Category Archives: MEDIA INEQUALITY

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/

The odds of digital inclusion

Jillian Weise, a poet and disability rights activist, has a refreshingly acute view on the human body and technology – approaching the celebrated movement of biohacking and the discussion on human cyborgs from a perspective of a person with disability, Weise has come up with a term tryborg to distinguish the optional, even hobbyist use of technology from necessary [1]. What Weise brings forward is the truth and reality of people with various disabilities, and the reliance on technology in everyday lives without a chance to opt-out from the latest tech gone out of fashion. “When my leg suddenly beeps and buzzes and goes into “dead mode” — the knee stiffens; I walk like a penguin — the tryborg is alive without batteries” [2]. It cannot be more stressed and obvious – there are people who rely and depend on technology for functions non-disabled people rarely consciously think about.

Between the endless data stream on the Internet cables and the pixels of media content, there are layers of technology and code, seemingly transparent and only becoming visible when something glitches, breaks off, fails. And the odds are that they will fail more often if you are a person with a disability. Those technologies are not only the ever-changing devices used for accessing the Web but also interfaces that come into endless forms and colors, following the newest trends or submitting to lack of money and time in coding and development.

3 screens with simulation of visual impairment

View of Aalto University website with SeeNow visual impairment simulator. Simulation of macular degeneration (1), diabetic retinopathy (2), cataract (3).

To challenge the prevailing notion of the ideal media audience as being non-disabled, Jillian Weise recently held an online event specifically crafted for an audience of deaf members [3]. It’s an act of looking beyond an imaginary of a monogamous mass of entities and online presence, and into more humane realities. But can such a performance fuel a conscious attitude for designers, businesses, and governments to take into account the invisible, but obviously diverse audience?

Digital divide is relevant not only on a global scale but also within local societies, with uneven opportunities, access to and accessibility of the technology. More than 18% of the world’s population suffer from a variety of disabilities, and the general level of Internet access for persons with disabilities is much lower than for the rest of society [4]. And while the Internet possesses a possibility of inclusion and opportunities for the community, the most widely-used hardware, software, and Web content vary considerably in their accessibility to people with a range of disabilities [5]. The Internet can pose opportunities for people with hearing and walking impairments to ease their daily tasks or induce socializing but exclude and marginalize those with visual or cognitive impairments.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to help remove the barriers and create services and technology that are broadly accessible [6]. Accessibility, in this case, means that websites, digital products, and technologies are built in a way to be accessed and used by persons with various disabilities – visual, auditory, physical, and cognitive disabilities, that often means giving up the latest hype and visual trends for deliberate accessibility, clear affordances, and an extra time and precision for coding. While the guidelines are not mandatory for the private sector, the EU has developed a Web Accessibility Directive to improve public sector websites and digital products. Recent research in Sweden shows that the focus on visual and sensory impairments in policies and standards for accessibility has improved the experience and use of interfaces for the respective groups, but there are no clear methods or understandings on the design process for accessibility for those with cognitive impairments [7].

Dependence on online services and media is now ever-increasing in business, entertainment and governance, and digital products make way for easier and more dynamic daily lives. Internet access is linked to income, mental health, and social capital [5], therefore the lack of it can lead to socioeconomic disadvantage. And at the same time Internet technologies and products hold a huge potential for reducing the inequalities of people with disabilities, if only they are kept in regard when designing the services and products. If only the devices, digital services, and digital products are usable and worthwhile regardless of who is the person using them. Or as Jillian Weiss’s online performance suggests, designed for people with disabilities in the first place, because those without disabilities will still have the odds on their side.

[1] Jillian Weise, Common Cyborg, In: Disability Visibility, ed. Alice Wong, 2020, p.63-74

[2] Jillian Weise, The Dawn of the Tryborg, 30.11.2016. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/opinion/the-dawn-of-the-tryborg.html

[3] The Cyborg Jillian Weise Hosts A Different Kind of Internet Event, 18.09.2020. URL: https://occhimagazine.com/the-cyborg-jillian-weise-hosts-a-different-kind-of-internet-event/

[4] Vicente, María Rosalía, López, Ana Jesús, A Multidimensional Analysis of the Disability Digital Divide: Some Evidence for Internet Use, In: Information Society. Jan/Feb2010, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p48-64.

