans used their mobile phones  a year longer than now, it would save two million tonnes of emissions, or about a million cars emissions, a year. The average lifespan of mobile phones in Europe is three years.
In the United States, 400 million electronic devices are rejected each year, an estimated 2/3 of which are operational. (5)

Europe generated 15.6 kilograms of electronic waste per capita. In Africa, the corresponding figure was only 1.7 pounds per capita. (6) And yet, more Africans have access to mobile phones than to clean drinking water. (7)

A total of 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is generated worldwide each year, of which only 20% is recycled. (5)

 

 

References:

(1)  //https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10472211

(2)  /https://www.kansanuutiset.fi/artikkeli/3093042-eurooppalaisen-elektroniikkajatteen-paatepysakki-on-ghanassa

(3)  / https://www.kuusakoski.com/fi/finland/yritys/yritys/uutiset/2019/elektroniikkaromu-vaarissa-kasissa-on-tietoturvariski/

(4)  https://www.fingo.fi/ajankohtaista/uutiset/suomi-vie-elektroniikkajatetta-kehitysmaihin

(5)  / https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11141662

(6)  YK:n yliopiston (UNU) raportti  [vuodelta 2016] / https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9296700

(7)  THEORY BEYOND THE CODES Dust and Exhaustion The Labor of Media Materialism Jussi Parikka

 

Photos:

  1. https://news.itu.int/ewaste-growing-challenge/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2014/feb/27/agbogbloshie-worlds-largest-e-waste-dump-in-pictures / Cows with open wounds graze on the site
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2014/feb/27/agbogbloshie-worlds-largest-e-waste-dump-in-pictures /Adjoa, nine, sells small water bags to the workers. They drink it and use it to extinguish fires.
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2014/feb/27/agbogbloshie-worlds-largest-e-waste-dump-in-pictures / Kwabena Labobe, 10, plays on the site. His parents are not able to send him to school and forbid him to burn e-waste
  5. https://venturebeat.com/2017/06/13/5-billion-people-now-have-a-mobile-phone-connection-according-to-gsma-data/ Image Credit: Maxx-Studio

 

i(Don’t)*Fixit

Glossy black-boxed

Only once things fail, then we start thinking about their complexity and become aware of how much the tech objects that surround you are glossy black boxes, designed to appear simple and hide the enormous system that lies behind the object and stays far from our eyes. [1]
The whole world of media wants us to see its LED-luminescent and metal-polished side, but it is obscure in every other direction: the management of data signals arriving at our devices is a secreted activity; the production of the hardware is a story never told by the very firms, but only by journalists fighting for human and environmental causes; electronic waste is more of a taboo that both the big tech companies and the developed society do not want to deal with.
However. as Jussi Parikka argues, all these activities are not theoretical, but material [2]: data centers, data cables, coltan mines causing natural depletion in Central Africa, tech industries based on labor exploitation in China, e-waste landfills, and processing plants in Eastern Europe [3], they are all physical realities that shape entires societies. Taking all this dirt into account and using this as perspective, privilege is the possibility of looking at the result, but not the process.

Will to repair

If the single contemporary citizen has long-lived an imbalanced relation of power with companies, about their production methods and ethics, that could only be won through political pressure, he or she has always been able to take a little revenge through maintenance and mending. However, during the last twenty years, this has been made impossible or inconvenient by tech companies.
The activity of repairing has always been an important task throughout the history of humanity: resources have always been limited and the process of mending could be learned. In the last decades, we, the western privileged who have not seen the natural damages and the human exploitation, have been living in the illusion that resources were illimited and overall cheap, and we never learned how to repair our smartphones, computers, or whatsoever.
This has not happened for pure idleness, but a series of reasons [4]:

  1. Companies do not provide customers with software or adequate information for maintenance or repairing. If people start autonomously to deliver self-taught technical information, companies usually try to oppose, like Apple with iFixit. [5]
  2. Often companies do not sell the components either to companies or to non-official repair centers.
  3. Official repair centers are often so expensive that it is more convenient to buy the new version of the product.

Furthermore, if the life-guaranteed product would give a proper reason for the mending, programmed obsolescence conveys a renunciative attitude. In the era of e-waste, nobody would repair something that is made to break.

Right to repair

However, times are changing. People are now meeting in repair cafés [6]: there is awareness around these themes and organizations like The Repair Association (TRA) have been fighting for the electronics right to repair, obtaining some successes [7], even though big-techs try to remain black-boxed since people could hurt themselves while repairing their smartphones or hacker could have easier access to key information. [8] Of course, both of these argumentations have been found inconsistent, a façade for economic interests that is not working so well anymore. Indeed, knowledge is a form of power and, since tech firms have become important actors within the geopolitical system, the democratic citizen must ask for his right of knowledge, in order to be able to work out alternatives from the bottom.


Notes:

[1] Bruno Latour, Where Are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts, in Shaping Technology-Building Society. Studies in Sociotechnical Change, Wiebe Bijker and John Law, MIT Press (1992)

[2] Jussi Parikka, Dust and Exhaustion: The Labor of Media Materialism, Arthur and Marilouise Kroker (2013)

[3] Bulgaria Opens Largest WEEE Recycling Factory in Eastern Europe, Ask-eu.com (12th July 2010)

[4] Karen Turner, Apple wants to kill a bill that could make it easier for you to fix your iPhone, The Washington Post (17th June 2016)

[5] Kyle Wiens, iFixit App Pulled from Apple’s App Store, iFixit (29th September 2015)

[6] Sally McGrane, An Effort to Bury a Throwaway Culture One Repair at a Time, The New York Times (8th May 2012)

[7] Jason Koebler, Internal Documents Show Apple Is Capable of Implementing Right to Repair Legislation, Vice (28th March 2019)

[8] Jason Koebler, Apple Is Telling Lawmakers People Will Hurt Themselves if They Try to Fix iPhones, Vice (30th April 2019)

The Globalization of the Landscape

When companies sell us the cloud, it seems that they are talking about something magical and fantastic. Its imagery is futuristic looking, filled with shiny lights, and coming from a science-fiction movie. However, we are not concerned about what the cloud is. They are black-boxed and top-secret places, where all our information takes live.

We have seen attempts from the companies to make those spaces more transparent. They open the doors to the cameras and display all the machines. Yet, this hypervisibility of the infrastructure and this pure image that they give of the cloud allows them to keep the people naive.

The truth is that the cloud relies on data-centers that stock all that information that we generate every day. One of its effects is the need for infrastructure around the planet. These buildings are environments designed from humans to robots, and for that reason, their design is a copy-paste around the world. Data-centers are structures designed for machines, which means that no human is working in that environment, so there is no need to follow cultural necessities. 

Images from data centers around the globe.

In the same manner during industrialization, the landscape was also affected by the construction of new buildings. Hilla and Bernd Becher, two german photographers, recorded these changes in the landscape from the late 1950s [1]. In their work, we can see collections of images depicting industrial buildings. Even if the buildings have very similar shapes because they have the same finality, there are subtle differences probably because of the construction methods and the cultural necessities from each place.

Pictures from Hilla and Bernd Becher’s work.

In the future, we will need more infrastructure to support all the data that we generate. Jennifer Holt and Patrick Vonderau write about one of the upcoming “technological dramas” that the technology in data storage is not as developed as the amount of information to store [2]. In conclusion, the landscape is going to be even more exploited in the future, overcrowded with the same buildings all over the surface.

References:

[1] Biro, M. (2012). From analog to digital photography: Bernd and Hilla Becher and Andreas Gursky. History of Photography.

[2] Holt, J. and Vonderau, P. Where the Internet Lives. Data centers as cloud infrastructure. Signal Traffic.

 

~ Alicia Romero

Tears of Joy

 

The forerunner of the writing can be considered numerous paintings and engravings that have survived from the Late Paleolithic period from roughly 35,000 to 15,000 years before the beginning of time. The birth of the actual writing took place in Sumer, ancient Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq, about 3,200 years before the beginning of our era.(1)

In the 21st century, we are returning to the origins of written language, the world of symbols and signs. For the first time, in 2015, a picture was chosen as the word of the year in the Oxford Dictionary – a face laughing with tears in his eyes, called ´Tears of joy´. (2)

Our increasing use of smart devices and media has led to the simplification of language, the decline of literacy, and the replacement of traditional written language with partly different character and symbol systems, memes, and emojis. Iconic characters have begun to be used in writing alongside the old symbolic character set. They differ from iconic writing systems in that they have no sound value. (1) The popularity of audiobooks, the replacement of words by emojis and the increase in video call into question the importance of traditional literacy.

However, there is already talk of a post-text period, although it is difficult to think of replacing a scientific text, for example. Literacy will still be needed. Replacing long texts with a single meme image leads to an ambiguous visuality that requires different reading skills than a traditional text. Instead of literacy, we are talking about multi-literacy. At the same time, people’s literacy is declining.

-Bible as emojis

Do you recognize the verses below?

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy might.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these. ” The Double Commandment of Love, Mark. 12: 30

There are about half a million adults in Finland who do not have sufficient literacy skills to cope in today’s society (3) The decline in literacy leads to inequality in society. The danger is the polarization of society and the intensification of extremism.

