Vast social justice problems arise when commodities are fetishized through magical thinking. When adults see technology through a magical lens, they risk adopting a consumerist mindset that values goods independently of the activity required to produce and distribute them. Indeed, magical thinking allows us to avoid confronting all sorts of unsettling questions. Whose labor goes into making the objects and experiences we purchase? Are laborers appropriately acknowledged and compensated for their work? Do managers, middlemen, or investors profit excessively from production or distribution processes? Does obtaining material needed for producing goods result in capital getting funneled to unjust causes? And, does production or distribution create negative environmental impacts that companies pass off as externalities, thereby evading responsibility?
The importance of remaining vigilantly sensitive to these questions hasn’t waned in a time that’s marked by appeals to conscientious capitalism and technological disruption. To the contrary, they point to urgent issues of political economy.
Any sufficiently alienated labor is indistinguishable from what tech companies deem “magic”
— Ingrid Burrington (@lifewinning)
If you look at any piece of cheap consumer electronics long and hard enough you will be able to see nothing but a collection of externalities; with shitphones, you get there faster