Dumpster Diving for Digitial Waste

By Max Liboiron.

That’s right, diving for digital waste, not e-waste.

We are familiar with curbside scavengers and recycling programs for electronic hardware, but how do you dumpster dive all those deleted files, those 1’s and 0’s you drag to your desktop bin every day? What about upcylcing digital waste?

This is where Dumpster Drive comes in:

Dumpster Drive is a file-sharing application that recycles digital files. Using dumpster diving as a model for recirculating unwanted objects, Dumpster Drive allows others to dig through files that you delete on your computer in a passive file-sharing network. Instead of simply erasing data from your computer, the software allows users to extend the lifecycle of their unwanted files and pass them on to others.

Brooklyn-based programmer Justin Blinder has made this application to extend the world of curbside shopping and dumpster diving to the digital realm. It’s a sort of anonymous file sharing program for trash.

Dumpster Drive: File Sharing For Your Digital Trash from Justin Blinder on Vimeo.

The interesting aspect of this application is to turn to something that does not usually present waste problems because of its ephemeral nature, and subject it to the waste management practices that support dumpster diving in the first place. When we delete our computer files, they leave no dent in the landfill, spend no time on the curb, do not require black bags or twist ties. Like our “desktop” the “trash bin” is an interface metaphor that helps users interact with their computers. The tricky twist of Dumpster Drive is that it takes the interface metaphor literally and makes deleting digital files more like taking out the trash, with all the boons of scavenging and perils of catching viruses it entails.

Max Liboiron is a postdoctoral researcher with the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing and the Superstorm Research Lab.