The impact of political memes has been relatively little studied. Memes can be harmless entertainment that invigorates everyday life, but also a gateway to harmful extremism. Meme simplifies the worldview. Memes and humor are the most effective forms of influencing in social media. There is no direct evidence of planned political influence. However, that does not mean that it will not happen. In the future, trolling can be done with artificial intelligence and algorithms and can be controlled by states, among others. (4) The speed of communication and the lack of source criticism easily lead to the spread of belief information and the fragmentation of the field of knowledge. The content of search engines and the Internet is over-relied on, and at the same time search engine companies have infinite power over the dissemination of information. The governance of search engine companies is a huge political controversy.

On the other hand, the problem is the decline in human brain capacity globally. Professor Gerald Grabtree puts it this way: “I would even bet that if the average citizen from Athens now came to us thousands of years ago, he would be the smartest and most intellectually capable of our party. He would have a good memory, wide-ranging ideas and sharp perspectives on important things. ” The rationale for the hypothesis is that man no longer needs his intellectual abilities to survive in modern modern society. And when intelligence is no longer needed, the genes that support it begin to decay as a legacy for future generations. (5)

Evan Horowitz also writes in an article published by NBC: Humanity is becoming more stupid. That is not an estimate. That is a global fact. IQ results have begun to deteriorate in some of the leading countries, (2). One explanation for this, according to Horowitz, has been that food no longer receives as many nutrients due to global warming. The information society has also been blamed for the flood of information, which is seen as undermining people’s ability to concentrate. It can also undermine humanity’s ability to respond to massive problems such as climate change and the challenges posed by artificial intelligence. (6)

 

 

(1)  Kuvakirjoituksen jälleensyntymä – tunneikonit kirjoitetussa puhekielisessä keskustelussa ^__^  /  / Pro gradu -tutkielma Suomen kieli Turun yliopisto Toukokuu 2006,  Ilmari Vauras /  https://www.jammi.net/tunneikonit/ilmari_vauras_pro_gradu.pdf

(2)  https://www.is.fi/digitoday/art-2000001037217.html

(3)  Meemien tulkitseminenkin vaatii lukutaitoa – Mitä käy niille, jotka eivät opi lukemaan?/Salla Rajala, 27.9.2019

https://moreenimedia.uta.fi/2019/09/27/mita-kay-niille-jotka-eivat-opi-lukemaan/

(4)  Viihdettä vai aivopesua? Meemit vaikuttavat ajatuksiisi, etkä välttämättä edes huomaa sitä

, 20.9.2019, https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10941826

(5)  https://www.iltalehti.fi/terveys/a/2012111316323790?fbclid=IwAR1dY8mmOTaSmcWCxnqsvjX5v7s0NpDAUjrX_Ab4ipB3rdzU33Oi34z4VQI

(6)  Ihmiskunta muuttuu tyhmemmäksi. ”Se ei ole arvio”.

SIINA EKBERG | 23.05.2019 | 23:55- päivitetty 23.05.2019 | 19:10

/https://www.verkkouutiset.fi/ihmiset-tyhmenevat-ja-silla-voi-olla-kohtalokkaat-seuraukset/#6628a248

 

Thanks for the inspiration to Alicia Romero Fernandez 🙂

 

 

Pictures:

1. https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuolenp%C3%A4%C3%A4kirjoitus

2. https://www.is.fi/digitoday/art-2000001037217.html

3.https://www.wycliffe.fi/emojit/

-Bible as emojis

Do you recognize the verses below?

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy might.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these. ” The Double Commandment of Love, Mark. 12: 30

4. picture manipulation: Tuula Vehanen

Greening Google

In the mediatic sphere, there is a strong association between the imaginaries of digitization, electricity, and environmentalism. We do think that an electric car is “greener” than a diesel-fueled one. We do imagine smart cities fully digitized, electric, and merged with the natural ecosystem, like the projects by Studio Stefano Boeri [1]. However, there is a growing perception that this could be a big misunderstanding.

For example, in 2019 OVO Energy has calculated the carbon footprint of emails and asserted that in the United Kingdom “if every email user in the country were to send one less unnecessary email per day, that would reduce carbon emissions by 16,433 tonnes,” [2] and then gave a metaphor to “contain the messy reality of infrastructure” [3]: 81,152 flights from London to Madrid.

The unexpectedness of these data makes this question is then immediate: are we in front of a case of greenwashing operated by the media industry? Formerly known as “eco-pornography” thanks to former advertising executive Jerry Mander, “greenwashing” is a concept born in 1986 by biologist and environmental activist Jay Westerveld, but with still no univocal definition. Riccardo Torelli, Federica Balluchi, and Arianna Lazzini then agree to trace the vague borders of this practice calling it “a misleading communication practice concerning environmental issues.” [4]

According to Greenpeace reports examining the energy consumption of data centers and cloud infrastructures, “if the cloud were a country, it would have the fifth-largest electricity demand in the world,” mostly used for keeping “servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity” [5]. And at the same time, various companies like Google, Facebook, or Apple send messages about their effort in the construction of more energy-efficient structures and green energy plants that partially cover the enormous energy demand.

However, while looking at this oxymoron, the wisest question is then to ask: can these companies do otherwise? What is the budget percentage spent by GAFAM in researching less consuming infrastructures? And by our governments? If we are judgemental about Google building hydroelectric plants, how should we behave with those who are not even doing this?
And provoking finally: can we accept to have a more mediocre cloud service for a greener planet?


Notes:

[1] Stefano Boeri, Tirana Riverside, Tirana, Albania (2020)

[2] Martin Armstrong, The Carbon Footprint of ‘Thank you’ Emails, Statista (2019) https://www.statista.com/chart/20189/the-carbon-footprint-of-thank-you-emails/#:~:text=The%20sending%20of%20one%20email,at%20on%20a%20national%20scale.

[3] Star and Lampland, Standards and Their Stories, 11.

[4] Riccardo Torelli, Federica Balluchi and Arianna Lazzini, Greenwashing and Environmental Communication: Effects on Stakeholders’ Perceptions, from Richard Welford, Business Strategy and the Environment (2020) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bse.2373

[5] Jennifer Holt and Patrick VonDerau, Where the Internet Lives: Data Centers as Cloud Infrastructure, from Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, University of Illinois Press (2015)

Fe Simeoni

fesimeoni.it Ig

Sabotage the Saboteur

Approximately one year ago, when Covid-19 spread around the World, I had a fascinating conversation with one of my friends from China. She was very confused because her social media got full of posts with random emojis, ancient Chinese calligraphy, and what seemed to be Morse code. However, after reading some more posts, she understood what was going on. People came up with elaborated codes to spread a censored interview from Ai Fen, a doctor in Wuhan’s Hospital who talked about the coronavirus outbreak [1, 2].

Font: Abacus, South China Morning Post

I found it so witty how people could come up with new codes, and even rescue and integrate old communication methods to fight the censorship. Precisely, I think that this phenomenon is what Shannon Mattern is talking about when she writes about informal or shadow development in the article Deep Time of Media Infrastructure [3]When institutions are not providing, or — like in this case — are sabotaging the information, people need to improvise. 

That is not the first time we can see new codes emerging to confuse the algorithms and avoid censorship. One example is women using Photoshop to protest against Instagram’s restrictions by displaying male nipples over their own [4].

Font: Instagram

Another example is the use of makeup to avoid the facial recognition to go unnoticed in front of the cameras. In the project CV Dazzle, they use fashion as camouflage [5]. They claim that it is a concept and a strategy tailored to each face and technology, which I believe is related to the fact that only human labor can “sabotage” the infrastructure. Only people will be able to confront the structures and make a change.

Font: CV Dazzle

In conclusion, the fact is that every message, image, or video that we want to display nowadays is going through the filter of giant companies that are governed by arbitrary restrictions. However, it does not matter if a bot is using the latest technology such as facial recognition, or keyword detection, that people are going to find new codes to spread their message.

After all, knowledge is power.

 

References:

[1] Abacus, South China Morning Post. Censored coronavirus news shows up again as emoji, Morse code and ancient Chinese. https://www.scmp.com/abacus

[2] .coda. Chinese citizens fight coronavirus censorship with emojis and ancient languages. https://www.codastory.com/disinformation/chinese-internet-users-fight-coronavirus-censorship/

[3] Shannon Mattern, Deep Time of Media infrastructure.

[4] The Daily Edge. Women are Photoshopping male nipples over their own to protest against Instagram censorship. https://www.dailyedge.ie/free-the-nipple-photoshopping-male-nipples-2206654-Jul2015/

[5] CV Dazzle. Computer Vision Dazzle Camouflage. https://cvdazzle.com

 

~ Alicia Romero

INFRAGRAPHY Vol. IV. Fall 2020 [Published]

Infragraphy is a compilation of critical student artworks and short essays dealing with the materialities of media technologies and their environmental implications. The volume presents artworks and texts from the course ‘Media and the Environment’ in the Fall of 2020 at the Department of Media, Aalto University. The course is a series of scholarly readings about and around the themes of media including media’s relations and impacts on the so-called Anthropocene, thermocultures of media, ecologies of fabrication, media and plastics, Internet of Things, Planned Obsolescence, e-waste, and media’s energetic landscapes. A key approach of the course is to introduce artistic methods and practices that could address emerging media materialities. The student artistic outputs are presented in a final exhibition.

