Publication details

Brave new industry? : The dark side of dematerialisation and Industry 4.0


SMITH Thomas

Year of publication 2022
Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Attached files
Description This chapter examines developments related to Industry 4.0, a predominant and much-vaunted phase of digitalisation and automation across many contemporary economies. While describing some of its immediate human impacts – including inequality and extreme socio-economic precarity – the chapter takes a novel perspective by linking these with a further ongoing separation from sensuous, bodily and ecological processes. Rather than taking the technological as something either ‘neutral’ or unassailable, then, the chapter argues that these are two destructive sides of an intertwined process. Examining recent civil society engagement with Industry 4.0 in community workshops, the chapter draws on the work of the anthropologist Tim Ingold to coin the term ‘digital hylomorphism’ – a prioritisation of the idealised finished object in place of material journeys and skilled construction. It is argued in the conclusion that gaining an appreciation of what we lose as Industry 4.0 advances, and how correspondence with the world can be reforged in particular places, will be key to establishing more convivial technological relations.

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