Week 5: Techno-trash!

        In my opinion, personal technologies are political and come with their consequences that we have to deal with, at some point, as a society. I always thought of cell phones, iPad, laptops as my personal devices and that they are only used for my own convenience and benefit. However, after finishing readings for this week, I am convinced that whatever technology I use has some sort of contribution to society and/or culture that we are a part of. Firstly, we need to consider about the waste from our old and damaged devices and what happens to it. On a smaller scale we might not be aware of what happens to the e-waste but on a macro level, we as a society, use third world countries as a measure of dealing with waste. Documentary, ‘The Light Bulb Conspiracy’ threw light on how developed countries deal with e-waste. Ghana was used an example with video footage from the trucks filled with huge amounts of e-waste consisting of scrape laptops, monitors from PC’s, clothing iron and such which is then dumped by a beautiful river close to the site that has now been transformed into a waste disposal site. Secondly, it is because of our personal use of technology that data centers are being a problem to the environment where they use enormous amounts of electricity (about 300 million Watts) to supply not only the data centers themselves but also the cooling units as explained in the video “Into the Cloud”. Similarly, article, “Power, Pollution and the Internet” by Glanz, J. points out the violation of clean air regulations by these data centers and an increase in data centers because people like to save their old attachments for years and send huge Megabyte and Gigabyte videos via e-mails contributing to space problems. A possible solution is stated by (Glanz, J.) which involves “…centralizing computing among large and well-operated data centers…which in effect allows servers to merge….that can be doled out as needed to users, wherever they are.” (Glanz, J. p. 6). This proposition, however, remains debatable and is still been worked on. In conclusion, our personal technological devices effect the society, environment both directly and indirectly.

       Light Bulb Conspiracy, as described by a documentary, “The Light Bulb Conspiracy’ by Cosima Dannoritzer explains an economic strategy that was introduced in 1920’s by Phoebus where the lifetime of a bulb was reduced from 2500 hours to about 1500 hours. This is termed as an economic strategy as this idea is believed to force the customers to buy a new light bulb. Although, this idea of obsolescence was ignored when it was first proposed but after the great economic depression where a lot of people lost their jobs, obsolescence was made mandatory so that people would have their jobs. This idea of planned obsolescence can now be applied to almost every item used in daily life. From a light bulb to printers and battery life of cell phones and such. Digital culture can be thought of the present era where, we as individuals, are very digital oriented and consume technology is almost every possible way. Upgrading software to new ones when manufacturers merely add new features or by making new models more attractive to buy is one way companies make profit. A very common example of this phenomenon is Apple releasing new iOS and new models almost every year which leads to many individuals willing to try the new phone or upgrade to try some ‘app’ from iTunes. Such acts make an individual a victim of planned obsolescence. Reduced battery life of a laptop, iPod, cameras and such is an additional way to manipulate the customer to buy a new product. From my personal experience, I have already bought 3 printers in 3 years just because the price of new ink cartridges are far more than a new printer which already has cartridges in them. Another example is companies providing with reduced warranty time and no refunds which ultimately is advantageous for manufacturers as they get to sale more products. Due to the nature of present era, we are dependent on technology and we find convenience in buying a new product as opposed to wonder if we could actually revive the old one. As mentioned in ‘The Light Bulb Conspiracy’, an individual does not buy new printer instead restores his current printer and successfully avoids to be a victim to planned obsolescence. Therefore, theory of light bulb conspiracy is well-seen in digital culture through various examples.

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