ghost towns are reimagined as digital mines in joshua dawson's dystopian short film

ghost towns are reimagined as digital mines in joshua dawson's dystopian short film

loa’s promise is a seven-minute film by joshua dawson that raises unsettling questions about the near-future, filmed on location in the atacama desert in chile. the film uses realistic renderings of futuristic technology that blend seamlessly with captured footage of real-life ghost towns, illustrating the logical outcome of people’s current attitudes toward water and other natural resources.

data flow into the town of humberstone



joshua dawson‘s short film focuses on chile’s arid future, a result of its tumulus political and economic past, yet highlights predicaments that could, and do, affect people everywhere in the world. the film presents an alternate history and hypothetical future of the atacama desert, an area where various nitrate and copper mining towns have been abandoned post-mineral extraction. following the end of dictator augusto pinochet’s reign in 1990 and chile’s adoption of a market-based allocation system for water, several industries begun to monopolize the resources in the mineral-rich atacama desert in order to fuel their economic expansion.excessive mining activity has led to drought and the contamination of water sources in local communities, including the loa province, which the film takes its name from. loa’s promise envisions the outcome of this situation, where the desert’s abandoned nitrate towns have been retrofitted as data centers and digital mines, to efface troubled memories. arid, chacabuco (formerly a concentration camp under pinochet) and other ghost towns take on a new purpose, the quiet hum of technology ‘drowning out the echoes of the past’. by portraying the endangered town of quillagua as threaded to a network of the region’s ghost towns, the film aims to raise awareness of the consequences of deregulated resource extraction in free-market economies like that of chile.

abandoned railway town of baquedano

abandoned school classroom in humberstone taken over by digital mining units

humberstone abandoned school corridor

loa river water extraction process in quillagua

loa river extraction zone

quillagua’s abandoned homes being fitted with servers

abandoned nitrate town of chacabuco which was once used as a concentration camp

abandoned nitrate town of humberstone

baquedano train station retrofit with data converger



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: sofia lekka angelopoulou | designboom

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