After the Labour and Ideology class today, I started thinking about why the average person knows so little about the materiality of the Internet. Our lack of understanding is frequently excused by the complexity of technology and the ever-evolving digital age. Simply, we see ads and make purchases. For an intelligent race, we rarely stop to question where the products came from and what resources were exploited to facilitate the production.
I recognize that we are primarily responsible for researching the companies we buy into. However, I would argue that our confusion is intentionally caused by the government and big corporations. Companies like Apple do not want consumers to know that their factory wages abroad are ridiculously low and that profit is not distributed fairly amongst their employees. They also hide the amount of waste that their ‘wireless’ devices produce. Most importantly, multinational corporations do not want the public knowing how their systems work because this poses both hacking and competition threats. Hence, they are thrilled that we live in our own ‘iCloud’ of sorts. When it comes to the ‘iCloud’, we know it’s there, but have no idea how it works or the kind of man- (or woman-) power it requires. Apple’s iCloud encourages confusion; users have no idea where their content is being stored or who can access it. We think it is all just ‘big data’ that exists outside the labour force (in the sky). We are able to access this Cloud at any time with such speed that we forget there was ever a human element involved in creating the Cloud. As consumers, we should care where our intellectual property is being stored and who is behind the ‘big data’.
As a final thought, I think we need to stop living in the Cloud and start asking more questions about how the Internet really works and what kind of social, political, and economic implications result from our buy-in.