Is the personal political?

After reading articles provided for this week’s topic of planned technological obsolescence, it is most certain that our personal technology use is political for a few reasons. First, our need for the Internet has resulted in large corporations using diesel generators as precautions in case of a power outage. There are tens of thousands of data centers that exist and are used to store and process information. However they are not using this energy efficiently, rather they are wasting 90% of it, which is very harmful to the environment (Glanz). A study completed by the United Nations Solve E-Waste problem estimates that the amount of global electronic waste would increase by 33% from 49 million tons tracks in 2012 to over 65 million tons by 2017 (Glanz). Also, Amazon was cited with more then 24 violations over a three year period in Northern Virginia, which included running some of its generators without a basic environmental permit (Glanz). Large companies tend to not get severely penalized because of the amount of money they make, which is benefiting the government. Since we live in a Capitalist economy the government will keep as much as they can behind closed doors as long as it is benefiting them.

As explained in the Wall Street Journal article and the Light Bulb Conspiracy film, our planets technological consumption is largely affecting the world. Since large companies seduce people into always craving the newest models, people are constantly upgrading their electronics, yet we have nowhere to put the continuing amount of old ones. Instead we are dumping them into landfills in China, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc, which is now destroying their environment. Instead of keeping track of our large amount of consumption, large companies are continuing to quickly develop newer gadgets in order to make money without thinking about repercussions. Also, the Internet exists because of the large cables running across the ocean floor, which connect the continents (Blum). As more and more of these cables become full, we must put more into the ocean to keep up with the demand, which is costing large amounts of money and impacting our planet. That being said, our personal technological use is political as we have the choice to cut back and choose not to.  

The film, the Light Bulb Conspiracy is a documentary, which explores the occurrence of planned obsolescence. The film provides a few examples in which companies purposely design products to fail after a certain amount of time. For example, when nylons were first made they were said to be too sturdy, so designers had to go back and find a way to make the fibers weaker. Also, around the 1940’s a rule was enforced that light bulbs life span cannot be any longer then 1000 hours. Companies did this to ensure consumers would continue buying their product once they needed to be replaced (Dannoritzer). Another example is when Apple did not sell batteries separately, so if someone’s battery had broken they were to buy an entirely new product. Planned obsolescence can still be seen today when looking at the multiple generations of our gadgets (Iphone 4- Iphone 4S). As mentioned before, marketers try to seduce the public into always wanting the latest technology, in which people want to keep up to date with them. I believe if people were more educated with the issue maybe they would think twice about constantly replacing old technology when unnecessary, but then again people are brainwashed to conform to capitalism.   

Glanz, James. “Power, Pollution, and the Internet.” The New York Times. 22 Sept.

Blum, Andrew. “A Dive Into the Digital Deep.” The Wall Street Journal. 25 May 2013

The Light Bulb Conspiracy. Dir: Cosima Dannoritzer.



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