Geomedia, Mining, and Mobility Justice: The Matter of Cloud Computing and Bitcoin
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Technology never operates on its own, but is always about how people use it, how we put things together and make them work. The “material turn” in media studies and mobilities research highlights the geopolitical and socioecological power relations behind technologies like cloud computing and cryptocurrencies. There is a transnational material and ecological basis for communication infrastructures and virtual media geographies which pose crucial problems of mobility justice. Every historical period involves specific assemblages of transport, logistics, communication, and energy infrastructures, from the coal-fired steam train to the caffeine-fueled WiFi café, along with the pollution and waste these systems leave behind: “the materiality of information technology starts from the soil, and underground” in metals such as cobalt and gallium, tantalum and germanium, bauxite and aluminum (Parikka 2012). This talk will introduce the new interdisciplinary fields of Mobilities Research and Geomedia Studies and reveal the politics of infrastructure through examples such as cloud computing, e-waste, and Bitcoin. Mimi Sheller, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and founding Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She is founding co-editor of the journal Mobilities, Associate Editor of Transfers: Journal of Mobility Studies, and past President of the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility. She has been awarded Visiting Fellowships at the Davis Center for Historical Studies, Princeton University; Media@McGill, in Montreal, Canada; Center for Mobility and Urban Studies at Aalborg University, Denmark; and the Penn Humanities Forum. In 2016 she was inaugural Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania.