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The material cellphone

Maxwell, R. and Miller, T. (2013) The material cellphone. In: Graves-Brown, P., Harrison, R. and Piccini, A., (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, pp. 699-712.

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The cellphone is at once a transformative, even revolutionary, technology but also an artefact of social fragmentation and managerial/administrative command-control. This chapter explores the contradictory discursive record of utopic and dystopic accounts of the cellphone. The former anchors the cellphone’s historical time to high capitalist consumerism, a purported source of happiness, development, and revolution. Dystopic accounts are more likely to emphasize the record of techno-criticism aimed at the quasi-religious nature of the utopian discourse, highlighting popular and literary protests against the harms to workers and ecosystems. The dystopic perspective points archaeological research to a crucial layer of evidence that moves from a focus on utopian/dystopian forms of consciousness to one centred on the gadget’s chemico-mechanical materiality and the toxic environmental legacy it bequeaths to future generations.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: 2013 Oxford University Press
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