data dump - photo by Seth Anderson

Wasting to Slow Time – the Materiality of Informational Waste

This chapter examines the concept of informational waste by tracing its relationships with energy, value, and time. The concept of data exhaust is often used as a metaphor for datasets that have outlived their original role and are subsequently used for the secondary purposes of analytics and surveillance. In this chapter, the concept is taken literally by contrasting it with physical waste and focusing on its materialities and their implications. To understand the role of infotrash in the digital economy, this article examines how it paradoxically serves as a mode of value creation. Examples discussed include the proof-of-work blockchain, which creates computational friction to delay transactions, and informational clutter generated to maximise the time users spend on a page. In both cases, the bulk of the information involved is not generated for its semantic content but for its material effects.

Offenhuber, Dietmar. forthcoming. “Wasting to Slow Time – the Materiality of Informational Waste.” In Waste as a Critique, edited by Hervé Corvellec. Oxford University Press. Preprint

Image: Data Dump, photo by Seth Anderson