Sociology Gold: The sociology research of Goldsmiths, University of London

Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (2010)

Jennifer Gabrys

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. 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.

Digital Rubbish 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. Ranging across studies of media and technology, as well as environments, geography, and design, Jennifer Gabrys draws together the far-reaching material and cultural processes that enable the making and breaking of these technologies.

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