Some theory behind iMine

Monday 22 November 2010, by B E Gottlieb

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

What is iMine?

- an electronics consumer’s guilt dissipation app.

But seriously, we all know that somewhere, behind all the glitzy glimmering glossy surfaces of techno-utopian visions there is an unglamourous material reality. This is a world of mines and warehouses, huge trucks and ships, assembly lines and packaging factories, without which none of the amazing products we enjoy today would have been made. With iMine we are digging for the meaning of life in the digital age. This quest has lead us to the origin of all things digital, the hardware, and the origin of the hardware in the minerals of the earth, exhumed at the mine.

The mine is a site of the origin of digital technology, and so, it is also the place where we can start to build up our notion of meaning in the digital age. Just as science takes the raw ores fromt he soil and purifies them into the exotic blends we use in electronics, we can take certain undeniable social and historical facts from the mine, which can help us make sense of ourselves.

For example, we live in an age where facts are not much trusted. We trust science because it seems to deliver great technological innovations which effect our lives every day. It offers not facts but effects. Today, people rather trust the effectiveness of science over any notion truth. Technology, because it appears to work seamlessly, seems to prove that the science behind it is ‘true’. So without knowing exactly what is true in science which makes the technology work, we trust it. This ignorance about the basis of our trust in science opens up a murky space in our consciousness which resonates insecurity.

Our trust in science allows us to accept and embrace new technologies along with (or despite) their drawbacks: economic wars, environmental destruction, social disruption, large-scale accidents, slavery and indentured labour, etc. Unsure about the basis for our trust in science, we can we have two alternatives: learn the science of the technology (very time consuming and not for everybody) or, look to something else (and not religion either) which can be as reliable as science, but something we can know more intimately, something which can help us understand the presence of these digital and technical things in our lives.

iMine proposes we attempt an archaeology, a chronicle of digging down into the surface of the digital image on the screen to unearth the fragments of human stories stored in its material. These human stories are connected in relationships and these meshes of fragmentary human stories, responsible for the creation of today’s digital technology, are indeed miraculous. Through discovering, examining and exploring these narrative meshes of human lives at the origin of our digital technologies, we can begin to comprehend a meaning, the meaning is social.

For example, who was there yesterday at the Mibra mine in Nazareno, Brazil mining the tantalum for the next generation iPad? What were their names, how old were they? It is a fact that they were there yesterday, and you probably weren’t. And this fact is instrumental and intimate to the scientific fact that whatever technology made with the mineral they dug from the ground in the the region of Nazareno works.

So iMine is intended to build up acknowledgement and interest in the conditions on the ground at the origin of digital technology. This is not to deny the importance of people higher up the industrial pecking order, designers, financiers, etc, however, iMine is intended to re-balance the notion of importance of the various roles in this globalized industrial process.

If we begin to see our technology as a portal to the hidden inner workings of our globalised society, we may begin to want to take action to help make this society is as fair for everyone involved as it can be. This may mean accepting that we must pay higher prices for the technology so that everybody gets a better share, or we may want to challenge unfair international regulations which keep many countries from developing their own digital (or other) industries. With better social relations, all the way down the production line of digital technology, we will have better technology, technology which truly reflects our concern with all our collaborators around the globe working inside this surface.

The guilt of the electronics consumer is not absolvable, it is only dissolvable from within. Through iMine we might begin to work open that guilt-frozen door which separates us from a truly emancipated enjoyment of our human capacities, our knowledge and our technology.

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