Download PDF:http://blogs.aalto.fi/mediainfrastructures/files/2020/12/Infragraphy_Fall2020.pdf

This fourth volume of Infragraphy compiles a series of artworks and companion essays as a response to the contemporary discourse of political economy of media and related environmental implications. The volume begins with Lassi Häkkinen’s Screen of Death that plunges us through the computer interface and web browser to a distant cobalt mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His accompanying essay meditates on the disjunction between the digital, mining and labor, as a way to reflect on extractive practices. Phuong Nguyen’s De-Terraforming Impacts of Humans on Earth takes us on a virtual tour of damaged landscapes as a result of the digital starting from the environs of Silicon Valley, Bayan Obo mining district in China, to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Cloud Materialities by Qianyu (Sienna) Fang sets up a game-like low-tech alternative computer interface to examine critical themes related to the various materialities of digital media. Oskar Koli’s provocative kinetic sculpture installation makes us ponder on deep time, automation, and fossil fuels. The installation sets up the recursive stroke of a programmed and automated feather that brushes off grains from a piece of coal. Koli insists on calling it ‘Untitled’ since the viewer could very well have a multitude of interpretations.

Addressing environmental damage, Anze Bratus uses pollution datasets along with urban images from around the world to create generative soundscapes. His installation Acoustics of Pollution highlights how pollution levels as a result of a legacy of industrial activities and fossil fuels exponentially increase and damage the environment. Studies on Invisibilityby Tuula Vehanen examines urban radiation, especially with regard to 5G networks in Helsinki. Vehanen’s photography attempts to render radio frequency visible and provokes us to consider the impacts of exposure to humans and ecosystems. By poetry and painting, Dominik Fleischmann’s Restless Bodies reflects on technology and purity. His work makes us think of where technological necessity of perfection and extraction might eventually lead us. Finally, Mirya Nezvitskaya presents a performance installation Collecting Your Waste that combines her research in materiality, posthumanist philosophy, performance and artistic practice. Her work challenges us on many levels by threading together colonization, extraction, plastic waste and performance.

Samir Bhowmik
9 December 2020
Helsinki

Virtual Exhibition: https://www.aalto.fi/en/news/the-anthrobscene-media-and-the-environment-course-exhibition

Landscapes, infrascapes, greenscapes

The landscape and what our image of the landscape is like is due to a long tradition that includes traditional landscape painting, traditions of aesthetics, place of residence and a landscape catalog conveyed by the media. A landscape is often thought to be beautiful when it does not directly show the human handprint. “In Finland, it is customary to talk about ‘untouched nature’. Few proverbs are so untrue and downright false, ”writes Ismo Tuormaa [1] Pure or untouched nature as a concept is misleading. According to research, old, natural or nature-like forests make up well below 5 per cent of Finland’s forest area. It may take a hundred years to a thousand years to return to a perfect natural state, depending on the tree species in the forest. In the United States, for example, it has been estimated that the restoration of felled deciduous forests to virgin forests will usually take one or two complete tree generations, ie 150 to 500 years. [2]

Åland archipelago

 

Infrascapes

Urban landscapes rest on built infrastructure. The infrastructure is visible and invisible at the same time. As long as it works, it is not thought of. And yet the urban landscape is very strongly shaped by infrastructure. Media exists increasingly as the true landscape forming force. [3] Infrastructures as pipes, power plants, highways, sewers, pylons carrying the high voltage, cables, transmission Towers, data centers, wasteland and power lines are central to shaping our cityscape. Ports and power plants are monuments of our time. There is a certain beauty in manufactured landscapes, says Samir Bhowmik.

 

The disadvantages of the built infrastructure are pollution, radiation and the removal of living space from other organisms, as well as the energy, natural resources and the resulting pollution used to create the infrastructure.

According to research, the urban environment affects our well-being in many ways, for example by increasing stress, raising blood pressure and disturbing concentration, while nature calms down. Positive effects on, among other things, heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension can be seen after just a few minutes spent in nature.

According to biophilia theory, innate attachment to all living things is the foundation through which we have been able to achieve sustainable forms of life in general. Literally, “biophilia” means love of life and living systems. [4]

Man has made a decisive contribution to the reduction of species diversity. In order for nature to sustain life, its diversity must be safeguarded. Indeed, species interactions play a key role in diversity. No species thrives or functions in isolation, but in conjunction with other species

Roughly speaking, it can be said that we have found and named about 20 percent of the Earth’s species. This means that species that we do not yet know and that could be potentially useful are constantly disappearing from the world. We may lose species that could have been the origin of a new drug or a new food source. While the situation seems inconsolable in many ways, researchers firmly believe there is still hope. One reason for optimism is that, compared to previous generations, we have much more information and tools to solve problems. [5]

Greenscapes

Green infrastructure is a design approach whose key principles include a holistic approach, cross-sectoral systems thinking, the pursuit of multiple benefits (ecosystem services, but also public health and economic benefits, for example) and a long-term strategic perspective on urban habitat management.

A dense urban structure is beneficial for mitigation measures, but the urban environment is vulnerable to the changes brought about by climate change. Mitigation and adaptation should therefore be seen as parallel goals that must both be taken into account in the development of the urban environment. It should be possible to take the next step past mitigation measures towards adaptation. Resilience is a new key concept in sustainable development. [6]

In England, a London Green Grid has been created which seems to be a very interesting and comprehensive green infrastructure program. The main goals for green infrastructure planning in London are climate change mitigation and adaptation. In this context, flooding and heat island are seen as key threats. Other key goals include increasing green infrastructure in the metropolitan area, for example by planting 10,000 new trees in the metropolitan area. In Finnish cities, compaction and thus the shrinking of the green sector in cities is still ongoing. [7]

Various innovations have been and are being developed to build a greener infrastructure. The most radical green infrastructure solution is Bosco Verticale in Italy. Bosco Verticale is a residential building consisting of two buildings, in which dizzying tree plantings and other vegetation have been planted in the building. Recycled water and energy produced by solar panels are used for irrigation.

The Bosco Verticale (“Vertical Forest”) in Milan has hundreds of trees and more than 2,000 plants embedded into its façade

 

Nature-based solutions currently seem to be the key word for EU environmental funding. [8] Biomimetics is an activity that seeks to understand innovations produced by nature and then transfer them to human activities. Identified benefits include e.g. energy efficiency, utilization of photosynthesis, durable and lightweight structures, and resilient solutions for different situations. [9]

Since 2007, the Baubotanik research team at the University of Stuttgart has been developing structures that combine living trees and steel structures. The idea is therefore to develop and test living load-bearing structures. [10] Baubotanik describes a construction method in which structures are created by the interaction of a technical joint and plant growth. For this purpose, living and non-living building blocks are interconnected so that they grow together to form a plant-technical composite structure: The individual plants merge to form a new, larger overall organism and the technical elements grow into the plant structure. For this approach, the term building botany was established in 2007 at the Institute of Fundamentals of Modern Architecture (IGMA) at the University of Stuttgart.

The Baubotanik research team is developing structures based on living trees.

 

Living root bridges in Northeast India are grown, functional structures from the antenna roots of the Indian rubber tree (ficus elastica). The khasi and jainti peoples of southern Meghalaya have developed various techniques to take advantage of the growth stages of the rubber tree. Increased bridges connect houses, fields, villages and markets. [10]

Green roofs and green walls are essential building blocks of green infrastructure in a densely built big city. Productive roofs will be the thing of the future. One of the test roofs also had a combined green roof and solar panels. This solution also has its own name “biosolar roof”. [7]

Oslo is a good example of the innovative nature of small town landscaping. Green walls and roofs have expanded into grass fields with tram rails, natural meadows in the urban area and biogas-heated  benches. Oslo won the European Green Capital 2019 designation.

CityTree Project

 

A green city like Helsinki is admired elsewhere. The challenges in greening cities and building green infrastructure are in a really dense urban structure at a completely different level compared to Finnish cities, many of the implemented projects are expensive and still remain in the degree of green frosting. It is much easier to take green infrastructure into account during design and construction. [7]

Perhaps green infrastructure can act as a bridge between industrial infrastructure and the natural environment.

 

reference:

  1. Samir Bhowmik and Jussi Parikka, “Infrascapes for Media Archaeographers,” Archaeographies: Aspects of Radical Media Archaeology, eds. Moritz Hiller and Stefan Höltgen, Berlin: Schwabe Verlage, 2019: 183-194.

 

photos:

  1. © tuula vehanen

2. Image: Joe Mud,CC BY-SA 2.0, via IFPRI Flicker

3. The Bosco Verticale (“Vertical Forest”) in Milan has hundreds of trees and more than 2,000 plants embedded into its facade, Courtesy of Luca Nebuloni/Flickr

4.  Courtesy of Paolo Rosselli/Stefano Boeri Architetti

5.  The Baubotanik research team is developing structures based on living trees.(http://www.baubotanik.org/en/)

6. https://www.ar.tum.de/en/gtla/research/living-root-bridges/

7. Monica Thorud Olsen, retrieved 08/24/2018

 

 

1]  https://suomenluonto.fi/uutiset/koskemattoman-luonnon-myytti/

[2]  /https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aarniomets%C3%A4

[3]  Infrascapes for Media Archaeographers  /Samir Bhowmik & Jussi Parikka

[4]  https://www.vihreaveraja.fi/@Bin/220277/luonnon+vaikutukset+hyvinvointiin.pdf

[5]  https://www.auroralehti.fi/lajien-tuho/

[6]/ https://blogs.aalto.fi/virma/2015/03/25/ilmastonmuutos-hillinnasta-eteenpain-kohti-sopeutumista/

[7]  /https://blogs.aalto.fi/virma/2015/08/04/vihreaa-infraa-lontoolaisittain/

[8]  / https://blogs.aalto.fi/virma/2015/11/29/bosco-verticale-ja-baubotanik-marraskuisia-unelmia-wienissa/

[9]  /https://www.muoviyhdistys.fi/2019/12/13/kummajaiset-biomimiikka-ja-strateginen-innovaatio/

[10] / https://blogs.aalto.fi/virma/2015/11/29/bosco-verticale-ja-baubotanik-marraskuisia-unelmia-wienissa/

[11]  /https://www.ar.tum.de/gtla/forschung/baubotanik/

Media in the Space

In this article, we do not refer to the environment as in the atmosphere, but to extend beyond the atmosphere at a distance where the earth’s gravitational pull acts on the object at a lighter degree (Low Earth Orbit). Objects in low-Earth orbit are at an altitude of between 160 to 2,000 km (99 to 1200 mi) above the Earth’s surface (Williams, 2017).

The layers of our atmosphere showing the altitude of the most common auroras. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: ESA

Along with the development of space science and technology, the universe gradually becomes an infrastructure of communication technology. Satellites, spacecraft, missiles, and spacecraft are launched every year. Much of the space infrastructure is located in the Low Earth Orbit. On one hand, media infrastructure in space surely led to human development, enabling possibilities of technology, such as global communication, the internet of things, GPS, thermal imaging, and so on. On another hand, environmental issues are also raised, as space debris has become a prominent issue that is in constant discussion. The European space agency estimates the number of space debris as of February 2020: 34000 objects bigger than 10cm, 900 000 objects greater than 1cm to 10 cm, 128 million objects greater than 1mm to 1cm. Some methods have been discussed to clean up space debris but we are uncertain about the effectiveness of them.

I propose we think critically about the impacts of our innovations, wherever humans can reach, to minimize negative future effects while at the same time soliciting development for humanity.

References:

Williams, 2017. What is Low Earth Orbit? URL: https://www.universetoday.com/85322/what-is-low-earth-orbit/ Accessed 26th Oct 2020.

The European space agency. Space debris by the numbers URL https://www.esa.int/Safety_Security/Space_Debris/Space_debris_by_the_numbers Accessed 26th Oct 2020.

Internet of Things (IOT)

Internet of Things (IOT)

An increasing number of devices are electronic and networked with each other and connected to the Internet. Radio transmitters connected to the devices collect, identify data via compatible networks, and communicate with each other. These devices are called IoT, or Internet of Things. According to a broader definition, cyber systems are also called IoTs. It can be defined as a dynamic, i.e. constantly changing and evolving, global network infrastructure, i.e., a network infrastructure in which physical and virtual “objects” have an identity, i.e., identity, physical characteristics, and a virtual personality. Intelligent interfaces, ie user interfaces that can, for example, adapt to the needs of different users or anticipate user activity, transmit information seamlessly between objects and the data network. The goal of development is for IoT to enable people and devices to connect anytime, anywhere, anytime. IoT increases everyday comfort and ease of use and can be used by both society and individual citizens. [1]

photo 1

The devices are characterized by the fact that they can be used to combine anything, such as smart watches, security systems, activity bracelets, smart homes, remote heating devices, airplanes, gates and doors, home appliances, consumer electronics, just to name a few. The Internet of Things consist of a growing list of Intelligent devices that would augment, optimize, and interconnect every aspect of our daily lives. An object, such as a car, electrical appliance, or grocery, can connect directly to the Internet through a computer component that has an IP address. The component can be, for example, a sensor, an RFID chip or a WLAN chip. Sometimes it is sufficient for the object to have an identifier, such as a parcel delivery code or a unique identifier modified from the registration number of the vehicle to enable the object to be identified on the Internet. The object does not then need to be connected  directly to the internet. Energy companies have provided consumers with smart meters that provide consumers with real-time information on consumption and energy companies can remotely read meters. The Internet of Things can also be utilized in logistics, in which case, for example, food can be measured ambient temperature in the supply chain, and alerts you if the temperature exceeds or falls below a certain limit. [2]

In recent years, digitalisation has also raised its head in the most traditional fields, and drones, for example, are already used in reindeer husbandry to detect reindeer herds from the air. In Oulu, reindeer herding is being developed under the auspices of IOT technology, and as a result, a Rudolf device was created, which can be used to monitor the health status and location of reindeer through a mobile application. In the future, the technology could even be used to prevent animal diseases and traffic accidents. With Rudolf, tracking even a single reindeer is effortless. [3]

photo 2

Digital applications extend their tentacles everywhere in society. Electronic warfare is also present on the battlefield with ubiquitous armored vehicles at the forefront of the attack, in support of the air operation and as part of the reconnaissance system on land, sea and air. Electronic warfare inquires and disrupts enemy systems and protects its own forces from the effects of enemy electronic warfare. [4]

In 2020, the number of connected devices per person was 6.58 and the total number of devices was 50 billion. Smart home appliances in households is highest in China, second highest in the US and third highest in the EU8. [5] Every second 127 new devices are added connected to the internet.

The Internet of Things as a concept is often dated to Mark Weiser’s work on ubiquitous computing at Xerox Parc in the 1980s and 1990s, 9 and as an actual term is dated to 1999, another pivotal  moment in the concept’s  elaboration  is 2008, the year when Internet-based machine-to-machine connectivity surpassed  that of human-to-human connectivity.

Behind the screen

Household objects that are currently being transformed into electronic technologies is not only lengthening, but also beginning to constitute a categorically different media “ecosystem.” How might an attention to these material and environmental effects provide an opportunity for generating new areas of environmental intervention in relation to sustainable media? We can no longer just stare at our own equipment but we must also try to see it from a broader perspective. What lies beyond the screen, of how hardware unfolds (avautua)  into wider ecologies of media devices, and of how electronic waste may evidence the complex ways in which media are material and environmental?

Energy meters are one  example of how recurring access to data about energy consumption is meant to influence behaviour and bring about a reduction in energy use. Attempts have been made to study the routes of how waste is travelling across United States by adding electronic tags into the trash items and tracking their journey.

“Thingification” is an overtly material approach to the previously “virtual” concerns of digital media, and is an industry strategy that is meant to expand the reach, capacities, and economic growth of the Internet. Thingification may make any number of activities and practices within our everyday lives more efficient, sustainable, and safe

Rethingification does not simply involve mapping out the static stuff that constitutes any particular media technology, but rather requires attending to the ways in which things attract, infect, and propagate mediatized relations, practices, imaginaries, and environments. A critical and material media studies might then begin to develop methods and modes of practice that adopt an experimental set of approaches to re-thingification.

Re-thingification of things

IoT has a lot of potential, but its information security is weak or almost non-existent, as systems and devices have been developed for the market quickly and often without compromising on information security requirements. Another challenge is the lack of concrete preparedness for the potential threats to social systems posed by the IoT. For example, in industrial, transport and energy production sites, poorly protected IoT activities can cause significant damage, the effects of which can extend to society at large. [1]

A society built on a large sector of digital information networks is vulnerable in many ways. We have got a taste of the lack of information security in an extensive data breach that targeted patient data in Finland. Cyber ​​hacking can do great damage to the lives of individuals and damage the structures of society. Examples include ensuring the security of power plants, electricity networks and water distribution.

Computer hackers, organized crime, and various fanatics form their own war front, with a front line everywhere. Organized crime can afford to buy the best computers and encryption software on the market. This allows drug offenders to exchange information under the noses of authorities with their 128-bit encryption. Breaking such encryption, according to Adams, will take 40 billion years from a Cray supercomputer. So figuring out the code is laborious even for the U.S. security agency NSA, which is said to have a nearly three-acre cave full of supercomputers. In his book “The Next World War” (1998), James Adams says that high technology means not only superior military power but also a very high degree of vulnerability. For example, a touring man managed to black out four U.S. air control centers while burning a dead cattle in a pit they dug. Below happened to be an important fiber optic cable. [6]

photo 3

As one text collected in The Crystal World Reader, and drawn from the US National Mining Association, remarks, there are at least sixty-six individual Minerals that contribute to a typical computer, and “it should be evident that without many Minerals, there would be no computers, or Televisions for that matter. The minerals needed to build computer networks are not an inexhaustible natural resource. Digital waste is also something that cannot be ignored in the debate on digital information networks.

What do these distributed arrangements and materialities of computation enable, what processes and relations do they set in play and require, and what new environmental effects do they generate? The actual and anticipated debris of electronics might provide one way that we could tune into these material processes to develop practices that speculate about material politics and relations in order to be less extractive and harmful. But this approach would require a re-thingification of things, particularly the Internet of Things.

