Object of desire:

Trash

Categories:

Archives

Infrastructures

Material semiotics and the economy

Labor

Trash

What is trash and what is not? When someone determines that their sweater is too pilly, their lunchbox has lost its appeal, or their banana is too brown to be consumed, they are making a decision to demote the object of their value. The individual act of categorizing as trash is telling from an economic and social standpoint. But what happens inside ´trash´? While supply chains of goods towards consumers are visibly recorded and codified, the optimization of waste management gets hidden behind bags and is oftentimes considered a problem. But in consumerist societies, which the US is one, what is consumed (or fails to be), is also discarded, in one way or another.  There are all sorts of things in what gets labelled, discarded and processed as trash: plastic, old electronics, toys, bones, books, bloody pads, food, ect… Where does trash go and what kinds of infrastructures handle it? One possible way to approach this  is to see how waste continues a renewed economic life when it gets recycled, collected or donated to charity. I would like to understand these infrastructures of trash and their intersection with the economy, information systems and computing. 

 

Project ideas:

  • Studying recycling processes of organic and inorganic material with small scale experiments (fungal, bacterial decomposition of trash)

  • Thrift stores/charity: what are the communities and economic environments that emerge out of this kind of trash? What kinds of labor do they perform? How are platforms like Ebay, Poshmark, etc connected to these circular economies?

  • What are the circular economies and material transformations of e-waste? What kinds of creative solutions have been found (jewelry, recycling)?

Object of desire:

Self as matter

Categories:

Ontologies

Auto-ethnography

Collectivity

Economics

Self-tracking

 

Title:

Algorithms for other selves

 

Description:

Developing experimental autoethnographic tools for exploring different ways of being selves and collectives. This could relate to creativity and AI, collectively nurturing an AI. How to use life-logging and the collection of your own data without rendering it part of the behavioral surplus economy? What kinds of collectivity can be created with self-tracking tools?

 

Project ideas:

Create a list of methodologies for autoethnography

Object of desire:

Fungus

Categories:

Infrastructures

Biomaterials

Electronics

Ontologies

Transindividuality

 

Title:

Fungal Computing

 

Description:

 

Fungi are interesting lifeforms for many reasons, two of which may relate to computing and the economy. First is their potential for inspiring metaphors to contest current forms of anthropocentrism and extractivist economies. An interesting point regarding fungi individuality is how their multi bodied individuality has prompted discussions in evolutionary theory regarding individuality (eg. Gould’s humongous fungus among us, or classifications of individuals in an information theoretical sense). This fungal transindividuality could inspire ontologies of ´selves´, such as those explore by writers like Tsing. Second is their infrastructuring position in worldwide ecologies. Fungi extract materials from decaying matter that they recycle. Fungi create new usable materials from their interactions with plants and organic and inorganic matter. In other words fungi are extractive and feed on decay, but they also act like regenerative agents and allow for space for other life forms and species. Fungi are essential for plant metabolism, and oftentimes plants have symbiotic relationships with certain kinds of fungi. I would like to explore how to work with fungi by studying how they currently exist in human environments, whether harvested for consumption, used for industrial processes, considered diseases. How can they be tied to digital media or computing? Some scholarship in HCI has already undertaken a related question. In Design for collaborative survival, Liu and Devendorf designed wearable electronic sensors that prompted humans to engage in multisensorial awareness of fungi around them. Although I draw inspiration from Liu and Devendorf, I find some places of questioning for their proposal. The artifacts designed lack a social embedding, relying on an individual scale (and possible ‘users’). They also don’t point to already existing collaborative examples and entanglements with fungi. In a way, such a critique of anthropocentrism fails to recognize the anthropocentric position of critiquing anthropocentric critiques, something which Tsing escapes when revindicating fungi beyond humans.

 

Project Ideas:

To understand this I would like to approach this relationship with fungi in two ways: 1) understand current infrastructures of fungal relationships in the city and the body 2) support new fungal collaborations by growing fungal matter to wear fungal electronics. This can be achieved using biomaterial approaches like growing leather from fungi, and using them on wearable electronics. 

Other: Describing fungal growth algorithms with synthetic speech, creating fungal stickers in electronic circuits.

Object of desire:

Quartz

Categories:

Computing

Materialities of information

Time

Electronics

Economies

Speculative Science

 

Title:

Time Crystals

 

Description:

Crystals are compelling to humans for several reasons. They have been traded as minerals and gemstones for their aesthetic and physical qualities. They are the basis for high quality lasers, were essential for radio technologies, and are used in electronic clocks for their stable electric pulsating qualities. They  are part of the infrastructure of electronic time keeping. The growth of synthetic crystals has transformed the systems of values of crystals, making materials of very similar chemical and physical qualities in laboratories. Diamonds are cultural symbols of wealth and commitment. However, they are also part of the extractive economies. How to understand the entanglement between crystals, time and electronics?

I propose to use space-time crystals as a speculative departure to create artifacts that make us question these entanglements between economic value, time and extractivism, synthetic materials and cultural fixations. 

 Space-time crystals are hypothesized states of matter that repeat themselves in time. These constructs are interesting to physists because of their potential to break space-time symmetries.

Sara Milkes 2020