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Discarded Digital: tackling obsolescence through the re-use of digital scraps

March 2022 to February 2026

Leading institution: HEAD – Genève
Applicant: Nicolas Nova
Project team: Anaïs Bloch, Thilbault Le Page
Financing: FNS 
Co-financing: HEAD – Genève
Link to project website

This project aims to empirically investigate the practices of reusing digital waste - smartphones, game consoles, computers, printers, portable media players, connected objects - outside of the industrial chains of circulation and recycling of materials. We believe that the growing scale of this phenomenon is an opportunity to examine how non-industrial practices can be used to circumvent the problems of obsolescence that accentuate the environmental burden of the digital sector, due to the challenges of mining and energy consumption.
At the crossroads of the anthropology of waste, Discard Studies and the field of studies about Makers cultures and digital bricolage, this project will address the following three axes:
(1) What are these reuse practices, beyond repair? What are their limits and difficulties?
(2) How do the actors of this digital reuse proceed concretely? What skills do these practices put in place? What know-how and technical and human resources do they bring into play or generate?
(3) What does this produce in terms of objects? What is their status? How and in which social worlds do they circulate?


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