The Materialist Circuits and the Quest for Environmental Justice in ICT’s Global Expansion

  • Sibo Chen School of Communication Simon Fraser University
Keywords: E-Waste, digital labour, materialist circuit, environmental justice


This article builds on and contributes to research on the material impacts of Information and Communication Technology and Consumer Electronics (ICT/CE) by proposing a holistic framework addressing labour exploitation and environmental destruction in the production, consumption, and disposal of digital devices. Although the emerging media scholarship on digital labour have critically analyzed the material impacts of ICT/CE in terms of labour issues emerged from the production and consumption stages, relatively little research attention has been paid to the end-of-life issues of digital devices and other environmental issues caused by the ICT industry’s global expansion. Based upon previous research on digital labour, environmental management and ecological justice, this article proposes a political economic understanding of the environmental dimension of the ICT industry and how it has contributed to the escalation of environmental crisis and social injustice in developing coun-tries, especially in terms of the urging situation of the global e-waste challenge. The article argues that the critical standpoints taken by political economy of communication and environmental justice re-search provide valuable and promising theoretical connections between labour activism and ecological struggles; and future inquiries on digital economy, in this regard, should combine both perspectives, pay more attention to the enormous social and ecological tensions in the Global South, and make explicit connections between the regressions in labour rights and global environmental justice and ICT’s aggressive and unsustainable expansion.

Author Biography

Sibo Chen, School of Communication Simon Fraser University
Sibo Chen is a PHD student from the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University. His current research focuses on discursive constructions surrounding environmental issues in China and Canada and their implications for effective communication tactics in environmental movements.
Special section: The Materiality of the Immaterial: ICTs and the Digital Commons