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From closet-fill to toxic sublime: The aesthetics of e-waste
Högskolan i Halmstad, Akademin för hälsa och välfärd, Centrum för forskning om välfärd, hälsa och idrott (CVHI), Wigforss-gruppen.ORCID-id: 0000-0002-4697-5394
2019 (Engelska)Ingår i: 18th Annual STS Conference Graz 2019: Book of Abstracts, 2019, s. 58-59Konferensbidrag, Muntlig presentation med publicerat abstract (Refereegranskat)
Abstract [en]

Electronic waste (e-waste) has a peculiar relation to space. It is well-documented how a large part of discarded electronic devices still remain in people’s homes, instead of reaching the recycling centres. This is especially true with digital media and communication technologies such as computers and mobile phones (ironically the devices with the shortest life cycles). This phenomenon has been described by the term “closet-fill” (as opposed to land-fill). However, representations of electronic waste in public discourse such as news reports, seldom focus on this aspect. Instead, they tend to portray e-waste dumping sites as strange, almost alien spaces. Sublime imagery invites the viewer to a contemplation over Western consumerism in a fashion recognizable from visual arts. Consequently, imagery of electronic waste has also become an object of aesthetic value in the works of renowned visual artists such as Pieter Hugo and David LaChapelle, who have gained recognition because of this inclusion of imagery of e-waste in their photographic art. The aim of this paper is to address these aesthetic qualities of electronic waste. The purpose is to contribute to the expanding literature on media materialities and waste with a conceptual understanding of manifestations of electronic waste in popular discourse. The paper draws on theories on media aesthetics, environmental communication and waste management to build an analytic framework that explores the benefits and limitations of presenting electronic waste as an aesthetic object. Empirically it engages in analyses of visual representations of electronic waste. The paper addresses the tension between aesthetic contemplation/appreciation, and critical information. It could be argued that if e-waste is to be presented and understood as an urgent topic, there might be a problem if it is portrayed as something strange, exotic or even beautiful. The concept ”toxic sublime” has been used in analyses of visual representations of pollution, and Peeples (2011: 383) argues that this construction of the toxic as sublime comes with a risk: “It may predispose people to look for toxins in the extraordinary, as opposed to on the shelves of their garages”. It could be argued that e-waste faces a similar problem. The focus on the sublime strangeness of e-waste “dumping sites” is an ineffective way of creating proximity and urgency to the e-waste problem, something that takes place somewhere else than in our homes. LeBel (2015) argues that e-waste aesthetics fails to address the temporal dimension of waste (e.g. planned obsolescence, toxicity). This paper intends to add to that argument by highlighting the tension between the closet-fill and the toxic sublime

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
2019. s. 58-59
Nyckelord [en]
Media, e-waste, aesthetics, digitalization
Nationell ämneskategori
Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap Tvärvetenskapliga studier inom samhällsvetenskap
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-39333OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-39333DiVA, id: diva2:1314564
Konferens
18th Annual Conference of the Science Technology and Society, Graz, Austria, May 6-7, 2019
Tillgänglig från: 2019-05-09 Skapad: 2019-05-09 Senast uppdaterad: 2019-05-09Bibliografiskt granskad

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