[5] Kerry Dobranskya, Eszter Hargittai, Unrealized potential: Exploring the digital disability divide. URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2016.08.003

[6] WCAG 2.1. at a Glance, URL: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/glance/

[7] Stefan Johansson, Jan Gulliksen, Catharina Gustavsson, Disability digital divide: the use of the internet, smartphones, computers and tablets among people with disabilities in Sweden, In: Universal Access in the Information Society, 7.03.2020, URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10209-020-00714-x

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)

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

The Medium (Infrastructure) is the Message

Infrastructures have been in multiple forms even before the term was ever used, and that the concept itself has ever since became super broad – coming from printing to highways- but for this matter, it is important to mention that now more than ever many present themselves as being “discursive” base constructions but in reality, they are quite physical and rely on the poor awareness of its physicality and its implications to keep as they are.

It is also important to note that infrastructures come with capacities of distorting political realms and therefore affecting physical borders, people’s realities and navigation, and capability to be part of their society, we can think of the first postal service in Rome up to the delimitation of data usage in some countries. Not only the presence of these infrastructures in our daily life and their underparts, such as daily life devices, model our accessibility, communication reach, but our possibilities of motion and displacement around certain areas. Also being users of these devices, and therefore infrastructures, we become essential pieces of their functionality.

In the case of daily devices, such as smartphones, which are power-tools that have the illusion of progress and freedom but come with a certain non-monetary cost attached, when we become dependant on them we first agree to conditions we aren’t even aware of, and are tie to policies we are not familiar with. We delegate more and more mundane also primal tasks and become dependant on many functions, we can not rely on our own without them and also need the extension functions they provide, like the capacity of being simultaneously at more than one place or having access to information otherwise inaccessible, therefore we are vicious consumers of data, apps, more devices, most likely always persecuting the latest models for better and efficient results.

The real cost behind this is not only individual and doesn’t rely only upon the terms of agreement we as users sign on every service we decide to acquire, the real cost, unfortunately, relies on the physicality of these discursive based infrastructures that depend on land, natural resource, energy and by incrementing the consumption the political power increments and the mediums and ways are not necessarily the most conscious but most likely always the most profitable and by not being mindful consumers or users of these infrastructures, which are definitely hard to avoid and almost unrealistic to imagine ourselves out of them, we contribute to this power chain.

Francesca Bogani Amadori

Regarding the Face of Media Infrastructures

In Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures Shannon Mattern introduces the history of media infrastructures, challenging the prevailing view on media technologies being associated with electricity and industrialization. Mattern argues that communication, media technologies, and infrastructures have been crucially embedded in the formation of cities regardless of the period of time, and that the shaping of cities is not only affected by transportation or topology but also communication and it’s technologies (Mattern, 96–97). Looking back at times prior to electricity, telegraph, and other rather modern inventions, the notion of media infrastructures is being widened and is taking into account earlier technologies of writing, and also voice as a medium.

I cannot help, but notice that the density of keywords such as technology, infrastructuregovernance, lead me into a trap of my own thinking, determining the primary association with this deep time as having a face of men and masculinity. And it seems that I am not alone – looking into technology and gender, Wajcman argues that the notion of technology being associated with men and manliness is deeply rooted in technology being associated with white male-dominated spheres of industrial machinery, military, mechanical and civil engineering since the late nineteenth century (Wajcman, 2009). Thus the deep time of media infrastructures and technologies, cannot help but be primarily associated with one gender of the humanity.

In the deep time of media, writing has been distinguished as being an integral urban political-economic infrastructure, driving trade, accountancy, and governance of the cities (Mattern, 101). But given the trap I have fallen into, it has to be taken into account that the political and economic spheres in historical perspective were dominated by men, and thus, there are some curious questions raising – what new knowledge can be gained when media infrastructures are viewed from a certain socio-historic perspective? Were women simply late-comers to the existing and ever-changing media technologies? What technologies and infrastructures did women create, alter, use, or maintain?

