repairs: dreaming zero waste

Dreaming Zero Waste engaged with formal and informal consumer technology repair practices in Kenya. Through close collaboration with telephone repairers from Nairobi the project explored inventive approaches to electronics repair as an inspiring example to counter the technology throw-away culture that is prevalent in the UK and other European countries.

Since the early 2010s, news reports, media artwork and scholarship in the Global North have paid considerable attention to the problematics of informal e-waste recycling and dumping in Sub-Saharan countries. While raising awareness of these issues has contributed to stimulating change in policy making and consumer behaviour, the strong focus on negative effects of digital culture in Sub-Sahara Africa has arguably also had a potentially questionable side-effect: It seems to – often unintentionally – reinforce old stereotypes of ‘Dark Africa’. Taking a different focus, Dreaming Zero Waste engaged with electronics repair as a widespread aspect of digital culture in many places in Sub-Saharan Africa that could form a positive example for consumer culture in Europe.

As earlier examinations of the practices and politics of e-waste in Lagos and Hong Kong had shown, there is often a close connection between repair cultures and processes of recycling and waste. In the Global North, ideas of recycling mostly evolve around dismantling and fragmenting obsolete devices extraction of raw materials for re-integration in the production process of new devices. 

Dreaming Zero Waste was funded through the Arts and Humanities Council as part of the Connected Communities Festival 2016. The project was presented at the V&A Museum London in the form of an interactive workshop and at the Utopia 500 Fair at Somerset House in London.