The Materiality of Media: To What Extent Has the Boom in the Manufacture of Modern Technological Devices Been Implicated in Territorial Conflicts Within Democratic Republic of Congo?

PhD Thesis


Evans, P. 2022. The Materiality of Media: To What Extent Has the Boom in the Manufacture of Modern Technological Devices Been Implicated in Territorial Conflicts Within Democratic Republic of Congo? PhD Thesis University of East London School of Arts and Creative Industries https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v19q
AuthorsEvans, P.
TypePhD Thesis
Abstract

Although the aesthetics of devices such as the I-phone may not encourage consideration for what lies beneath the surface, these are also products comprised of naturally occurring materials. Despite an ongoing humanitarian and ecological crisis, particularly in the east of DRC, a dearth of academic publications exist which intrinsically link the mobile technology industry to circumstances on the ground. During this period of research my aim has been to investigate the extent to which this crisis has been paralleled or perpetuated by a boom in the manufacture of mobile technological devices and the trade in ubiquitous raw materials which originate from DRC. By tracking the plight of three particular materials (coltan, cobalt and cassiterite) as geological artefacts I have researched the extent to which a geopolitical narrative has impacted lives of people in this region. The magnitude of this trade has also been expressed in the sense that; ‘just as sugar was significant to the growth of urban industrial centres in Western Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, so too has Congolese coltan been pivotal to the digital revolution within which we now find ourselves’ (Mantz, 2008: 41). In respect of the complexities of media and in contextualising their relationship with the material world, it has been noted that ‘an attention to materiality is most fruitful where it is often deemed irrelevant, in the “immaterial” domains of electronic media’ (Fuller 2005, 2).
In contextualising what is meant by the term ‘materiality of media’, one can look back at the work of early media theorists such as Marshall McLuhan whose book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964 as well as the maxim ‘the medium is the message’ have become influential in the years which have followed. Jussi Parikka’s 2015 book A Geology of Media begins to look in more literal terms at circumstances around the physical materials from which modern media technologies are comprised. The origins and destinations of such materials may be determined by their metallurgical properties, such that ‘what moves to the forefront is a "territorial" organization, in the sense that all the segments, whether of lineage, land, or number, are taken up by an astronomical space or a geometrical extension that overcodes them’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 388). On a slightly different footing, Wendy Chun’s 2016 book entitled Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media highlights the ways in which consumer markets in new media are manipulated to maximise profitability. Many electronics companies have maintained that their supply chains are too complex for inherent ethical issues to be addressed because of the sheer number of actors involved in moving minerals from mines in Congo all the way to the gadgets in our pockets (Prendergast and Lezhnev, 2009: 1).

Year2022
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v19q
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Publication dates
Online14 Oct 2022
Publication process dates
SubmittedJul 2022
Deposited14 Oct 2022
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