Electronic Waste: From Digital Futures to Digital Fossils

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Building on the eWaste**workshop which runs on 27/ 28 Feb (circulated previously), we are fortunate to have Jennifer Gabrys, keynote from this event


In what ways might an approach to digital technologies as eventual fossils transform the way we think about the materiality of these devices? In this presentation, I will discuss how the environmental and socio-political problem of electronic waste challenges the ways in which digital technologies are often seen to be free of materiality or material effect. Rather than elide or overlook the materialities of digital technologies, I suggest that encounters with the materialities of these devices may present opportunities for practice-based engagements with electronics. But the materialities at play here are processual and located across multiple sites and practices, from mining to manufacture and disposal. I will then argue for an approach to the materiality of electronics that expands beyond the immediately physical matter of devices, to consider the distributed and future materialities that are critical to the making and breaking of digital technologies. Wasted electronics might be seen as fossils that contain the sedimentations of these processes.

Jennifer's Bio

Jennifer Gabrys is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Principal Investigator on the European Research Council starting grant, “Citizen Sensing and Environmental Practice.” Her work investigates environments, material processes and digital technologies through theoretical and practice-based work. Projects within this area include Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011), which examines the materialities of electronic waste, and a study currently underway on environmental sensor technologies and practices, Program Earth: Environment as Experiment in Sensing Technology.

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