Thursday, July 21, 2011

MIT's Backtalk project / art exhibit traces the unseen life of discarded gadgets

Sooner or later, the device you're reading this on will either be sold, donated, recycled or otherwisedisposed of; and unless you're particularly nostalgic about old gadgets like us, you likely won't ever give it much more thought. But no matter how you get rid of it, that device doesn't just vanish off the face the Earth. It's that extra life that got the folks from MIT's SENSEable City Lab thinking, and the Backtalk project is what they've come up with. Part research project and part art exhibition (now on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York), the effort involved using GPS tracking devices to trace where things like cellphones, batteries and printer cartridges end up after being discarded -- and, in the case of 40 netbook computers, some tracking software and their built-in webcams, which recorded data and images that were sent back to MIT at regular intervals (with the new owners' consent, of course). Some of the results can be seen in the video after the break and the site linked below, but you'll have to check out the exhibit first-hand to see the full scope of their findings.

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