The Integrated Circuit

Donna Haraway discusses the “integrated circuit” in the Cyborg Manifesto. From my understanding of her discussion, the integrated circuit is the interconnections related to any artifact; in other words, no item comes without its strings. For example, I attended the Privilege Walk this weekend where the Food Privilege booth demonstrated how our beloved Commons Chicken Parm had strings attached to it, including how the ingredients for it was produced, packaged, cooked, consumed, and disposed. Along the same lines, Lisa Nakamura’s exposition of Navajo women’s work on microchips as well as the vast number of e-waste dumps brings to light what’s at stake when we consume technological products.

This concept has really stuck with me because it really is a privilege to live not acknowledging the implications of my consumption and I want to try to not only be mindful of my consumption (of food, technology, electricity, other products) but to actively work towards the betterment of the individuals that don’t benefit from their production.

Some ways I’ve been keeping myself in check is by imagining a map/chart of production, consumption, and degradation. For example, the Apple Watch is coming out soon and it promises to embed wearable technology in our society. Indeed, its presence can totally change the way we interact with one another and with the world around us. However, the watch comes with strings attached: as we’ve learned, someone has the grueling task of making the microchip inside the watch; there are also the workers tasked with other components of the watch (the rest of the hardware, the casing, etc), as well as the packagers, and then the distributors. Once consumed, new scenarios are encountered: the old watch has to go somewhere and the new watch has to be maintained. However, that’s just the first degree; the second degree expands to the workers who built the tools that made production, distribution, and degradation possible, and then so forth and so on.

Analyzing the interconnectedness of consumer goods/services/etc takes hard work and it would be much easier to turn a blind eye to it; it’s even harder to enjoy the product when you’re aware of its implications. However, it’s unreasonable for someone to remove themselves from the integrated circuit. Indeed, not participating in it doesn’t stop it from happening. So how do you put at end to the injustice of the integrated circuit?

Personally, I’m trying to minimize my consumption and opting for ethical resources. However, as I mentioned before, just because I’m boycotting unethically produced goods doesn’t stop the machine. Indeed, it’s going to take much more than individual actions: this means raising awareness about the issue, making noise about it, and collectively acting against it. No matter what, fixing the issue is going to be difficult; living in the U.S. and being distanced from the issue makes it hard for people to internalize other’s struggles. However, we have to do something about it; we can’t continue to live our privileged lives without acknowledging the people who suffered for it.

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If you all have any suggestions on how we can improve the integrated circuit, comment below!