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a Cultural Politics Book

Finite Media: Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies

Sean Cubitt
Sean Cubitt

Sean Cubitt is Professor of Film and Television, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the author of several books, most recently, The Practice of Light: A Genealogy of Visual Technologies from Prints to Pixels.

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Duke University Press
ISBN electronic:
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Book Chapter


January 2017

The first section of the book confronts the human and environmental costs of this expansion of media and shows that it is unsustainable. Chapter 1 gives detailed accounts of the energy expended and matter condensed to make the world work as a mediated network. Beginning with an account of energy consumption by computing media, it addresses the energy requirements of network media, especially data centers and cloud computing. It continues with an analysis of centralized electricity generation, showing how standardization procedures and intellectual property rights increase energy usage. Emphasizing the inhuman and cyborg nature of the energy market and its players, the second part of the chapter traces the colonial origins and continuing colonial practice of energy production, specifically fossil fuels, hydroelectricity, and nuclear power. It traces its impacts on indigenous peoples and the blindness of the largely deregulated energy market to its human and ecological effects, noting the meticulous exclusion of shame from the world of mining and the resulting exclusion of the unaccounted.

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