Libraries, Archives, Technology, Impending Doom
Despite the aura of ethereality that clings to the Internet, today’s technologies have not shed their material aspects. Digging into the materiality of such devices does much to trouble the adoring declarations of “The Internet Is the Answer.” What is unearthed by digging is the ecological and human destruction involved in the creation of the devices on which the Internet depends—a destruction that Jussi Parikka considers an obscenity at the core of contemporary media.
Parikka’s tale begins deep below the Earth’s surface in deposits of a host of different minerals that are integral to the variety of devices without which you could not be reading these words on a screen. This story encompasses the labor conditions in which these minerals are extracted and eventually turned into finished devices, it tells of satellites, undersea cables, massive server farms, and it includes a dark premonition of the return to the Earth which will occur following the death (possibly a premature death due to planned obsolescence) of the screen at which you are currently looking.
In a connected duo of new books, The Anthrobscene (referenced below as A) and A Geology of Media (referenced below as GM), media scholar Parikka wrestles with the materiality of the digital. Parikka examines the pathways by which planetary elements become technology, while considering the transformations entailed in the anthropocene, and artistic attempts to render all of this understandable. Drawing upon thinkers ranging from Lewis Mumford to Donna Haraway and from the Situationists to Siegfried Zielinski – Parikka constructs a way of approaching media that emphasizes that it is born of the Earth, borne upon the Earth, and fated eventually to return to its place of origin. Parikka’s work demands that materiality be taken seriously not only by those who study media but also by all of those who interact with media – it is a demand that the anthropocene must be made visible.