Earthly/Geo/Astro · Eco/Adaptable · Public Space · Technology

Urban Mining: Finding Precious Minerals in Consumer Gadgets

“You might not know it but there are veins of precious minerals that are richer than any goldmine, running through our cities. In fact, you might even have some in your pocket – but we’re not just talking about gold rings or jewelry, we’re talking about personal electronics.

Today, we live in an age of plenty in which we are happy to dispose of our electronic consumables when they become tired, either for an upgrade or because it is cheaper to replace them than it is to repair them.

All this just leaves clutter on our hands; who is ever going to use a 10-year-old cell phone, after all, let alone consider buying one from you in order to use it? Contrary to what you might think, there probably is someone out there who really would like to buy your phone not to sign-up to a cheap call plan but to strip it of the valuable materials used to build it, from iridium and indium, to antimony and bismuth. With mineral prices at an all time high, now is a better time than ever to get mining.

Furthermore, there are also two very good green reasons to recycle your phone. Firstly, there are only so many materials in the world, and if we continue to consume them, then eventually there will simply be no more of them. While microchips and green technology are changing the way that we live, we only have finite resources with which to build them. Secondly, if you do dispose of your phone or your mp3 player, then it will simply be adding to the mountains of waste that are disposed of every year. All the better, then, to feed it back into the system!”

Text and Images via Urban Mining

Art/Aesthetics · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Design · Sculpt/Install · Technology

A Touch of Code: Interactive Installations and Experiences

Gestalten Books: Thanks to the omnipresence of computers, cell phones, gaming systems, and the internet, a broad audience has traded its past reservations against technology for an almost insatiable curiosity for all things technical. Against this background, unprecedented new tools and possibilities are opening up for the world of design. In addition to sketchbooks and computers, young designers are increasingly using programming languages, soldering irons, sensors, and microprocessors as well as 3D milling or rapid prototyping machines in their work. The innovative use of powerful hardware and software has become affordable and, most of all, much easier to use. Today, the sky is the limit when it comes to ideas for experimental media, unconventional interfaces, and interactive spatial experiences.

A Touch of Code shows how information becomes experience. The book examines how surprising personal experiences are created where virtual realms meet the real world and where dataflow confronts the human senses. It presents an international spectrum of interdisciplinary projects at the intersection of laboratory, trade show, and urban space that play with the new frontiers of perception, interaction, and staging created by current technology. These include brand and product presentations as well as thematic exhibits, architecture, art, and design.

The comprehensive spectrum of innovative spatial and interactive work in A Touch of Code reveals how technology is fundamentally changing and expanding strategies for the targeted use of architecture, art, communication, and design for the future.

A Touch of Code

Social/Politics · Technology

Cell-Phone-Enabled Empowerment of Women Earning Less than $1/Day

Cell phones are the fastest spreading information technology (IT) in the developing world, with a penetration rate of over 61% [4]. Hence, there is a growing interest among governments, investors, banking industries, and retail giants like Wal-Mart to exploit this emerging channel of communication for offering services and expanding businesses to more than 3 billion poor consumers earning less than $2 per day. In response, a number of micro (individual), meso (community), and macro (regional/national)-level research inquiries and consumer surveys have investigated what makes cell phones a desirable and affordable technology for people earning less than $2 per day. These multidisciplinary studies and market surveys have revealed links between access to cell phones and socio-economic opportunities for disadvantaged populations from developing nations [9]. However, very few of the studies [1], [5], [10] have answered “why this link exists,” and “how this link works.”

In order to understand details of the link between cell phones and some of the most disadvantaged users in the world, a micro-level study presented in this article focuses on female cell phone users from the lowest socio-economic stratum in a male-dominated, hierarchical society of rural India. In particular, this socio-technical inquiry sought answers to: “Why do disadvantaged women earning less than a dollar a day use cell phones?” and “Are there any barriers to women’s access to, and usage of cell phones in a rural Indian setting? If yes, what are the barriers? And how do women cell phone users overcome those barriers?”

The study [6] was conducted in Bhor, a remote, rural part of India, a developing nation with more than 35% of its population living under $2 per day. One hundred and two female cell phone users earning less than a dollar per day at a domestic business setup, MGU, were surveyed, and twenty two of them were inter viewed in Marathi, the native language of the researcher and interviewees. Despite being offered relatively lucrative compensation ($0.50) for their participation, and despite mediation by a female manager working at MGU, a few potential interviewees succumbed to social and family resistance to participation and thus, stayed away from the study.