Reference:

Jennifer Gabrys, “Re-thingifying the Internet of Things,” Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment, eds. Nicole Starosielski and Janet Walker, New York and London, Routledge, 2016: 180 – 195

[1] https://peda.net/jyu/it/do/kkv/6kvjvtt/6tth/iotieei2

[2]  https://www.ficom.fi/ict-ala/tilastot/iot-esineiden-internet

[3]  https://www.dna.fi/yrityksille/blogi/-/blogs/oulussa-porotaloutta-kehitetaan-nb-iot-teknologian-siivittamana

[4]  7https://upseeriksi.fi/koulutusohjelmat/maavoimienko

[5 ]  The Mobile Economy 2020, GSMA

[6]  https://www.oulu.fi/blogs/seuraava-sota-on-digitaalinen

photos:

1. https://peda.net/jyu/it/do/kkv/6kvjvtt/6tth/iotieei2/iotieei2/e

2. https://www.dna.fi/yrityksille/blogi/-/blogs/oulussa-porotaloutta-kehitetaan-nb-iot-teknologian-siivittamana

3. https://www.digital-war.org/blog

Plastopocene [*]

We are used to take plastic for granted as part of our lives. Plastic is everywhere. More than 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year, and according to a UN report, more than 9 billion tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide [1]. By the early 20th century, plastics were used in electric lighting, telephones, wireless telegrams, photography, and sound recordings. In fact, when we look at media devices commonly used over the last century, we find that plastics were crucial to a number of popular media technologies. In 1948, Columbia records introduced a vinyl record. Lightweight polycarbonate plastic is also used in c-cassettes, MiniC´Discs, DVD and Blu-Ray.

Plastic is present in the food packaging, clothing, electronics and pharmaceutical industries, as coatings, in the photographic and film industries, in consumer goods, in childcare – almost everything around us. The electronics industry in Europe uses an estimated 6% of plastics [11] and15-25% of the microelectronics in use (eg smartphones, data computers, tablets) is plastic. Plastic is an ideal insulator because it has poor electrical and thermal conductivity, good formability and is lightweight.

Plastics can be divided into thermoplastics, which do not change when heated and can be reshaped, and disposable plastics, which are used in circuit boards, for example, due to their plasticity and good heat resistance. It usually ends up in a landfill.

In addition, there are bio-based plastics, which refer to plastics processed from renewable raw materials of biological origin. Biodegradable plastics are materials that degrade through a biological process into carbon dioxide and water. Contrary to popular belief, bio-basedness is not a prerequisite for biodegradability or vice versa. [2]

A 1956 world oil production distribution, showing historical data and future production, proposed by M. King Hubbert – it had a peak of 12.5 billion barrels per year in about the year 2000. As of 2016, the world’s oil production was 29.4 billion barrels per year

 

From deep time to the 6th massextinctions

Over more than two hundred years, technocultural systems have transformed significant shares of the Earth’s fossil fuels into heat and plastic. The formation of fossil fuels takes thousands of years, the culture of the plastics industry – extraction, transport, trade, fractionation and conversion into monomers and then polymers and then products that are sold, used and disposed of – takes place within a few months (Marriott and Minio-Paluello 2014) [12]

The overall impact of human societies on earth has led to the anthropocene, a new geological era.

A huge number of living systems are not keeping pace with the ecological changes caused by anthropogenic industrial activities. While some species thrive in these changed conditions, there is an ongoing sixth wave of mass extinction that will be of immense importance to our planet and habitats. This is despite the fact that more than 99 percent of the species that have occurred on Earth have already become extinct (McKinney 1997: 110).

An estimated 5.25 trillion plastic particles floating in the oceans with an estimated total weight of 270,000 kilos. Plastic debris accumulates into large spins that only collect more debris with them.

By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the seas than fish.

-Plastics are known to release chemicals that are harmful to the environment, but according to a new study, they also release the greenhouse gases methylene and ethane into the atmosphere. Polyethylene, which is also the most common type of plastic, proved to be the worst producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Polyethylene is used in plastic bags, among other things, and accounts for more than a third of all plastic produced in the world. [3]

Certain forms of bacteria have evolved to inhabit the plastic vortices of the oceans and use it for food. Bacteria are responsible for the most significant changes in the biosphere, the atmospheric oxidation event that occurred 2.3 billion years ago. Microbes also live in the digestive tract of all vertebrates and are responsible for digestion. This raises the question of what we should protect. Aesthetic differences are crucial here; is an easier to feel compassion for a penguin than a micro-organism that requires an electron microscope to examine.

E-waste management, recycling,  environmental pollution and health risks

Since 2015, the global rapidly growing amount of e-waste has exceeded 42 million tons. This poses an ecological, health, ethical and colonialist problem. The global north supplies enormous amounts of waste for recycling and storage in the global south. In the words of geographer David Harvey, “the capitalist economy does not solve its problems, it only moves them from one state to another” **. [4]

Electronic waste mountains are a serious environmental and health risk. Equipment often contains mercury, lead and other heavy metals, various fluorescent and flame retardants, and plastics that, if improperly handled, can contaminate soil, air, and water.  [4] The primary problem of incineration arises from the presence of halogenated flame retardants which release toxic gases. Metals are separated from circuit boards by heating and dissolving in acid. When soaking, wastewater enters rivers as well as soil. In addition, the chemicals used in e-waste treatment are very dangerous to health, and respiratory diseases, for example, are common among scrap collectors in developing countries. Many of them are minor children. E-waste toxins can also cause a variety of birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and many other health hazards [4]

In the words of geographer David Harvey, “the capitalist economy does not solve its problems, it only moves them from one state to another” **. [5]

Photo: IMPEL-EU European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law

Chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system

Many chemicals are used in the processing of plastics and plastic compounds, which have been found to interfere with the human endocrine system, which is the body’s hormonal function responsible for regulating metabolism, growth, development, reproduction and mood. More common endocrine diseases include diabetes, bone loss, obesity, and various thyroid diseases. [6] How important are the chemicals in plastic compounds in the pathogenesis of these living standards diseases.

The greatest concern about the presence of BPA and phthalates has been raised in food and beverage packaging where chemicals can where chemicals can dissolve and be ingested. In particular, the use of BPA-based polycarbonate in baby bottles has been a concern and in many countries their sale is prohibited by law. BPA and phthalates can be found on computers, CDs and DVDs, and, surprisingly, also on thermal papers, commercial receipts, and ATM printouts. It has been found that BPA is absorbed more efficiently if the skin is wet or oily, whether it has been in contact with e.g. moisturizer or sweaty.

Life after plastic

Modern industrial societies are based on the idea of ​​continuous economic growth. Full employment and welfare services are dependent on economic growth, as are debt and growth-based financing and investment systems. A halt in economic growth would mean the dismantling of services and support systems, debt restructuring, bank failures, high unemployment and the downsizing of the entire welfare state. [7]. Growth and development are largely based on the oil industry, the production of plastics and thus the media at the heart of cultures. Communication, transport, stock exchanges and logistics are built on digital media.

In discussions about the collapse of industrial society, the most topical issue is most often the peak of world oil production defined by M. King Hubbert, followed by the inevitable decline in total production. As oil is the world’s main source of energy and its importance is further emphasized in key areas of society’s infrastructure, the oil peak is considered to be an insurmountable problem and the cause of the collapse. What makes the issue topical is the fact that many people assume that the oil peak was passed between 2005 and 2011, when the world economy would have already reached its peak and would soon go into recession. For example, the financial crisis of 2007-2009 is considered to be the result of an oil peak. [8]

Heinberg does not believe that the oil peak can be solved by technical solutions, as the world economy and technological development are far behind the current problem, oil is also crucial for the production of other forms of energy, and a viable form of energy would only delay rather than prevent a collapse. In his book Powerdown; Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World, he puts forward as a primary solution a cultural change of direction in which the world abandons the pursuit of growth and high consumption. [8]

Jonathan Huebner, for his part, defined the innovation peak of technological development by comparing the list of major inventions from the Middle Ages to the present with the world’s current population. He found that the peak of innovation was reached as early as 1873 and that the average innovativeness of the world’s population declined throughout the 20th century, despite the fact that the population was more educated and more funds were devoted to research. Based on the innovation curve he has formed, he estimates that in 2005, 85% of all innovations had already been made. According to him, technological development is limited not only by what is physically possible to invent, but also by what is economically possible or sensible to invent. [9]

The collapse of industrial society is seen as a dramatic chain of events that would result in famine, epidemics, the collapse of democratic systems, population displacement, the collapse of safety nets and chaos. As a significant difference from historical collapses, the collapse of industrial societies is seen for the first time in world history as a purely global phenomenon. On the other hand, if humanity is able to renew its culture and values, according to Thom Hartmann, it is possible to build a new society after the collapse that is not based on private property, growth, subjugation and destruction and could therefore be more permanent in structure. [10]

Alternatives are being sought for oil and substitutes are being developed for plastics, such as sunflower oil, seaweed, cellulose and milk. The production of biodiesel, which takes land away from food production, has already been criticized. What about when you want to make more bio-based plastics on the market. It therefore makes sense to focus on the development and production of bio-based plastics in raw material sources that do not compete with food production, [11]

Of the substitutes being developed as a sustainable solution, there are hardly any. They do not solve the problems of continued growth and over-consumption or acquisition. The only solution on a sustainable basis is to seek out the structure of society, worlds of values ​​and material-centredness from society and to look for alternative models of action.

