Recognition that access to the Internet is in principle a manifest social good, providing informational and social resources for personal and collective agency, has generated a concerted drive to connect up those currently excluded. Debate has mostly centred on the immediate economic, social and cultural forces of exclusion grouped under the general heading of “digital divides”. Confronting these dynamics is essential but before we rush too eagerly to advocate universal access under current conditions we need to ask ‘access to what and at what general social and environmental costs?’ As the accelerating climate emergency and the continuing covid pandemic have demonstrated with brutal clarity the current production and operation of digital infrastructures and devices rests on a chain of mostly unacknowledged dispossessions and unequal impacts with major consequences for environmental integrity and social justice. This presentation follows Marx in entering these ‘hidden abodes’, from the seizure of indigenous lands, to escalating demands on energy, exploitative manufacture and transportation, and accumulating mountains of electronic waste, and asking how we should respond.
Graham Murdock is Emeritus Professor of Culture and Economy at the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University. He has held the Bonnier Chair at the University of Stockholm and the Teaching Chair at the Free University of Brussels and been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Auckland, California at San Diego, Mexico City, Curtin Western Australia, and Bergen.In recognition of his contribution to educating generations of Chinese students over two decades he was recently awarded a Guest Professorship in the journalism department at Fudan University in Shanghai. He served for four years as Vice President of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). His writings have been translated into twenty-one languages.
His recent books include; as co-editor, Money Talks: Media, Markets, Crisis (2015) and Carbon Capitalism and Communication: Confronting Climate Crisis (Palgrave 2017). A new and greatly expanded edition of the influential text Researching Communications, written jointly with colleagues was recently published by Bloomsbury.