What’s in my stuff? How sustainable is the mobile phone?

HANSON, Maria (2014). What’s in my stuff? How sustainable is the mobile phone? Making Futures Journal, 3, 411-421.

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Official URL: http://makingfutures.plymouthart.ac.uk/media/1137/...
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How often do we discard something rare and precious without even realising it?

In today’s developed societies we own an unprecedented amount of “stuff” and nothing is more representative of this than our consumption of mobile phones. In 2011 alone 1.6 billion new devices were manufactured and shipped around the world with 1000 phones being replaced every hour of every day just in the UK. Research indicates an estimated 85 million phones lay unused in UK homes containing more than 40 different chemical elements and with precious metals worth in excess of £150 million. This waste of resources cannot be sustained and a responsible action from us all is needed. But what do we know about our technological stuff; the origin of materials used in their manufacture, methods of extracting the raw elements and quantity of material resource left on the planet? Matthew Crawford suggests that in order to be responsible for the world we need to feel that it is intelligible and the provenance of our things need to be brought closer to home. (Crawford 2009) However for the vast majority of people, making and material knowledge is limited and a sense of agency with our ‘stuff’ is missing.

This paper discusses how contemporary studio jewellery is used as a device to engage audiences in a commentary concerning the preciousness, scarcity and ethical sourcing of materials and minerals needed to make technological devices. Craft knowledge and practice is used to interrogate the emotional connections between people and their things, exploring whether creative making can influence human behaviour. It presents a case study project, What's in My Stuff?, launched in 2011 and funded by an EPSRC Engineering for Life grant. This interdisciplinary project (Craft and Material Science) combines material analysis with multi-sensory/participatory activities, creative jewellery making, exhibitions and exchange systems that explore ways of raising awareness about material sustainability that aim to engender the reduction, reuse, and recycling of products. Pop-up field laboratories provide the framework to engage audiences in active participation rather than being passive recipients of information. These interactive labs enable participants to deconstruct a mobile phone and discover for themselves what materials and components are used in their manufacture. Various creative methods are used within jewellery making with outcomes exhibited in public spaces, field labs and through lectures, presentations and workshops. Using the jewel as data visualisation provides commentary on key facts gathered from Scanning Electron Microscopic (SEM) material analysis, and statistics about material/product manufacture and consumption. Intrinsic preciousness is emphasised by reclaiming, transforming and relocating physical fragments from deconstructed phones into wearable jewels; exploiting aesthetic characteristics giving material new value that promotes the notions of recycling and second lives. These events and activities are used to both communicate information and knowledge and act as mechanisms to collect quantitative and qualitative data. Observations, Interviews and questionnaires revealed information about how people interact with their phones and what they value, exploring attitudes to ownership, emotional attachments and barriers to recycling.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Page Range: 411-421
Depositing User: Maria Hanson
Date Deposited: 22 May 2015 12:19
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 19:00
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/9798

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