Painting

REFERENCES:

-TECHNOFOSSILS of the ANTHROPOCENE
Media, Geology, and Plastics / Sy Taffel

* ´Plastopocene´ -term copied from: https://ekokumppanit.fi/muoviopas/

[1]  /https://www.maailma.net/uutiset/tuore-tutkimus-muovi-luultua-vaarallisempaa-paastaa-ilmakehaan-kasvihuonekaasuja

[2] s/https://www.pakkaus.com/biopohjainen-ja-biohajoava-muovi-eivat-tarkoita-samaa/

[3]  /https://www.maailma.net/uutiset/tuore-tutkimus-muovi-luultua-vaarallisempaa-paastaa-ilmakehaan-kasvihuonekaasuja

[4]   /https://eetti.fi/vastuullinentekniikka/

/https://www.maailma.net/nakokulmat/muovigaten-jalkipyykki-mita-muovin-dumppaaminen-kehitysmaihin-kertoo-taloudellisesta; **citation  from David Harvey´s lecture ’The Enigma of Capital”, which was arranged in  London School of Economics 26.4.2010

[5] /https://www.maailma.net/nakokulmat/muovigaten-jalkipyykki-mita-muovin-dumppaaminen-kehitysmaihin-kertoo-taloudellisesta; **citation  from David Harvey´s lecture ’The Enigma of Capital”, which was arranged in  London School of Economics 26.4.2010

[6]  https://www.vaasankeskussairaala.fi/potilaille/hoito-ja-tutkimukset/erikoisalat/storningar-i-hormonbalansen-och-amnesomsattningen—endokrinologi/

[7] “Hyvinvointivaltio vaarassa”, Helsingin Sanomat 30.9.2010, s. A5

[8]  Grupp, Adam: Peak Oil Primer energybulletin.net. Energy Bulletin

[9]  Huebner, Jonathan: A possible declining trend for worldwide innovation

[10]  Hartmann, Thom: The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1997

[11] /https://ekokumppanit.fi/muoviopas/

[12]  TECHNOFOSSILS of the ANTHROPOCENE
Media, Geology, and Plastics

Sy Taffel

The flip side of the media

The flip side of the media

Digital media is often thought to be that environmentally friendly option. After all, it saves huge amounts of information on paper, messages sent via the Internet, remote meetings, information in the web is fast, effortless and energy-saving. However, there is a huge production process behind digital media that is by no means unproblematic.

THE ORIGIN OF MEDIA

In the soil rests the seed of digital media from which it is converted into media in its many forms, global media networks and sophisticated media equipment through mining, chemical processes and a highly refined thermal control system.

The rock is removed by blasting and drilling metals and minerals that, as a result of numerous thermological and chemical processes, reach sufficient concentration, sufficient purity to guarantee media performance, speed of networks and equipment, and a more streamlined appearance of equipment. The functionality of data transmission and cloud services are maintained by means of advanced thermal regulation. A small deviation in temperature can lead to overheating and a network crash.

On our home computers, we look forward to the connection being restored. The blackout of the screen and the interruption of communications may seem like greater adversity and personal punishment. We are accustomed to seeing effective data transfer and access as a right around which much of our lives revolve. However, little has been discussed about the geological and thermodynamic system behind and maintaining seamless data transfer or its climate or social implications.

Both the history of communication and the present have been entirely dependent on metals, of which copper and silica are the most important. Copper and silicon are part of almost all modern media. All metal is bound to the aggregate from which it must be separated. The process requires huge amounts of heat, and only a small fraction of the huge amount of aggregate is clean enough to be used for media needs. Ten kilograms of copper are obtained from a ton of aggregate. The rest of the aggregate is rock waste. Contamination is a by-product of such a process. Surplus rock material is only one part of the waste generated by the process, in addition to the chemicals used, the rock dust generated in mining, the by-products of processing and the used electronic waste. [5]

Many of the raw materials used in electronic equipment come from mines in countries where it is difficult to safeguard fundamental human rights. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, mines owned by insurgents and various paramilitary forces have funded and fed wars that have killed more people than in any conflict since World War II.

Congo and its neighbouring countries account for a large proportion of the tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold used in electronic components. Without them, computers, tablets and cell phones would not work.

Larger-scale mining in particular has also led to significant environmental damage. [1]

Most of our electronic equipment are manufactured in factories whose working conditions do not meet internationally agreed minimum standards. Salaries are not enough to live on, trade unions are banned and many workers live in conditions comparable to slavery. [1]

The biggest environmental impacts of electronic equipment are energy consumption and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions, electronic waste, and the toxic chemicals and heavy metals used in the equipment.

The energy efficiency of the devices has improved but the need for energy is still on the rise as more and more energy is needed for digital media storage and data processing.

Tens of millions of tonnes of electronic waste are generated every year. From Europe, e.g. Nigeria and Ghana leave Europe with a lot of “reusable” equipment that ends up directly in a landfill. An estimated 5-13% of e-waste in the EU is exported illegally.

Electronic waste mountains are a serious environmental and health risk. Equipment often contains mercury, lead and other heavy metals, various fluorescent and flame retardants, and plastics that, if improperly handled, can contaminate soil, air, and water. In addition, many of these substances, as well as the chemicals used in e-waste treatment, are very hazardous

and health, and respiratory diseases, for example, are common among waste collectors in developing countries. Many of them are minor children. E-waste toxins can also cause a variety of birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and many other health hazards. [1]

COPPER & CRIMES

According to Goldman Sachs, copper and nickel will be found in the soil for another 40 years. [2] The depletion of natural resources is changing the integrated culture, practices, economy, geopolitics and climate conditions of the digital age. [3] An extensive criminal network has already been built around copper. There are motorcycle gangs, individual criminals and organisations like the Italian mafia involved. Thieves, for example, can take church roofs and grounded copper cable along railways and cause considerable damage. The origin of copper is being eradicated and it is often exported to Europe, e.g. For melting in the Baltic countries or chartering e.g. To China. China is the world’s largest producer of copper, and due to China’s high demand for copper, the market price of copper has risen sharply. In Finland, thefts have taken place at construction sites and the roofs of buildings have been stolen. [4]

NUMBER OF COPPER THEFT FROM RAILWAYS IN 2010

Belgium ………… .717 cases

Germany ……… .over 1000 (Jan-Oct 2010). PRICE LABEL: 12-15 million

France ……… 300. Price tag: approx. 35 million euro

Italy …………… ..1341. PRICE LABEL: approx. 4 million euro.

Great Britain …… 2000 (2006-2010) PRICE LABEL: 42 million euro [4]

Italian anti-mafia prosecutor Aldo de Chiara specialices in environmental crimes. He has been investigating an illegal waste management business in Italy in the hands of the mafia. . The most famous and widespread case is called Operazione Nerone where criminals burned waste to get copper.

Aldo de Chiara: These people are reckless and unscrupulous because they know that the criminal activity they are doing is a danger to public health. It is therefore important to point out that burning wires does not just release substances that are harmful to health into the atmosphere, which can cause respiratory symptoms. Combustible landfills also contaminate agricultural land, causing significant damage to the environment. [4]

HEAT AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT

Heat management plays a key role throughout the media production process. The need for temperature control begins already in mining and aggregate processing. The aggregate undergoes innumerable thermological processes before it is a usable metal. A suitable temperature is essential in the manufacture of the devices. Data transfer and data archiving will not work if the temperature is not correct. The wrong temperature in the print media process causes problems with printing papers, printing plates, and printing inks. Preservation of photographs, prints, films, and paintings requires an appropriate temperature. Libraries, archives and digital storage facilities need a suitable temperature. The stock market will collapse if the digital network overheats. [5]

According to several sources, one google consumes as much electricity as a 60-watt light bulb that is on for 17 seconds. The servers are assembled into large data centres whose electricity consumption has been compared to small states, just to mention few examples of energy consumption.

The carbon footprint of digital media is an issue we need to focus on in the future.

[ 1 ]  https://eetti.fi/vastuullinentekniikka/

[ 2 ]  https://www.is.fi/taloussanomat/art-2000001870184.html

[ 3 ] https://www.sitra.fi/artikkelit/trendit-kamppailu-luonnonvaroista-kiihtyy/

[4]  Minna Knus-Galan /Punaisen kullan metsästäjät käsikirjoitus, YLE, MOT

[5] Nicole Starosielski, “Thermocultures of Geological Media,” Cultural Politics, Vol. 12 (3), Duke University Press, 2016: 293-309.

[ 6 ] https://www.karhuhelsinki.fi/blogi/internetin-ilmastouhkat-miten-kayttaa-nettia-ymparistoystavallisesti

Thermocultures of Geological Media – A summary

The article by Nicole Starosielski examines thermal manipulation in transforming the earth’s raw materials into media and maintaining those materials as media. Examinations include the extraction and refining of Earth’s raw materials into pure materials for media usages, the utilization of air conditioner for even temperature for media productions, and thermal infrared imaging.

Purity of elements: One set of thermal practices is transforming geological matter into the circulation of mass media. Especially refining raw minerals into media materials, where the temperature is used to ensure purity and consistency of materials across media objects. However, it is impossible to reach an entirely pure state of minerals. Mary Douglas defines purity as the designation of one set of phenomena as clean (specifically copper and silicon communication circuits in Nicole’s article) which integrally tied to pollution as a result of a systematic order of elements while rejecting inappropriate ones.

Even temperature: The invention of the air conditioner (1902 by Willis Carrier) was with the intention of standardizing media rather than cooling humans. The reason being the dynamic relationship of pure elements with their surroundings despite an attempt to control their internal composition and limitation of interactions. Nicole takes a look at the fluctuated temperature issues with the printing and lithography industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which are external climate and excess heat produced during press productions. Air conditioning systems since then has been used in ensuring the precision and efficiency in many other forms of media productions. Eventually, after the standardization of temperature regulation, the thermosensitivities of media persisted. Some examples mentioned are the preservation of analog media like magazines, films, microchips, libraries and archives, architectures, factories; as well as digital media like ensuring the operation of large data centers and computational devices.

