Seminar 8 – Hardware

What’s your mobile made of? Your laptop? Your television? Where did these components come from? And what price was paid for them? Of course, I’m not expecting an answer to these questions, most of us haven’t got a clue. Because we’re not given this information. If we want it we have to go and find it.

The social and political issues surrounding us in the technological age aren’t just about who has what information, who owns what parts of the internet and what data we have access to. There’s other aspects of human rights being abused and ignored by governments and political regimes across the world, we’re just less aware of them and they get less media attention. You’ve probably seen what the UK government has been up to over the past couple of weeks in terms of our personal information online but, what about in other corners of the world?

There are a wide variety of materials that go into manufacturing complex devices such as mobile phones and televisions, some are more rare than others. But do we ever consider the consequences of a material being ‘rare’? Somebody has to find and access these rare materials after all. And it’s not easy. The use of rare earth minerals in everyday products is something that brings with it many social and political issues and yet international awareness of these issues is very limited.

Here’s where things get more complicated as we start to think about things like globalisation – the rich taking advantage of the poor etc. But what I really want to focus on here is raising awareness of these issues. As I said before, you’ve probably seen in the news recently many articles about how governments in the developed world are increasing their access to our information and collecting more and more data about us. You won’t have heard recently about the living and working conditions of those mining so called ‘blood metals’ in under-developed countries.

Of course it’s all a matter of perspective, I’m typing this on a laptop that will almost certainly contain some of these blood metals. And this information will invariably be scanned by a number of algorithms created by various companies and governments that search for key words on the internet in order to monitor what people are publishing.

The aim of this post is just to get these issues out there, get people reading about them and thinking about them. It’s why I want to teach, be a lecturer. So I can pass this information on to the next generation and so on and so on until things can hopefully change. The future is a worrying place, especially when those in charge find new ways to monitor and control us day after day. But knowledge is power after all.

 

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