The materiality of globital memory: Bringing the cloud to earth

Anna Reading*, Tanya Notley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The cloud is a metaphor that helps to obscure the material realities that rest beneath our digital memories. However, a number of scholars in memory studies have suggested that cultural memory has always had a material basis and some, though limited, scholarly attention has already considered the toxic by-products and unethical practices involved in mining minerals that are used in making digital memories. This article draws on earlier work on the materiality of cultural memory as well as Tsing's (Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection, 2005) concept of 'friction' in global commodity chains to help analyse our own empirical research in Australia and Malaysia that looks at the production of rare earth minerals, whose use in making digital communication technologies is not widely known. Our analysis concludes that that not all citizens are equally bearing the burden of the risks and damages caused by our growing desire and addiction for information and communication gadgets and digital memory. We argue that any conceptualization of digitized and globalized or 'globital memory' must resist metaphors, narratives and concepts that attempt to remove digital memory from its material consequences; to do this scholars must incorporate an understanding of memory's materialism into their research, rather than focusing predominantly or exclusively on its energetic or 'virtual' properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-521
Number of pages11
JournalContinuum-Journal of media & cultural studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2015


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