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Digital Rubbish

A Natural History of Electronics

Subjects: Cultural Studies, Media Studies, New Media
Hardcover : 9780472117611, 242 pages, 25 B&W photographs, 6 x 9, March 2011
Open Access : 9780472900299, 242 pages, 25 B&W photographs, March 2011
Paperback : 9780472035373, 242 pages, 25 B&W photographs, 6 x 9, April 2013
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Exploring the materiality of digital devices through electronic waste

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Copyright © 2011, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Description

This is a study of the material life of information and its devices; of electronic waste in its physical and electronic incarnations; a cultural and material mapping of the spaces where electronics in the form of both hardware and information accumulate, break down, or are stowed away. Electronic waste occurs not just in the form of discarded computers but also as a scatter of information devices, software, and systems that are rendered obsolete and fail. Where other studies have addressed "digital" technology through a focus on its immateriality or virtual qualities, Gabrys traces the material, spatial, cultural, and political infrastructures that enable the emergence and dissolution of these technologies. In the course of her book, she explores five interrelated "spaces" where electronics fall apart: from Silicon Valley to Nasdaq, from containers bound for China to museums and archives that preserve obsolete electronics as cultural artifacts, to the landfill as material repository. All together, these sites stack up into a sedimentary record that forms the "natural history" of this study.

Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics describes the materiality of electronics from a unique perspective, examining the multiple forms of waste that electronics create as evidence of the resources, labor, and imaginaries that are bundled into these machines. By drawing on the material analysis developed by Walter Benjamin, this natural history method allows for an inquiry into electronics that focuses neither on technological progression nor on great inventors but rather considers the ways in which electronic technologies fail and decay. Ranging across studies of media and technology, as well as environments, geography, and design, Jennifer Gabrys pulls together the far-reaching material and cultural processes that enable the making and breaking of these technologies.

Jennifer Gabrys is Senior Lecturer in Design and Convener of the Masters in Design and Environment in the Department of Design, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Jacket image: Computer dump ©iStockphoto/Lya_Cattel.

digitalculturebooks is an imprint of the University of Michigan Press and the Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library dedicated to publishing innovative and accessible work exploring new media and their impact on society, culture, and scholarly communication. Visit the website at www.digitalculture.org.

Jennifer Gabrys is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London.

"Jennifer Gabrys’ Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics is one of those books that you wish you had written – in my case, because of the elegance which with it ties together the ecological residue of electronic media culture, regimes of memory extending outside the human (and hence rethinking what the archive is), and for its (new) materialist way of materializing that what we hallucinated for a while as immaterial (new media)."
-- Jussi Parikka, Semiotic Review of Books

"...a lovely and insightful analysis. At times it is even poetic."
-- Josh Lepawsky, Cultural Geographies

"Jennifer Gabrys' Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics is one of those books that you wish you had written – in my case, because of the elegance which with it ties together the ecological residue of electronic media culture, regimes of memory extending outside the human (and hence rethinking what the archive is), and for its (new) materialist way of materializing that what we hallucinated for a while as immaterial (new media)."
—Jussi Parikka, Semiotic Review of Books

- Jussi Parikka

"...a lovely and insightful analysis. At times it is even poetic."
—Josh Lepawsky, Cultural Geographies

- Cultural Geographies