A quick answer would be of one obvious technology largely associated with women – the commercial typewriter. As simple as it seems, the typewriter did induce a social change (at least, in the USA) and became a symbol of independent women. Olwell states that even though female typewriters were largely an extension of a machine and received low wages, typewriting jobs were hailed as a route to economic independence and social dignity for masses of women (Olwell, 2003). She goes on to argue that the typewriter and the notion of an independent woman can also be linked to the women voter, and suffrage.

With no ready-made answers, I believe this is an important notion also in media archaeology – to view the issue at hand keeping in mind the socio-historical perspective and power relations.

 

References:

1. Shannon Mattern, Deep Time of Media Infrastructure, in: Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures, ed. Lisa Parks, Nicole Starosielski. University of Illinois Press: 2015, p.94–112.

2. Victoria Olwell, Typewriters and the Vote, https://doi.org/10.1086/375676

3. Judy Wajcman, Feminist theories of technology, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Volume 34, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 143–152, https://doi.org/10.1093/cje/ben057

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

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

Circuits of Capital

A system of high-risk, low-paid work in offshore factories, where human and environmental rights are casually ignored is an essential part of the global success story of electronic companies, the automobile, and the fashion industry, among others. [1]

The fact that components for virtually all technological products are manufactured in different locations around the globe is disconnecting us from the reality of human and environmental suffering. This system allows companies to distance themselves from the supply chains they’ve build-up themself. Transparency is claimed impossible and responsibilities are conveniently shifted.
“lt is clear, however, that corporations resist taking responsibility, spending instead vast sums on legal actions blocking charges against them and on public relations campaigns (including the expensive scientists whose reports they commission).”  [2]

Some companies even have the audacity to claim that it wouldn’t be possible for them to demand their suppliers to comply with human rights. This system allows us to maintain our privileged, wasteful, and unsustainable lifestyle without realizing that this way of living is supporting child-labor (e.g. in fashion production) [3] , modern slavery as seen in the fish industry in Thailand [4], and the brutal suppression of minorities supported (e.g. by VW in China. [5]

In what world do we live in where companies feel like human-rights are negotiable?

Among the things that really stayed with me in Sean Cubitt’s Ecologies Fabrication is that when you fight for the environment you also have to fight for human rights: “Environmentalists need to expand their political horizons to include human victims of anti-ecological practices, (…) these include not only workers and those living in the immediate vicinity, but everyone involved in the circuits of neoliberal capital.” [6]


[1] Sean Cubitt, “Ecologies of Fabrication,” in Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment, eds. Nicole Starosielski and Janet Walker, NY and London, Routledge, 2016: p.168
[2] ibid 173
[3] https://www.commonobjective.co/article/child-labour-in-the-fashion-industry
[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/21/such-brutality-tricked-into-slavery-in-the-thai-fishing-industry
[5] https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/menschenrechte-ueruemqi-vw-haelt-an-werk-in-chinesischer-provinz-xinjiang-fest-dpa.urn-newsml-dpa-com-20090101-200108-99-391133
[6] Sean Cubitt 2016, p. 164

 

 

Anthrobscene and the Neocolonial

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

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

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

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

 

Reference:

https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/metals/070920-china-boosts-metal-scrap-imports-after-policy-change-bir

https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/11/how-china-profits-from-our-junk/281044/

https://www.metalsinfo.com/news/display_pid_9-cid_18-news_id_216082.html

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/>

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

Fictional screams and other assaults

This post includes mentions of sexual assault.

When reading Parikka’s The Anthrobscene, I was particularly appalled by the chapter And the Earth screamed, Alive. There’s something about non-animals, or even non-humans, screaming in fiction that scares the heck out of me but also fascinates me. Humans have always had a thing for humanizing objects and animals, through fables and other stories. This chapter immediately made my think of a scene from the old YouTube phenomena Annoying orange, where a speaking apple is suddenly chopped into pieces by a human, something that’s quickly forgotten by the other fruits witnessing the slaughter.

