An ethnography of deletion: Materializing transience in Solomon Islands digital cultures

Geoffrey Hobbis*, Stephanie Ketterer Hobbis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article demonstrates the fragility of digital storage through a non-media-centric ethnography of data management practices in the so-called Global South. It shows how in the Lau Lagoon, Malaita Province, Solomon Islands, the capacity to reliably store digital media is curtailed by limited access to means of capital production and civic infrastructures, as well as a comparatively isolated tropical ecology that bedevils the permanence of all things. The object biography of mobile phones, including MicroSD cards, typically short, fits into a broader historical pattern of everyday engagements with materializations of transience in the Lau Lagoon. Three types of visual media are exemplary in this regard: sand, ancestral material cultures and digital visual media (photographs and videos). Ultimately, Lau experiences of transience in their visual media are located in their visual technological history and the choices they make about which materials to maintain or dispose of.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)750-765
JournalNew Media & Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


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