New Criticals

If, as Marvin Jordan and Mike Pepi recently wrote, “the most interesting things are happening off screen: in cables and wire, in climate-controlled data centers, in mySQL and at DLD, in Hadoop and MapReduce,” Parikka might suggest that even more interesting things are happening underground.

He immerses the reader in a glittering subterranean world, cross-hatched by veins of ore, rare minerals and metals. He shifts from deep-sea mining thousands of feet into the ocean’s bed, to fields of off-shore drilling and rock-drainage by steam. Plunging even further down and in, we find Negarestani’s surreal visions of chthonic gods, agitated by relentless fracking, the forced release of oil and gas from their lairs.

This mining work is tied directly to the computer age, itself an alchemic expression of man’s ingenious use of the earth. Modernity is made by the manipulation and trasmutation of organic and synthetic materials through design and research. Without tantalum and niobium, there are no micro-capacitors; without gallium, no photovoltaics.