Making and Breaking: Electronic Waste Recycling as Methodology

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Performance and Technology book series (PSPT)


This chapter proposes a practice-based methodology to investigate the materiality of electronic waste (e-waste), which formed the basis of the art-science research project ‘Bodies of Planned Obsolescence: digital performance and the global politics of electronic waste’. Building on anthropologist Tim Ingold’s concept of ‘making’, a widened understanding of the term ‘digital performance’ informed shared practical activities of a group of scientists, cultural theorists, and artists. During two field-research workshops in Hong Kong and Lagos, Nigeria, researchers participated in e-waste recycling in a factory and on a dump site. Thus, in this approach to practice-based research, the practical aspect of the research process does not concern the production of artworks, but instead involves shared participation in labour with materials. A process of shared reflection on this practical work may lead to outcomes in the form of new research avenues within the various disciplines of the participating researchers.


  1. Burden, Chris. 1971. Shoot. [performance].Google Scholar
  2. Clark, R.P., and R.N. Cox. 1973. The Generation of Aerosols from the Human Body. In Airborne Transmission and Airborne Infection, ed. J.F.P. Hers and K.C. Winkler, 413–426. Utrecht: Oosthoek Pub.Google Scholar
  3. Dixon, Steve, and Barry Smith. 2007. Digital Performance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Ex Machina. 2015. [film] Directed by A. Garland. UK/USA: Film4/DNA Films.Google Scholar
  5. Haraway, D.J. 1991. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Ingold, Tim. 2013. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts and Architecture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Maxwell, Richard, and Toby Miller. 2012. Greening the Media. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Maycroft, Neil. 2015. Obsolete Peripherals: The Ghost of the Machine? In PLATE Conference, 17–19 June 2015, Nottingham Trent University.Google Scholar
  9. Nelson, Robin (ed.). 2013. Practice as Research in the Arts: Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances. Houndmills: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  10. Olubanjo, Kehinde, Oladele Osibanjo, and Innocent Nnorom Chidi. 2015. Evaluation of Pb and Cu Contents of Selected Component Parts of Waste Personal Computers. Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management 19 (3): 470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ploeger, Daniël. 2015. Retired Cybernetic Organism #2, Performance.Google Scholar
  12. Scanlan, John. 2005. On Garbage. London: Reaktion.Google Scholar
  13. Schechner, Richard. 2002. Performance Studies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Royal Central School of Speech and DramaUniversity of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations