I’ve always been a technology person. Whenever I visit my parents it’s a miracle if I don’t have to fix the computer, tv, camera, or somebody’s cell phone. But there’s also a part of me that is drawn to nature as well, so the main things that stuck with me from discussions in this class have to do with the relationships between nature and technology. As I was preparing for my painting and doing some research about it, I started to see two different sides of the issue emerge.First was the most obvious to me- the issue of recycling. When I first had the idea for this project I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find enough floppy disks to create the kind of image I was hoping for, but I was shocked at how many people offered them to me. I haven’t had a computer with a floppy disk drive in years, but people still hold onto them- some of the disks were obviously important like copies of taxes, but most were clearly useless now. For example, I had two copies of Word Perfect for Windows, Oregon Trail, and an installation disk for a Samsung monitor that I’m sure was long ago discarded. People felt a reason to hold onto these and yet when I asked, they were more than willing to get rid of them. Most people didn’t even ask what I was planning to do with all the floppy disks they gave me.
Technology is one of those things that we always want more of without really thinking about what to do with the things we already have. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 75% of all electronics are laying in the backs of our closets or attics, unused. When they are actually thrown away, there aren’t many good options. When they’re just thrown out with normal trash, they end up in landfills where toxic chemicals can leak into the ground and water. The same problem arises with incineration, which releases heavy metals such as mercury into the environment. More recently electronic waste has been exported overseas, often illegally, or recycled- but even recycling can cause harm to workers in recycling yards and the surrounding environment and communities. According to the Consumer Electronics Administration (CEA), the average household has at 24 electronic products, and for most of us it’s probably more. At the frequency which technology advances and people’s desire for the newest item, that’s a lot of waste that we don’t exactly know what to do with.
One of the roots of that problem is our attention span in general. We live in a fast paced society. The average adult attention span is somewhere between ten and twenty minutes, and that’s when we’re trying to focus on one thing, such as a class or lecture, not just in passing. So most people, even when they’re trying, are unable to focus for even half an hour. In order to feel connected to and the restorative effects of nature such as the national parks, I think it takes more than fifteen minutes. We are always multitasking. I think that if our attention is constantly divided then we won’t be able to appreciate these special places in nature. We have everything we need at our fingertips with smartphones, tablets, cars and airplanes. We never need to slow down, and so we don’t.
Another side effect of technology is that we stop trying to fix things. Instead we throw away and buy something new. To most people, it seems like the cost and effort of fixing something that’s broken is too much when they could easily just buy something new and forget about it. So if national parks are, as Grusin put it “an ‘organic machine,'” a sort of technology created to reflect culture and our expectations of nature, what happens if when the mindset of a throwaway culture starts to permeate the looser definitions of the term technology? People will very quickly find out, as many have already begun to realize, that not everything is so easily replaceable.
I wanted to make my project highlight the connections that I saw between nature and technology, and also incorporate some elements of recycling. I used floppy disks that I collected from people and some foam board leftover from a previous class. At first I was planning on creating a basic rectangle with the disks, but decided on having a more unconventional shape to mimic the effect of pixels. Also, in the way I rendered the leaves and some of the other details I abstracted them in order to make them less naturalistic. Lastly, I didn’t completely cover the floppies so that aspect of the project wasn’t lost. I wanted some of the details of their structure to show through the painting. In my mind, in the society we live in today nature and technology are inseparable, and we need to learn how to support and develop them equally.
Here’s the link to the slideshow of my process via sliderocket.
“ECycling, Common Wastes & Materials.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/index.htm>.
Macdonald, R. Heather. Preparing to Teach Large Classes: Strategies to Promote Active Learning. Good Practice in Earth Science Learning & Teaching: Large Classes. Department of Geology, College of William and Mary, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.gees.ac.uk/essd/large.htm>.
Richardson, Hannah. “Students Only Have ’10-minute Attention Span'” BBC News. BBC, 01 Dec. 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2012. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/8449307.stm>.
“Where Does E-waste End Up?” Greenpeace International. N.p., 24 Feb. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2012. <http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/electronics/the-e-waste-problem/where-does-e-waste-end-up/>.