Born for production, consumption, and discharge: The lie of progress in a postcolonial era

Francois Knoetze shot and edited together four short fragments of the film Core Dump, each exploring the different phases of production, consumption and discharge of digital media technologies. To me, it was interesting to watch how each segment was set and shot in the place where the step in the process of mass production of digital media technologies takes place. Part one is in Dakar, part two in Kinshasa, part three in Shenzhen, and part four in New York. The latter is pretty self-explanatory: the big Apple is the perfect example of mass (and fast) consumption of these digital devices. The parts of Africa that are part of the film are where raw materials needed to build hardware are extracted thanks to hard and underpaid labor, as well as where the eWaste end up then discharged once it has concluded its cycle of production and consumption around the world. China is part of this film as it conveys the struggles and harsh reality of sweat shops used to assemble smartphones and other devices. I found Core Dump extremely interesting because it follows the cycle of digital devices, from a point of view that is usually unknown to those who actually get the benefit of consumption of these tools. Knoetze exposes a reality that is uncomfortable to many: progress is not what it was promised to be, and the non-neutral nature of algorithms damages even the citizens who live in the wealthiest countries in the world.

Core dump and digital memory

Core dump is a phrase used to describe “the recorded state of the working memory of a computer at a specific moment in time” (Gueye). In short, a small computer database from which it can troubleshoot if case the computes crashes. I believe Knoetze does a great job in portraying the issues with the California ideology, that argues for a positive technological determinism with the help of neoliberalism and Silicon Valley. We see that particularly in the New York segment in which the robot from Boston dynamics bows in front of the Apple Store, worshiping it. The problem with the existence of a core dump reflects on us humans as well (even on those living in the wealthiest countries in the world), as computers do not allow forgetting in their systems: everything we ever said and did is stored and possible to hack into or to study in order to predict behavior or categorize fellow humans (Mayer-Schönberger 2009, p. 183). Algorithms are not neutral, as they are programmed from human beings, hence there is always room for exploitation, in this case digital.

The progress that never occurred: digital colonialism

I believe a big point that relates to postcolonialism is the false promise of progress that those who spread technology around us made. Indeed, just as blacks were heavily exploited and made slaves in times of colonialism at the hand of white colonialists, at this time there is a similar exploitation of machines from the same group of people. The exploitation of machines resembles the one of blacks in colonial times because of another sequence in Knoetze’s film: he relates the old slavery and black servitude to the use of artificial intelligence the western and eastern world is making (with increased worry about machines taking the place of human labor). Thus, I believe there is room to talk about digital colonialism, that assumes a position of power towards those who might be less tech savvy. Afterall, we are born to solely produce and consume.

External source:
Mayer-Schönberger, V. (2009) ‘Reintroducing Forgetting’. Chapter VI, in Delete. The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press; pp.169-195.

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