In New Extractivism, Vladan Joler examines the ways the Internet has transformed the traditional systems of labour, resource extraction and production. Taking the business models of companies like Google and Facebook under his microscope, Joler examines how tech corporations have morphed, but not erased, this industrial system by bringing it into the virtual realm. On these sites and social media platforms, Joler argues, the average user’s feelings, opinions and memories are mined for value in the form of content (like, comments, posts and images) and data (locations, hours of sleep, daily steps). Simultaneously, and in a novel twist, the user is both the product and the consumer.
While outlining the perils of these new forms of free labour and production, New Extractivism reminds us of the hard-material resource extraction that defines modern industrialism. The great irony of this ‘new’ form of mining, this work argues, is that all groundbreaking technology fundamentally relies on old forms of extraction, production and consumption. Our computers, phones and Fitbits are made out of earthly materials, manufactured in factories and ultimately discarded. What is ‘new’ in the business model of the Internet’s biggest power players? Is there an alternative?