From the inception of modern, petrochemical-derived synthetic plastics to the contemporary situation in which over 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year, media assemblages and plastics constitute a range of intra-actions that contribute to our understanding of contemporary material politics. This article explores a number of issues surrounding entanglements of media and plastics, including the formation of vast oceanic plastic garbage patches, the treatment of highly toxic electronics waste, the usage of thermal papers that disrupt the human endocrine system, and the formation of technical fossils whose lack of biodegradability forms one strand of evidence within discourses of the Anthropocene. The material politics of plastics places into conversation temporal scales ranging from geological rhythms, which are measured in millions of years, to the hyperconsumption of 24/7 global capitalism, asking pertinent questions about how we conceptualize contemporary ethical and biopolitical issues surrounding humans and other living systems.
Technofossils of the Anthropocene: Media, Geology, and Plastics
Sy Taffel is a lecturer in media studies at Massey University, Aotearoa, New Zealand. In 2013 he completed a PhD in digital media ecologies at the University of Bristol. His research interests include political ecologies of digital media, digital media and political activism, the material impacts of media hardware, pervasive/locative media, and peer-to-peer production. He has published work in peer-reviewed journals, including Convergence, Culture Machine, and the NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies. Sy has also worked as a filmmaker and photographer, and he has been involved with media activist projects including Indymedia, Climate Camp, and Hacktionlab.