Staying with, working through and performing obsolescence

techno-ecologies 2

New article out in the latest issue of the Acoustic Space journal on Techno-Ecologies (2). Titled “Staying with, working through and performing obsolescence,” the article was co-written with colleagues Åsa Ståhl and Kristina Lindström. The piece began as a joint presentation given at the 2013 Media Art Histories conference and covers Ståhl and Lindström’s ongoing Repa Upp / Upprepa (Unravel / Repeat) project, in which they are working with a number of old mobile phones collected during journeys through the north of Sweden. The project is interesting on several levels, including for its strong material orientation towards media and emphasis on caring for and working through various relational aspects of this materiality.

“menders”, image by Lindström and Ståhl

As a part of their working with the obsolete mobile phones, handed voluntarily over to them by various members of the region whom they came into contact with during their travels, one iteration of the project saw Lindström and Ståhl “reanimating” the content stored within the phones in the form of an SMS story, P.S. Sorry if I Woke You. The story is loosely based on the SMS data which they were able to bring back to life through a series of hardware and software hacks (/mendings) to bring the phones back into working order so that they could not only access the original content for cutting up and stitching back together in their evocative narrative, but also so that the story could be “retold” by the phones themselves. Thus, when one subscribes to receive P.S. via SMS, it is the original phones that, in their mended form, deliver the story to one’s phone.

PS capsules, image by Lindström and Ståhl

My contribution to the article was a discussion of what the experience of subscribing to this SMS story was like, as well as writing together with Lindström and Ståhl on certain issues of obsolescence (an increasingly key part of my dissertation research) that the story and their project as a whole raises. Below is the abstract for the article and a snippet from the article itself.

Abstract: This paper, which contributes to discussions on techno-ecologies by drawing on feminist technoscience, is divided into three parts. The first part is written by Lindström and Ståhl and outlines the figure of the rag and bone wo/man. It also recounts stories from their travels, where they collected both obsolete phones and also personal accounts on the part of the owners of these phones, and then moving on to explain the process of unravelling and repeating these materials into a composition of an SMS novel. In the second part, Snodgrass gives an account of the experience of subscribing to the SMS novel P.S. Sorry if I Woke You, which Lindström and Ståhl composed from the materials they collected as rag and bone women. Snodgrass’s focus is on the kinds of relational, media ecologies style dimensions that the piece can be seen to bring to the fore. Finally, all three authors join in a concluding discussion on the notions of staying with, working through and performing obsolescence.

Keywords: Obsolescence, care, e-waste, mobile phones, rag and bone wo/men

techno-ecologies 2 text



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