Productive variation: In this part, Nicole argues that environmental control is incomplete as the temperature remains a force that affects all thermosensitive bodies despite expansive thermal infrastructures. Temperature variations in the productive ends for the expansion of media and capital, for example, the extractive industry with the increasing use of fiber-optic and thermal infrared image technique in the mining industry.

Thermocultures: The study of thermocultures set light to how matters take shape and circulate through the world and offer a branching path to the geology of media. Thermal control and manipulation are underlying operations of differentiation and homogeneity of contemporary media, and the process of controlling the environment in which materials are reactive or stable and in which transformations can occur.


In this course, we aim to investigate media culture under the belief that there is no nature, but the Earth has already been transformed into a mass body of media. The geology of media investigates the state that makes it possible to transform the Earth into media. This perspective leads to a more important question: What can we change in our system to save the planet Earth?

Reference:
Douglas, Mary. (1996) 1984. Purity and Danger: An analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. NewYork: Routledge.
Parikka, Jussi. 2015. A Geology of Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Starosielski, Nicole. 2016. Thermocultures of Geological Media. Cultural Politics, Volume 12, Issue 3. Duke University Press.

Infragraphy Volume III – Spring 2020

Graphic Design: Ameya Chikramane

DOWNLOAD PDF: http://blogs.aalto.fi/mediainfrastructures/files/2020/05/Infragraphies_vol3_web.pdf

CONTRIBUTORS: Ameya Chikramane, Boeun Kim, Lassi Häkkinen, Samir Bhowmik and Shambhavi Singh

INTRODUCTION
The world moved online in 2020. The global spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 with the resulting quarantine and lockdowns forced a significant portion of humanity to accept a virtual life. Global Internet traffic soared to over 30 percent in March and online transactions to over 42 percent in April [1]. The internet has done well during the coronavirus pandemic. Its infrastructure has held up. It allowed a transition to remote work, learning, socializing and entertainment. Netflix, the video streaming service added more than 16 million new subscribers [2], and online shopping giant Amazon hired 100000 workers in March, and reported massive earnings [3]. In between streaming and online shopping, the perfect combination of the so-called late capitalism, one thing remains unconsidered. At what cost? What is the impact of such rampant connectivity and consumerism to our society, to our environment? It is a big mistake to think we will be saving the environment by lockdowns, when all we have been doing for the past few months is streaming and shopping. Connectivity is material and resource-based, supported by a global infrastructure of data centers, power plants and submarine cables. The internet consumes energy. A whole lot of it. Global data centers recently consumed around 205 billion kWh [4]. As the massive pressure on the ‘Cloud’ intensifies and energy use goes through the roof, we need to again re-consider how we design and implement such infrastructure, or change how we live.

This third volume of Infragraphy is short but rich in its range and contents addressing internet  infrastructures. Boeun Kim’s ‘The Paradox of Online Society’ attempts to unbox the hidden cost behind the digital transition by discussing how the quarantine affects the socially disadvantaged, the energy cost and air pollution, and the silver lining during the pandemic. Lassi Häkkinen’s ‘Vulnerability of Technology and Data in the Physical World’ looks at physical world vulnerabilities of our information and data, and the impossibility to separate infrastructural materialities from the the digital. By illustration, Shambhavi Singh examines the ‘Infrastructures of Isolation’, and finally, Ameya Chikramane explores new approaches to the post-digital. All these critical student texts and artworks deal with the materialities of media technologies and their societal and environmental implications, as outcomes of the course ‘Archaeology of Media Infrastructures’ in the Spring of 2020 at the Department of Media, Aalto University. 

Samir Bhowmik
25 May 2020, Helsinki

1 Yevgeniy Sverdlik, Will the Coronavirus Break the Internet? Datacenter Knowledge, 13 March 2020 <https://www.datacenterknowledge.com/uptime/will-coronavirus-break-internet-highly-unlikely-says-cloudflare>

2 Trefis Team, Netflix Subscriber Growth 2x Expectations; Good News Or Peak? Forbes, 28 April, 2020 <https://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2020/04/28/netflix-subscriber-growth-2x-expectations-good-news-or-peak/#5d046ad53ea1>

3 Alina Seyukh, Amazon To Hire 100,000 Workers To Meet ‘Surge In Demand’, NPR, 16 March 2020 <https://www.npr.org/2020/03/16/816704442/amazon-to-hire-100-000-workers-to-meet-surge-in-demand?t=1590396613400>

4 How Much Energy Do Data Centers Really Use? Energy & Innovation, 17 March 2020 <https://energyinnovation.org/2020/03/17/how-much-energy-do-data-centers-really-use/>

Archaeology of Media Infrastructures – Spring 2020

Course Summary: The course provides a framework of archaeological exploration of media infrastructures. It allows students to think beyond a single media device and design for broader media ecologies. Tracing the emergence of contemporary media infrastructures from early instances in human and media history, it examines both hard infrastructure (architecture, mechanical and computing systems) and soft infrastructure (software, APIs and operating systems). What are the breaks, the discontinuities and ruptures in media-infrastructural history? What has been remediated, in what form, in what characteristics? The course prepares students for the follow-up course: ‘Media and the Environment’ in Fall 2020.

Wednesdays 13.15 – 15.00 / Starting 5.2.2020 / until 1.4.2020

The course is filed under Media Art and Culture / https://into.aalto.fi/display/enmlab/2020-2022+Advanced+studies

Register: weboodi.aalto.fi  

Infragraphy Volume 2, Fall 2019

INFRAGRAPHY Volume 2. is a compilation of critical student artworks and short essays dealing with the materialities of media technologies and their environmental implications.

These works and texts are the outcomes from the course ‘Media and the Environment’ in the Fall of 2019 at the Department of Media, Aalto University. The course was a series of scholarly readings about and around the themes of media including media’s relations and impacts on the so-called Anthropocene, thermocultures of media, ecologies of fabrication, media and plastics, Internet of Things, Planned Obsolescence, e-waste, and media’s energetic landscapes. A key approach of the course was also introducing artistic methods and practices that could address emerging media materialities. The final exhibition of the course was a collection of student artworks as a response to the contemporary discourse of political economy of media and related environmental implications.

DOWNLOAD PDF: http://blogs.aalto.fi/mediainfrastructures/files/2020/01/Infragraphy_Fall2019_WEB.pdf

Infragraphy Volume 1, Spring 2019

This first volume of Infragraphy is a compilation of critical student writings and photo essays about media, infrastructure and the environment. These texts are outcomes from the “Archaeology of Media Infrastructures” Master of Arts course in the Spring of 2019 at the Department of Media, Aalto University Finland. The course examined media infrastructures including the concept of deep time, the materialities of the Internet, Artificial Intelligence, digital labor, water, energy, and critical infrastructure.

Download PDF: Infragraphy_Vol1_Spring2019

An Increasing Need of Electricity and a Decrease of Biodiversity

I got interested to study a bit more about the idea that birds’ magnetic compass orientation would get disrupted by electromagnetic noise. There has been a debate on does electric and magnetic fields affect biological processes and human health and when the article was written, in 2014 there hadn’t been any scientifically proven effects.

Svenja Engels, Nils-Lasse Schneider, Nele Lefeldt, Christine Maira Hein, Manuela Zapka, Andreas Michalik, Dana Elbers, Achim Kittel, P. J. Hore & Henrik Mouritsen performed controlled experiments in the University of Oldenburg and found out that European robins lose their ability to use the Earths’ magnetic field when exposed to low-level AM electromagnetic noise between around 20 kHz and 20 MHz, the kind of noise routinely generated by consumer electrical and electronic equipment. The birds gained the ability back to orient to the Earths’ magnetic field when they were shielded from electromagnetic noise in the frequency range from 2kHz to 5 MHz or tested in a rural setting.

I found a European Commissions’ Guidance for Energy Transmission Infrastructure from 2018. This is only a guidance in a sense that I am not sure if these are actually taken into account when making decisions about energy infrastructure. What I found interesting in this guidance is that they address that biodiversity is an important element and nature provides important socio-economic benefits to society. It seems that they have a very agricultural, anthropocentric view on nature even though this guidance is made to protect endangered species.

In the guidance for energy transmission infrastructure projects the listed impacts are through clearance of land and the removal of surface vegetation: the existing habitats may be altered, damaged, fragmented or destroyed and the indirect effects could be much more widespread especially when projects interfere with water and soil quality. Also when building the site there will be increased traffic, presence of people, noise, dust, pollution, artificial lighting and vibration and the risks of collision with power cables.

Electrocution can have a major impact on several bird species, and causing the death of thousands of birds annually.

source: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/planning-can-help-prevent-renewable-energy-surge-harming-wildlife

There is a strong consensus that the risk posed to birds depends on the technical construction and detailed design of power facilities. In particular, electrocution risk is high with “badly engineered” medium voltage power poles (“killer poles”) (BirdLife International, 2007).

By acknowledging the loss of thousands of birds annually because of the energy infrastructure can we say that they are part of energy infrastructure?

source:http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/management/docs/Energy%20guidance%20and%20EU%20Nature%20legislation.pdf

Zooming in on infrastructure – invisible labour

While reading “Anatomy of an AI system” by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler, I came to think once more of the time I worked in a distribution center for groceries in a Stockholm suburb in Sweden. The main purpose of Crawford’s and Joler’s research seems to be to make three different aspects of Amazon Echo visible – Material resources, human labour and data. With a product like that, most of (if not all) labour is hidden behind its slick surface and words like “AI agent Alexa” and “the Cloud” – intangible entities that seems to effortlessly float around above or around us. They seem to take up no space, consume no energy, produce work opportunities and save time for the consumer. But as the authors describe, that’s far from the whole truth.

