Project Name: Backtalk, 2011

Project Credits: Carlo Ratti – director, Assaf Biderman - assoc. director, Dietmar Offenhuber - project leader David Lee - software engineer , Jennifer Dunnam - deployment , E Roon Kang - visual concept , Paolo Patelli - visualization , Aaron Siegel – visualization, Francesco Pilla – tracking, Douglas Albert - technical consultantproject leader

Project Brief Description:
Our cities, buildings and objects are getting ‘smarter’ and embedded with an increasing amount of electronic devices. Yet, new devices make old ones obsolete, and carry ever more batteries, rare metals, and other hazardous materials themselves. What happens to this digital refuse at the end of its life? Does it get reused, or does it end up in a global e-waste dump?
We turned used laptops and other electronic devices into independent reporters that document their ‘second life’, sending us images and GPS coordinates from remote places. The information they report back offers first-hand perspectives - glimpses into e-waste recycling villages, local thrift stores, public schools and libraries - that prompt a reflection on our society’s relationship with our electronic devices.
We focused on two common scenarios that apply to obsolete electronics: e-waste disposal in urban centers, and the reuse of functioning devices in developing countries. By collecting information form these devices we set out to investigate one of today’s key unknown stories – that of global e-waste.