Article Alerts for September 2016

Since discard studies doesn’t (yet!) have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a regular table of contents alerts for articles, reports, and books in the field. If you are interested in becoming an editor for non-English article alerts on Discard Studies, or know of a recent article for the next article alert, please contact Max Liboiron:

These are the most recent publications for September 2016:

mir_on_12_june_1998edit1Damjanov, K. (2016). “Of Defunct Satellites and Other Space Debris: Media Waste in the Orbital Commons.” Science, Technology, and Human Values. Preprint preview.

Defunct satellites and other technological waste are increasingly occupying Earth’s orbital space, a region designated as one of the global commons. These dilapidated technologies that were commissioned to sustain the production and exchange of data, information, and images are an extraterrestrial equivalent of the media devices which are discarded on Earth. While indicating the extension of technological momentum in the shared commons of space, orbital debris conveys the dark side of media materialities beyond the globe. Its presence and movements interfere with a gamut of governmental, commercial, and scientific operations, contesting the strategies of its management and control and introducing orbital uncertainty and disorder in the global affairs of law, politics, economics, and techno-science. I suggest that this debris formation itself functions as media apparatus —it not only embodies but also exerts its own effects upon the material and social relations that structure our ways of life, perplexing dichotomies between the common and owned, governed and ungovernable, wealth and waste. I explore these effects of debris, framing its situation in the orbital commons as a vital matter of concern for studies of the human relationship with media technologies and their waste.

Demaria, F., & Schindler, S. (2016). Contesting Urban Metabolism: Struggles Over Waste‐to‐Energy in Delhi, India. Antipode, 48(2), 293-313.
Recent scholarship on the materiality of cities has been criticized by critical urban scholars for being overly descriptive and failing to account for political economy. We argue that through the conceptualization of urban metabolisms advanced by ecological economists and industrial ecologists, materialist and critical perspectives can be mutually enriching. We focus on conflict that has erupted in Delhi, India. Authorities have embraced waste-to-energy incinerators, and wastepickers fear that these changes threaten their access to waste, while middle class residents oppose them because of their deleterious impact on ambient air quality. We narrate the emergence of an unlikely alliance between these groups, whose politics opposes the production of a waste-based commodity frontier within the city. We conclude that the materiality and political economy of cities are co-constituted, and contestations over the (re)configuration of urban metabolisms span these spheres as people struggle to realize situated urban political ecologies.
Los estudios recientes sobre la materialidad de las ciudades han sido criticados por los investigadores urbanos por ser demasiado descriptivos y no dar cuenta de la economía política. Argumentamos que a través de la conceptualización de los metabolismos urbanos de los economistas ecológicos y los ecólogos industriales, las perspectivas materialista y crítica pueden enriquecerse mutuamente. Nos centramos en el conflicto que ha estallado en Delhi, India. Las autoridades han introducido incineradoras y los recicladores temen que este cambio amenaza su acceso a los residuos, mientras que los residentes de clase media se oponen debido al impacto negativo en la calidad ambiental del aire. Explicamos la aparición de una improbable alianza entre estos grupos, cuya política conjunta se opone a la producción de una nueva mercancía, no quieren que los residuos sean una nueva frontera de la mercantilización dentro de la ciudad. Llegamos a la conclusión de que la materialidad y la economía política de las ciudades son co-constituidas, y las disputas por la (re)configuración de los metabolismos urbanos abarcan ambas esferas al luchar la gente por alcanzar y situar determinadas ecologías políticas urbanas.
x9783837633276_216x1000-jpg-pagespeed-ic-djvczggm5uLaser, Stefan (2016), A Phone Worth Keeping for the Next 6 Billion? Exploring the Creation of a Modular Smartphone Made by Google, in: Christiane Lewe, Tim Orthold, Nicolas Oxen (Ed.): Müll. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf das Übrig-Gebliebene [Waste. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Remaining], transcript, pp. 201-226.
Smartphones illustrate the power of electronic devices. They are also prime examples of electronic waste, which is a growing global public concern. So far, however, there has been little discussion about the reorganization of the manufacturing of electronics to tackle the issue. This paper explores a vision of a modular smartphone—that is, a smartphone that is made of easily-swappable parts—that embraces this endeavor. The vision of this smartphone was made popular by the social movement of »Phonebloks« and Google began developing a prototype of such a phone under the umbrella of »Project Ara«; with this gadget, Google may be establishing a new standard. Both projects are accompanied by vivid »passionate interests« (Gabriel Tarde) originating from Internet discourses. In this paper, the evolution of this phone and its emerging economy is explored with an ethnographic approach, deploying methods of Actor-Network Theory. This product-to-be, it is finally argued, is built to cast off things regularly. This highlights a peculiar mode of wasting that already has had a powerful impact on the actors involved (including the researcher).