User:ThomasW/Notes DIGITAL RUBBISH

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Gabrys, Jennifer (2007) DIGITAL RUBBISH a natural history of electronics, Paperback , United States of America ,The University of Michigan Press

This book begins with the perception that digital technology is light, postindustrial, or dematerialized. Worldwide, discarded electronics account for an average 35 million tons of trash per year. (Gabrys, 2007 page 61)

Such a mass of discards has been compared to an equivalent disposal of 1,000 elephants every hour.(Gabrys, 2007 page 62)

A colossal parade of elephants—silicon elephants—marches to the dump and beyond; suddenly, the immaterial abundance of digital technology appears deeply material. (Gabrys, 2007 page 14)

Much of the technology in the museum or archive of electronic history is inaccessible, however: ancient computers do not function, software manuals are unreadable to all but a few, spools of punch tape separate from decoding devices, keyboards and printers and peripherals have no point of attachment, and training films cannot be viewed. Artifacts meant to connect to systems now exist as hollow forms covered with dust. In this sense, the electronic archive can be seen as a “museum of failure.” (Gabrys, 2007 page 64) Machines that used to be connected are not part of it. they exist as only as a object. Data root, the decay of machine, format have made us loss access to the archive.

It is a record of failed and outdated technologies. If it collects anything, it collects a record of obsolescence. The idleness of these electronic artifacts ultimately raises questions about how technology demarcates duration (Gabrys, 2007 page 15) With "dead" computers, its goes from machines to objects/symbols of it own failure

Rubbish Theory, rubbish is a way of understanding the relative position of value relations. (Gabrys, 2007 page 66) Electronic rubbish makes us understand the current value of waste and what value it has in society.

Waste is, in this sense, what cultural theorist Walter Moser calls a “category of transition, a limit category.” (Gabrys, 2007 page 67)

Waste reveals the economies of value within digital technology that render valueless, for instance, a computer that is more than three years old. This collapse in value demonstrates assumptions within electronics—based on duration, novelty, and consistent consumption—that might otherwise go unnoticed, if it were not for the now-looming rubbish pile. (Gabrys, 2007 page 17) The more new a technology, the more novel it is, when the novelty goes away, so does the value.

Digital technologies are disposable, and data is transient. (Gabrys, 2007 page 17) Electronic can disparate and reaper in new forms, but data can always move around.

In his classic 1945 text “As We May Think,” computing pioneer Vannevar Bush discusses the possibilities for collapsing media, such as film and books, to a miniscule size with technologies of compression. (Gabrys, 2007 page 35) Its interesting how much ideas that came around in the post war era is now true. Technology have made the physical size of media no longer relative. the libary can now fit in the size of finger.

The Encyclopedia Britannica could be reduced to the volume of a matchbox. A library of a million volumes could be compressed into one end of a desk. If the human race has produced since the invention of movable type a total record, in the form of magazines, newspapers, books, tracts, advertising blurbs, correspondence, having a volume corresponding to a billion books, the whole affair, assembled and compressed, could be lugged off in a moving van. (Gabrys, 2007 page 36) See above

Connections. As Kelly writes, If you have the only fax machine in the world it is worth nothing. But for every other fax installed in the world, your fax machine increases in value. In fact, the more faxes in the world, the more valuable everybody’s fax becomes. This is the logic of the Net, also known as the law of increasing returns. It goes contrary to classical economic theories of wealth based on equilibration tradeoff. These state that you can’t get something from nothing. The truth is, you can. . . . In network economics, more brings more. (Gabrys, 2007 page 67)


Yet there are also spaces of more official demattering that we can turn to in order to consider how we deal with the loss of material culture. The museum or archive is perhaps primary among these designated spaces for witnessing or arrestingthe erosion and erasure of material culture. These are sites that managethe duration and space of material release but also preserve a concrete record of the program of transience within electronics. In the next chapter, I consider how the museum and archive offer up spaces Gabrys, 2007 page 98

Yet there are also spaces of more official demattering that we can turn to in order to consider how we deal with the loss of material culture. The museum or archive is perhaps primary among these designated spaces for witnessing or arresting the erosion and erasure of material culture. These are sites that managethe duration and space of material release but also preserve a concrete record of the program of transience within electronics. In the next chapter, I consider how the museum and archive offer up space. Gabrys, 2007 page 105

Many electronics relegated to museums undergo such a rapid scale and rate of demattering that preservation is rendered problematic. Preservation becomes another word for managed decay, for a delay within the extended process of disposal. Gabrys, 2007 page 107

The operation of memory reaches such an extent that it has, at various times, even seemed to render “man” obsolete. In 1962, for example, as Arthur Clarke writes in “The Obsolescence of Man,” “Marquardt Corporation’s Astro Division had just announced a new memory storage device that could store inside a six-foot cube all information recorded during the last 10,000 years.” Gabrys, 2007 page 12

Clarke describes an unprecedented archive, which occupies a mere six cubic feet in physical space but extends out 10,000 years into the temporal dimension. He elaborates on this new temporal compression, That would mean, of course, not only every book ever printed, but everything ever written in any language on paper, papyrus, parchment or stone. It represents a capacity untold millions of times greater than that of a single human memory, and though there is a mighty gulf between merely storing information and thinking creatively—the Library of Congress has never written a book—it does indicate that mechanical brains of enormous power could be very small in physical size. Gabrys, 2007 page 109

Ten thousand years may be ensconced in a six-foot cube, but without a means to access the data, we can only gaze wistfully at the minimal cube and wonder at the inaccessible 10,000 years that did, at one time, fire through its busy circuits. Increasingly, this issue has become a quandary for electronic archives. Former director of the Getty Conservation Institute Miguel Angel Corzo indicates how digital media of even the most significant cultural moments quickly evaporate. “For instance,” he writes, “digitized images from the historic 1976 Viking mission to Mars that had been carefully stored and appeared to be in good condition are now degraded and unreadable.” Gabrys, 2007 page 110

Sterling suggests that in these technologies of time, we repeatedly generate leftovers, all sorts of “prehistoric” hardware. In this sense, “trash is always our premier cultural export to the future.” Gabrys, 2007 page 111

 Ancient hardware turns up in the future, but, then, what would the future be without its rubbish? Surely it would lose all sense of futurity—of newness—if it did not have some identifiably obsolete remnants. It may be that electronic technologies do not just generate obsolete remainders but also positively rely on these remainders—these old media—to gauge what is new. It is in this same temporal density that emerges with obsolescence that Benjamin is able to direct us to let the dust settle until we see that the driving force of technological progress may, in fact, be standing still. Gabrys, 2007 page 113

Data is not lost because it is not archived, however; it is lost because it is archived, because it is digitized and entered into the seemingly endless electronic stores that are also increasingly volatile sites of memory. Economies of erasure, as much as economies of memory, emerge with the electronic archive. We have the capacity to store everything for possible recall, but these same extended memory technologies are capable of generating oblivion in other ways—not least of which is through the technology. Gabrys, 2007 page 120-123

The electronic waste of history will require continual refurbishment and reinterpretation. Perhaps now that “electronic waste” has become a carrier of our cultural and material lives, we may turn to consider how to salvage so much lost material.  (  “trash is always our premier cultural export to the future.”? Gabrys, 2007 page 124