I think that most infrastructures, non-regarding of industry, works in a similar way in modern day society, and I will use my work experience as a means to describe this in the food industry.

The warehouse corridors in a similar distribution center, room temperature.

I got the job through a student consultancy company. The food supply chain corporation uses this type of service to fill up extra hours. That way they don’t have to constantly hire and fire people when quantities differ over time.

Before getting the job, I hadn’t paid much thought to how the food supply chain works. Just like any citizen in this part of the world, I would go to my local supermarket or mall and buy groceries. I would assume that they would always have everything in stock and that they would provide fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, grains, dairy, legumes, candy, soda, etc from all over the world. I remember one early spring when the stores in Stockholm ran out of chopped-salad bags. In the shelf was a sign stating “due to cold weather and storms in Southern Europe, we cannot provide this product”. I remember feeling annoyed. How hard would it be to get some salad on the shelf? Why couldn’t I get my salad? I realised of course that it was ridiculous to think that I could have salad every day year round, but that’s how it usually was, so why would this day be different?

I worked mostly in the freezer department of the distribution center. These centers are the last stage for the food before it reaches the stores – suppliers drive their packets of product to the center, where we fork lift drivers pack the orders that will be driven to the actual stores. There are several departments – fridge, freezer, non-temperate products such as deodorants, toilet paper, soda, and the likes. The freezer is kept at a temperature of -23 degrees Celsius. When I was employed, I got warm underclothing, boots, hat, scarf, gloves and an overall. The orders are made by a pick-by-voice system. That means that all operators wear a headset with a microphone. When I started my work shift, I turned the headset controller on, logged in and then started a new order with the words “new order”.

The type of fork lift that I drove in the center.

The headset voice, called Talkman, is controlled by a computer system, that will give me the next order in line. You can choose a male or female voice, I chose the latter. She would then emmidieatly tell me the store, order number, number of packages and number of shelves I would have to visit. Most orders are packed on EU-pallets. I confirm the order and Talkman tells me which shelf to go to by stating which corridor and which shelf number the next package is in, for example “Adam 21” (synonymous to Alfa, Beta, Charlie in English). I drive my fork lift to that location and read a number on the shelf to confirm. Talkman then tells me how many packages to pick. I step off the forklift and pick the cardboard boxes with my gloves. It’s quite clumsy to pick packages in the freezer – the gloves are thick to protect the hands. It takes some practice to get fast at picking. It then goes on like that- I confirm the number of packages, she immediately gives me the next location. An order can range from a few packages to over a thousand and can require several EU-pallets. While driving from shelf to shelf, the wind hits my face and numbs the skin that is visible. I try to cover as much as possible with my hat and scarf, leaving only my eyes, nose and mouth unprotected. After driving around for a couple of hours, my feet, nose and hands are geting quite cold. In the freezer you have the right to a short break every two hours. I used to go and sit in the locker room for 15 minutes before returning to my truck. In the first weeks, it was hard to endure working in the cold before I got used to it.

Me in my freezer outfit and pick-by-voice headset

There is almost no social contact during the work shift. Sometimes people stop in the hallways to talk to each other, but it’s too cold to stand still for more than a few minutes. There’s a radio playing in the warehouse – listening to music in headphones is forbidden due to security reasons. There is a dinner break and a short evening break when you work the evening shift, from 3pm to 22pm. In the freezer department, people use the breaks to get warm again. I hang my overall on a hanger and put my shoes, scarf, hat and gloves in the heating cabinet. The scarf is usually stiff from the vapour from my breath. There is a tv in the break room which always shows the same channel. During my year, I watched all episodes of How I met your mother almost two times. People who work in the freezer are not energetic or inspired during their work shift. They try to make the time go by. But there’s not much to think about while working, and you have to make sure you’re not hitting anything or anyone while driving and talking to Talkman. The concrete floor in the warehouse can get slippery at times. Sometimes when I turned with the fork lift, I slid a meter and almost hit the shelves. There is a demand for how much we should pick every shift, but in the freezer they don’t really bug you if you don’t reach that number. They know it’s hard work.

During my last summer there I worked full time. I got to spend more shifts in the regularly tempered department, where people were more outgoing and I didn’t have to eat as much to stay warm. But I slowly developed pain in my feet and my left hip. There was a rumour that the company suggested people to only work two consecutive years full time as a picker, otherwise the work would cause permanent damage to your body. A few people in the freezer had worked there for over twenty years. They were strong but worn out. These people have no pretence about the downsides of capitalist society. The job is, however, well paid compared to other unqualified jobs, which is probably the only way to get people in Sweden to work under such conditions today.

Researching for this post, I found out that the company I worked for is now building a huge automated distribution center that will replace most of their present day warehouses, also the one where I worked, in Sweden at 2023. Around a 1000 employees will be affected and it’s unclear how many will get to keep their jobs at this moment (a minority at best). 

Google’s cable investments

There was an article recently on New York Times covering Google’s undersea projects. They have a nice map of the history of undersea cables and which of them Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Amazon “partly own, solely own or are a major capacity buyer of a cable owned by another company”.

Map published in New York Times. Graphics by Karl Russell, Troy Griggs and Blacki Migliozzi.

It looks like the share of these major content providers among all internet cables is increasing quite rapidly. And especially Google is taking lead of creating its own cable infrastructure.

There is an interview of Jayne Stowell, who oversees construction of Google’s undersea cable projects. Couple of nice comments:

“People think that data is in the cloud, but it’s not,”
“It’s in the ocean.”

“It really is management of a very complex multidimensional chess board,” said Ms. Stowell of Google, who wears an undersea cable as a necklace.

There is also interviews and pictures of guys working in the cable ship Durable that Google uses for its laying operations.

“I still get seasick,” said Walt Oswald, a technician who has been laying cables on ships for 20 years. He sticks a small patch behind his ear to hold back the nausea. “It’s not for everybody.”

Recommend to read!

Here’s couple more images of what Google is planning from company blog post.

Hydropolis & Cybercity

Infrastructure used to refer to roads, tunnels and other public works. In Signal Traffic, Shannon Mattern points out how words “architecture” along with “telecommunications” and “media” began to trend in the 1960’s, approximately at the same time. “Infrastructures made human settlements possible”, Mattern continues, and this indeed the case with the Salpausselkä ridges spreading across Southern and South-Eastern Finland: a national highway number 12 follows the Salpausselkä I ridge, along with a railway and some major cities and towns. The formation itself does not stand out very much from the landscape, save for a few steep quarries revealing the moraine and materiality of the ridge. According to Mattern, an area in which human settlements gathered, also forms an infrastructure — “an area of local intercourse”. What are examples of these areas and what kinds of local intercourses do they entail?

Considering the various urban forms: topography, transportation, cosmology, philosophy, defense… Everything intertwines and services merge to one another. An example could be a case of postal services piggybacking in the cargo compartment of a vehicle intended for commuting. Decreased commuting may mean changing timetables and thus affecting the time when the postal service is able to do their work. That means people receive their mail less frequently or later during the day — how will everyday habits be shaped by such a trivial change in society?

How are cities mediated or unmediated? Was there an unmediated era, and what did it look like compared to today? What were the visual characteristics of an unmediated city: unpainted surfaces, human-sized buildings? We can now access overviews of areas more easily with drones or with the aid of Google Earth. Has it already changed views of how we construct neighborhoods or new suburbs?

The intermingling of temporalities: old and new form interfaces with one another, sometimes leaking into one another. New technologies are introduced, old are discarded, but not entirely. During the implementation of mobile network technologies, analog television broadcasts were phased out. If you listen to amateur radio, unused bandwidth frees up space in the “spectrum” for other purposes and transmission of data. Listening to the various signals nowadays (conveniently with the help of an online SDR), aside from voice communication, one may find out there are people out there still communicating with morse code; planes transmit some of the flight data as continuous signals to airports without manual human reporting; remote weather stations send weather data, all this without the help of internet connection that the contemporary human is so dependent on.

It is evident the Salpausselkä ridges are natural formations that have supported human activity for thousands of years: their affordances have allowed convenient ways to arrange defense, logistics, trade routes, services and other industrial endeavors. The formations are an obvious location for erecting radio/TV/telephone masts and water towers. Some buildings and sites have been built on top of the ridge to highlight their presence in the area, or to offer the visitors an outlook to enjoy.

Lauttasaari water tower was taken down in 2015. In an article by HSY about constructing a new water tower instead of trying to preserve the old one, it is stated that repurposing old water towers is an expensive and difficult feat, depending on the way the tower has been originally constructed. A study conducted in Romania points out how many of the old water towers have been converted into sites for preserving cultural artefacts or sites for cultural activities. In many cases, radio towers and antennas are located on top of a water tower. What is the relationship between the hydropolis of water and waste with an electrified and communicative cybercity?

The Salpausselkä ridges contain majority of the groundwater reserves of the area. The gravel within the ridge filters the water — some of this water is bottled, and the water can be bought from Finnish supermarkets. What is the future of water system when faced with challenges such as drought? How are these very essential and invisible infrastructures and related ecosystems designed to prevail?

(Image: Jari Laamanen, Wikipedia)