Call for Papers: Electronics Ecologies WASTE

Author  Loren Dela Cruz
Date 30 August 2023

In Reassembling Rubbish, Josh Lepawsky argues that a more democratic electronics industry would involve “forms of public decision making in design and manufacturing” and that “production itself must be much more radically politicized.” To participate in reimagining electronics production, however, “citizens need access to data about wastes arising upstream in resource extraction and manufacturing” to counter the usual emphasis on downstream e-waste and recycling.

The second event in the Electronics < > Ecologies series for ADM+S, WASTE advances this agenda by exploring the material discards that attend each step of the supply chain for computational devices. Interrogating the current turn to circular design as a way out of the waste problem, we will focus on the very definition of waste that the electronics industry has adopted. The aim is to reveal blindspots, policy weaknesses, and problems that may arise as automated decision-making begins to influence product design, manufacturing and disposal.

Australia has one of the highest e-waste rates in the world. And while neighbouring countries have substantial markets for informal reuse and resale, current international regulations fall short of facilitating a legitimate secondary market for electronics due to outdated notions of “developing” economies’ needs.

Recycling is poor consolation for the environmental damage already wrought in the production and refinement of rare resources in technology supply chains. WASTE invites industry practitioners, designers, journalists and activists to join pioneers in the field of waste and discard studies to explore these issues, documenting the geopolitical and environmental dependencies involved in material extraction, use, reuse and recycling. Experiments that foreground the value of electronics discards and best practices for product stewardship are particularly welcome, to show the ongoing potential of technology’s many lives and afterlives.

Learning from already existing circular economies in the Asia-Pacific, and emerging best practices in sustainable user experience design, WASTE will share theories and approaches that support productive parasitism and durability as design priorities for electronics.

Researchers interested in being considered for a select number of presentation slots are invited to submit a 2-page position paper on one of the following themes:

  • Use/users/reusers
  • Secondary use markets, entrepreneurs and platforms
  • The temporality of use and disuse
  • Services supporting extended use, resale and reverse logistics
  • Re-use value: ethics of preservation and durability
  • Recycling v reuse case studies e.g. ocean-bound plastics
  • Theories of value
  • Wasted energy: hibernating, dormant, and comatose compute
  • Manufacturing, mining, chemical and material waste
  • Wasted landscapes: Sacrificial zones and superfund sites

As with all Electronics < > Ecologies events, scholars in the fields of design, cultural history, geography, media & communication, law, gender, Indigenous and socio-technical studies are particularly welcome to apply, to counter the dominance of majority male engineering voices in debates about the future state of technology and its uses.

Send 2-page papers to admsevents@rmit.edu.au by 21 September 2023. Selected participants will be notified by 2 October 2023.

Event details
Electronics < > Ecologies #2 — WASTE
Monday 30 October 2023
University of Technology Sydney

Virtual and in person attendance will be available. Registration details will be announced shortly.

Learn more about the Electronics < > Ecologies series by visiting admscentre.org.au/electronics-ecologies