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Accepted Contribution:

Infrastructural e-waste and the dismantling of mobile network generational promises  
Ion Fernández de las Heras (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)) Blanca Callén (Autonomous University of Barcelona) Cristina Cano (Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya)

Short abstract:

This paper explores the ecological and ontological impacts of infrastructural electronic waste from decommissioning old mobile networks against the backdrop of sustainable progress promises and efficiency goals of emerging technologies like 6G. How to deal with e-waste in a post-optimistic future?

Long abstract:

Despite the logic of growth and progress is materialized on the infrastructures themselves (Pansera, Lloveras, Durant, 2024: 1) and is also embedded on promises of access to a myriad of more advanced services and on public discourses of efficiency that justify escalation towards new, more powerful, mobile network generations, this paper analyses the ecological consequences of growth with respect to the generation of infrastructural electronic waste derived from the substitution and dismantling of old mobile network generations (Bollmer, 2018), especially now that 3G is starting to be decommissioned. While the reduction of energy consumption of the network in operation is an objective at the forefront of technological advancement and also a core mobilizer of the optimistic imaginaries and narratives of future, especially for 6G, other material implications such as infrastructural waste remain less visible (Cano, March, 2022; WEEEForum, 2020). Nevertheless, the materialization of such promissory sociotechnical deployment cracks this rhetorical layer of efficiency and sustainability when it is confronted with the infrastructural e-waste derived from the dismantling of previous generations. Starting from a discourse analysis of the public narratives that fuel 5G and 6G, we will put it in dialogue and add to a broader analysis of other forces (in the shape of economic, political, technological elements and conditions, etc.) that compete and resist for the ontological distinction between (still functional) technological infrastructure or (already) waste. Which specific practices, conditions and circumstances can give us infrastructural hope to live and deal with e-waste in a near post-optimistic future?

Combined Format Open Panel P189
The ends of hope: post-optimistic futures worth working towards
  Session 1 Friday 19 July, 2024, -