Up until recently media analysis has paid little attention to their material bases in assemblies of machines and infrastructures and global chains of labour. This is now changing. The multiplication of always/on, always/there, tablets and smart phones has coincided with accelerating climate change and greater awareness of the globalisation of economic activity. To properly understand how these processes are interrelated two essential conditions need to be met. Firstly, we need to locate ‘new’ media in historical perspective and examine the ways communication has been shaped by cumulative economic, ecological and political processes set in motion by the rise of modern capitalism. Secondly, we need to explore how these dynamics have been reproduced and intensified with the return of market fundamentalism from the mid-1970s onwards. Having sketched this context, the paper goes on to the detail how the leading digital companies have played a central role in the restoration of profitability and have exploited the increased degrees of corporate freedom introduced by global marketization to dominate their spheres of influence developing organisational forms and operational practices that are creating digital despotisms that are coming more and more to resemble medieval city states.