Parikka, on the other hand, draws a daunting image of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional character Professor Challenger, in his short story When the World screamed*, piercing the Earth’s crust and making it scream. Parikka describes this as a rape-like scene and develops this further in the reference section, stating that:

The allusion of rape is made even more obvious when considering the long-term mythological articulation of the earth as female. The female interior is one of valuable riches.

I wanted to shape my own opinion of the matter, so I read the full short story. It can be debated whether Doyle intended this to be a rape scene or not. Professor Challenger himself refers to the drilling as a mosquito penetrating the skin of a human, or “vigorous stimulation of its sensory cortex”. This seems to reflect general assault rather than sexual assault. But then again there is certainly many references to the femaleness of the Earth, and even a sexual one, in conversation with driller Mr. Jones:


Professor Challenger, who is described on one hand as a madman and an abuser, and on the other as a genius and someone that it’s impossible not to admire, has obvious megalomania. He does not empathise with the creature he imagines Earth to be. It seems that it rather annoys or even threatens him that the Earth is so oblivious to humans and their makings. He wants her to acknowledge his existence and he can only come up with one way of doing this – by penetrating her nervous system and causing her pain.

So it’s not clear whether we should read this scene as rape, but if we do, it’s used in a manner that is depressingly common in pop culture. The female character Earth is only present in the story during the assault scene, she doesn’t have a story arc of her own and she doesn’t interact with any other characters than the rapists. She’s only mentioned in relation to the upcoming rape and there are no other female characters in the story. Surely she reacts very strongly to the assault by throwing out the perpetrators and the equipment they’ve used to penetrate her, but it’s also stated that there were no casualties from the event, which means that in the end no one suffered from her revenge act. The story ends on a high note, with Professor Challenger being applauded for his scientific “break-through” of proving that the Earth is alive. Mother Earth heals herself from within and nothing more is told about whatever mental trauma she now has to go through inside her safe womb within layers of metal and soil and beneath her outer surface of plants and water.

We have gotten so accustomed to reading and watching stories of rape this way that we can’t even imagine the alternatives**. The new Netflix series Unbelievable deals with rape in a new way and has been praised in reviews for this. Vulture uses the headline “How Unbelievable Tells a True Crime Story Without ‘Rape Porn’”*** and writes

The Netflix drama is less interested in the rapist and his horrific crimes than in another, more insidious villain: the criminal-justice system.

The series follows two female criminal detectives struggling to gain justice for several rape victims, depicting rape from the victim point of view and not putting much attention the male perpetrator or his psyche. I haven’t yet been able to watch the series myself, but I hope it will live up to its reputation. I can’t help but wonder how Doyle’s short story would have been written had it taken on the same perspective as Unbelievable – following the victim in her fight for justice after the assault, in a world completely uninterested in her version of the story. In the end it makes me question rape as an analogy for man’s destruction of the planet at all. The Earth is, contradictory to Professor Challenger’s ideas, not just one entity but many, and the environmental destruction is complex and takes different shapes in different parts of the world. Giving the planet emotional traits and a gender might make it more human to us but it’s none the less a false perception of reality, a romantic idea of “him” against “her”, with only one potential outcome – she succumbs to his wishes, or else he will take her by force. In this version there is no “us”, no life in harmony with the other, a complete lack of seeing humans as part of the ecosystem and the planet itself. It’s as problematic as the general depiction of women in pop culture, seen as “the other sex”, something exotic. In this version of women, there is a before and an after – once she’s had intercourse, whether consentual or not, she’s not pure anymore and will never be again. This image of the Earth is as damaging as the image of women: Why would we try to save something that we’ve already used and abused? If it doesn’t gain us, the perpetrator, why would we try to improve our actions and reverse some of the harm done?

* https://classic-literature.co.uk/scottish-authors/arthur-conan-doyle/when-the-world-screamed/

** The Black List website found that 2400 out of 45,000 scripts submitted to them included rape. https://blog.blcklst.com/sexual-violence-in-spec-screenplays-8f35268b689

*** https://www.vulture.com/2019/09/unbelievable-netflix-susannah-grant.html

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