About

e-Cycle: The Making & Discarding of Electronics is an interactive exhibit, in the form of 2 mobile kiosks, about the life cycle of electronics seen through the lens of materials and waste. This interactive visualizes the complex flow of electronic materials in order to reveal the efforts and conflicts involved in the manufacturing and disposing of digital devices.

Objective

Electronics require an inordinate amount of material and labor to manufacture. From the mining sites to the clean room, there are thousands of hands, chemicals, and minerals that make a technological product possible. In the process of creating high technology there are significant amounts of waste generated that give rise to health and environmental issues. In addition, few of our current disposal methods, including recycling, are optimal – our options take for granted the high labor, environmental, energy and health impacts required to create the devices we've come to rely on.

The purpose of this project is not to condemn high technology, but rather to show the complicated movement of electronic materials and to empower others to imagine alternatives to this current cycle.

Kiosk 1

Making Electronics

Step 1

Dig through the bin of electroniccomponents.

Step 2

Insert component into slot.

Step 3

Website updates to reveal information about the component. Interact with the website to find out more.
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VIEW WEBSITE FOR KIOSK 1

Kiosk 2

Discarding Electronics

*Prototype - Fabrication on hold.

Step 1

Take the component from kiosk 1 to kiosk 2.

Step 2

Throw the component into either the (1) recycling or (2) trash bin.

Step 3

Interact with website to see how electronics are discarded when (1) recycled or (2) tossed in the trash.
kiosk 2

VIEW WEBSITE FOR KIOSK 2

References

Process Blogleft arrow

Diagram: Materials in a Chromebookleft arrow

Diagram: Flow of Electronic Wasteleft arrow

Methodology + Bibliographyleft arrow

Methods

My research consists of practical and conceptual methods of trying to understand the multifaceted topic of supply chains, material culture, garbage and e-waste.

There are some readings which have provided me context to draw influence from. Specifically, “High Tech Trash” by Elizabeth Grossman has been a key resource in my research. In her book she investigates and visits the physical sites where the materials of our 21st century technology are sourced from.

First I performed teardowns on my parent’s defunct laptops- a Lenovo G560 and a Chromebook. After they were taken apart, I looked into the components and the materials each piece is made of. I collaborated with Dr.Sardashti, a material scientist whose research is focused on semiconducting materials, to fact-check my research and help create the diagram of all the elements that make up my parent’s broken laptops.

I manually traced the flow of recycled electronics by conducting interviews with individuals working within the electronics manufacturing and discarding sector. Through this investigation, I was able to map a version of the disposal supply chain.

Bibliography

High Tech Trash
Elizabeth Grossman

The Story of Stuff
Annie Lennox

Made to Break
Giles Spade

Maintenance and Care
Shannon Mattern

Waste and Waste Management
Joshua Reno

Sand in the Gears
Ingrid Burrington

Anatomy of an AI System
Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler

Re-Thingifying the Internet
Jennifer Gabrys

American Trash
Colin Lecher

Mapping USA Electronics Manufacturing Pollution
Josh Lepawsky

More references can be found: here

Thanksleft arrow

Thesis Advisor

This project wouldn't be possible without the generous help and guidance from my thesis advisor Sarah Rothberg.

Professors

Thank you Professor Tom Igoe, Brett Peterson, Marina Zurkow, Nancy Hechinger, Genevieve Hoffman, Shawn Van Every, Mimi Onuoha, Robin Nagle, Margaret Smith, and Ben Light for sharing with me critical references and techniques that have shaped my work as a whole.

Research Assistance

Kasra Sardashti
Kara Napolitano
Nicholas Johnson
Christine Datz-Romero
George P. Reiss
Jasmine Soltani
Stephanie Koltun
Matthew Plummer
ITP Trash Club

Thesis Class

Ilana Bonder
Yang Yang
Sarah’s Thesis Cohort

Support

Off-Weeks Group
ITP Trash Club
Maya Pruitt
Becca Moore
Eva Philips
Vince Ming Pu Shao
Winnie Yoe