Finite Media: Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies
The second chapter has three sections. The first addresses the theme of integral waste, as it emerges in the fabrication and manufacture of digital machines. The second articulates the integration of degraded populations and integral waste into consumer discipline, most of all in the moment of disposal of superseded goods, while the final section extends the Marxist concept of the general intellect to nonhuman agencies. These themes are demonstrated through case studies on materials, investigating resource extraction, manufacture, and disposal. From mining bulk metals and rare earths, it moves to the waste of lives and regions in the manufacture of integrated circuits, subassemblies, and the millions of kilometers of cabling produced each year, to the end-of-life challenge of dealing with millions of redundant phones, computers, devices, and peripherals. By looking in detail at the trade in energy and matter, at the effects of transportation, and at the close parallels between global governance regimes of media and environments, this section advances a political analysis. Developing the case that neoliberal communications are defined by the inhumanity of the cyborg corporation, it identifies waste—of energy, of materials, of human lives and natural landscapes—as an integral feature of contemporary capital, rather than an accidental by-product that can be repaired. The cycle of falling profit rates and overproduction leads to the end of factory discipline in economies dominated by production, and brings in a new form of consumer discipline whose task is to destroy excess product.