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the manufacture of disconnection

research snapshot

In Silicon Valley, the world’s most famous site of technological innovation, technology professionals are rejecting their own inventions and disconnecting from the internet. According to reports, software developers believe their designs and algorithms “hijack” user’s brains and tether millions of people to their smart devices. These technology professionals have become “disconnectionists” – opponents to the culture of constant connection they helped create. Not only are they disconnecting from their own inventions but, in true Silicon Valley style, are also inventing internet jammers, luxury feature phones, productivity apps and other new technology-based ways of disconnecting from the internet. In other words, the disconnectionists manufacture disconnection.

For my doctoral thesis, I studied the manufacture of disconnection. I sought to understand how disconnection is produced by Silicon Valley technologists and how disconnection can occur with technology. Examining five technologies of disconnection, I argue that users are encouraged to disconnect from dominant communicative norms or their own unconscious smartphone behaviours to transform their relationship to themselves. Moreover, I try to unveil the politics of Silicon Valley disconnection and draw attention to who can undertake such disconnection. A copy of my thesis can be downloaded here.