Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

This chapter explores the material costs of the digital world. To consider how mining in the twenty-first century does and does not come into view, it turns to rare earth elements, which are minerals central to smartphone cameras—and a green transition. The chapter follows metals from mining through the data mining of Cloud infrastructure to the eventual outcome of e-waste, where a secondary form of mining occurs. In emphasizing the materiality of the digital image, the chapter pushes back against narratives that the digital is less material and, by extension, less environmentally damaging. The conceptual shift from a material object to dematerial representation, from the darkroom to Lightroom, from the archive to the Cloud, functions to symbolically neutralize the ongoing violence of extraction, hiding the environmental and human costs of the digital photograph. Case studies include Edward Burtynsky, Trevor Paglen, and Pieter Hugo.

This content is only available as PDF.
You do not currently have access to this chapter.
Don't already have an account? Register
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal