Narrowing + Reflecting

Image result for the story of stuff book


The past week, I’ve been reading “The Story of Stuff” by Anne Leonard. This book takes a closer look at the lifecycle of material products and how that ties in with our consumption habits. One of the main takeaways is that our western concept of trash is really messed up. She makes the case that the idea of trash” is a mental one. When the author visited another country, she noticed that when she put something in her garbage bin, that item would end up being used by someone else. For example, a shampoo bottle became someone’s flower vase. Although it is trash, it all needs to end up somewhere. In America, we put it away and somehow it gets put out of our site. But the truth is, trash doesn’t magically disappear. Some other takeaways were: e-waste is increasing 3x faster than other municipal waste. It is also the fastest growing and most toxic type of garbage today. According to the book the five most common reasons for e-waste are: 1.) cell phone upgrades, 2.) digital tv conversion. 3.) software upgrades, 4.) can’t change the battery on products, 5.) disposable printers. It goes without saying that all this stuff is highly toxic!

Becca, who is the most generous sharer of information, also sent me “The Environment is Not a System” by Tega Brain.

Our amazing GA, Ilana, also shared with me the article by Kate Crawford called “Anatomy of an AI.” It is a mind-blowing article that is completely spot-on for my topic. 


Conversation with George: 

On Monday, I had a phone conversation with George, the manager of ground and waste at NYU. He also manages the techno scrap (e-waste). This interview was extremely informative on many levels. From his explanation of how NYU handles it’s garbage and e-waste, I’ve gathered a few notes: 

a.) how little transparency there is in understanding what happens to our discarded electronics

b.) the whole process makes sense but requires work orders and the involvement of the facilities manager

c.) there are two types of “e-waste” at NYU: universal waste and techno scrap 

Notes from our meeting.

Conversation with Robin: 

On Thursday, I had office hours with Dr. Robin Nagle, an anthropologist-in-residence at the NYC Department of Sanitation and a Clinical Professor in NYU’s Center for Humanities Department. Upon doing more research on the topic of e-waste, several people have referred me to her and suggested that I take her course (which I will!). Upon telling her about my topic, she recommended me many sources. 

Readings she mentioned: 1.) “High Tech Trash” by E. Grossman, 2.) “Discard Studies” website – specifically their e-waste section, 3.) “Picking Up Trash” by herself 4.) “Cell phone recycling experiences in the United States and potential recycling options in Brazil” by Geraldo T.R. Silveira *, Shoou-Yuh Chang, 5.) “How are WEEE doing? A global review of the management of electrical and electronic wastes” by F.O. Ongondo, I.D. Williams, T.J. Cherrett

Names she mentioned: 1.) Josh Lepawsky who writes for the “Discard Studies”, 2.) Christine Datz-Romero of the LES Ecology Center


Ideas and Avenues: 

a.) The making of an electronic product Process of disposing/ breaking down an electronic product Current consumption habits that lead to extra waste, harmful human and environmental consequences All the people that come into contact with our electronics  Better practices/ actions we can take

a.) The making of an electronic product

b.) Process of disposing/ breaking down an electronic product

c.) Current consumption habits that lead to extra waste, harmful human and environmental consequences

d.) All the people that come into contact with our electronics 

e.) Better practices/ actions we can take

What else is out there like it?

Not sure of exactly what I will make, but here are some projects that I am inspired by and is related to what I’d like to make:

  • Anatomy of an AI System by Kate Crawford
  • Bureau of Suspended Objects – by Jenny Odell
  • Museum of Plastic Age – by Carrie Wang
  • Where Almost Everything I Used, Wore, Ate or Bought on Monday, April 1, 2013 (That Had a Label) Was Manufactured, to the Best of My Knowledge – by Jenny Odell
  • HSIM by Natalie Jeremijenko

What is the world/context/market that your project lives in?

Educational settings, public spaces, online (so accessible to anyone who has access to the internet and a computer