We encode our electronics with our memory, identity, and legacy, creating complicated artifacts, and eventually, complicated trash. The relentless need to upgrade software and hardware to remain relevant has made it increasingly difficult to plan very far into the future, leading consumers to make short-sighted decisions that negatively impact our species and planet. Christensen refers to the short cycles of contemporary technological obsolescence as “technology time.”
Technology Time is an evolving series of photographs of obsolete technology in a range of situations around the world: family collections of old media and electronics in private homes; institutional archives from at a major US art museum; and electronic trash in international “e-waste” processing centers. The material itself is very much the same from one scenario to the next: an old VHS tape looks and feels like the same thing whether it is in someone’s attic in the US, or on a pile of e-waste in another part of the world. The context, however, shifts the value of these objects, raising questions about our global standards of economy, culture, compensation, and health.
In these photographs we see the material flow created by upgrade culture, the aggregate of which is toxic e-waste, one of the devastating environmental disasters of the 21st century. These images remind us of the critical need for design practices that transcend “technology time,” so that we may consider the future in the very long, long term.