A recent study completed by the Solving E-Waste Problem (StEP) initiative estimates that the amount of global electronic waste will increase by 33 percent, from the 49 million tons tracked in 2012 to over 65 million tons by 2017 (StEP 2013). Given the magnitude of waste, what if we were required to physically store and care for our personal devices, such as cell phones and desktop computers, long after these machines served their intended function? In such an imaginary, unusable technologies remain within our sights, and in our sites.
This project is an opportunity to think through this query by digging into the numerous layers in which our personal technologies and media practices contribute to a mode of ‘technological trauma’ and ‘drama’ that is best described as the trauma and drama of disembodied techno-trash (McLuhan 1962, 1965; Pfaffenberger 1992). For McLuhan, it was electric speed that inundated even the most remote areas in the world with Western technology. Today, the West continues to deluge the Global South with its devices and gadgets, but more often than not, these technologies quickly become obsolete and inoperative, or simply, trash. Electronic waste is increasingly unloaded in countries like China, Ghana, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Vietnam, where facilities or regulations governing recycling initiatives are lax.
Weaving together personal accounts of technological ownership, this project speculates on the life cycles of our devices and gadgets, and postulates not only the environmental burden of contemporary consumption practices, but also the scale of environmental trauma and drama that is symptomatic of global capitalism.
We are soliciting personal histories of technological use, disuse, and disposal.
Send us your stories and photos, and become a participant in raising awareness on the social and environmental impacts of our personal technologies and media practices.
Questions to consider include but are not limited to:
• What technological devices do you use on a daily basis?
• How did you acquire these devices?
• How often do you change/update your phone/laptop?
• What usually makes you want to change your device?
• What devices are you no longer using, but haven’t disposed of?
• How have you disposed of your devices?
• Where do you dispose of them?
• Do you consider the social and environmental impacts of your devices?
Mél Hogan is an environmental media scholar interested in the archive, memory and new media. She’s a cofounder of Techno-Trash, with Andrea Zeffiro. Hogan’s current research and recent publications revolve around media and ecological impacts, data storage centers, media archaeologies, queer and feminist design, and the politics of preservation. As a practitioner, aspects of these same issues are addressed through media arts interventions and research design projects. Hogan is also the art director of online and p.o.d. journal of arts and politics, nomorepotlucks.org; on the advisory board of the Fembot collective; a new curator for the Media Archaeology Lab, and a research design consultant for mat3rial and archinodes. Hogan recently completed her mandate of 6 years on the administrative board of Studio XX. Email: info at melhogan dot com
Andrea Zeffiro is a researcher and writer whose work intersects the cultural politics and practices of emerging technologies, contemporary media histories, and art activism. Broadly speaking, Zeffiro’s research focuses on the practices and processes of experimental media production and consumption, and the competing discourses – popular, industrial, cultural, political, environmental – that work to rhetorically position our understanding of them. Zeffiro is co-founder of Techno-Trash, with Mél Hogan. For more: www.andreazeffiro.com
Sabine LeBel is finishing her dissertation “The Life Cycle of the Computer: A Study in the Materialities of Risk” in the Communication and Culture Program at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her research interests are related to technology and the environment, with a particular focus on planned obsolescence, cloud computing, and affect. She has published in Canadian Woman Studies/ les cahiers de la femme, Cineaction, Communications + 1, and the online art journal .dpi.
Gisèle Trudel is a professor at the École des arts visuels et médiatiques of the Université du Québec à Montréal since 2003, a research member at Hexagram, a founding member of Grupmuv, the research-creation laboratory for drawing and the moving image and Co-Director of Hexagram|CIAM, the research centre for media arts and technology. In 1996, Trudel and composer/sound engineer Stéphane Claude co-founded Ælab, an artist research unit. Ælab is committed to collaboration and creative dissemination as ways of thinking and doing that try to bridge the arts and sciences. Their process-oriented investigations engage with natural, philosophical and technological ecologies.The duo has developed a rigorous artistic practice, recognized in Canada, Europe and Asia, and supported by the CAC, CALQ, FRQSC and the Daniel Langlois Foundation. Upcoming projects include a new solo performative installation about the transformative processes of residual matter, curated by Cheryl Sim (DHC-art) and to be presented at Phi Centre in May 2014 during the Biennale internationale d’art numérique. aelab.com; hexagramciam.org; grupmuv.ca