An Ontology Of Electronic Waste

Maurits Fennis

Playlists: 'MCH2022' videos starting here / audio

This talk will investigate how the concept of private property has fundamentally altered our behavior towards the environment. We will investigate how an alternative ontology of electronic waste is needed and argue why dumpster diving, hacking and reverse engineering abandoned electronics is more relevant than ever to tackle this problem.

Within the discourse that surrounds the global rise in electronic waste, only a select range of subjects receive attention from the public - international relations, global waste management strategies and corporate greenwashing rhetoric that emphasizes a ‘circular’ economy. Although the legitimacy of these strategies can be debated, they fail to address the root of the problem. Following the pervasive concept of private property and how it has infiltrated the ways in which we think about ourselves, our relationships between each other and the environment, we will arrive at how this concept has solidified itself within the ontological frameworks we use to make sense of waste and electronic waste in particular. We will discuss how, when we get rid of the concept of private property (and subsequently the concept of waste), we can reimagine what abandoned electronics mean to us and how we can best address the incessant pressure from manufacturers to treat them as expendable, throw-away objects. We will discuss how collective dumpster diving, hacking and reverse engineering abandoned electronics might be a possible solution and present free and open source tools that could aid us in the process.