Design inquiry: Waste as design material

Through working with waste, or material deemed marginal for the purposes of technology production practices, this collaborative design inquiry extended the design moment outward to reveal the uneven risks and effects of production on stakeholders like e-waste collectors who are not well considered in HCI design. In designing with waste I found that unpredictable materials interrupt design efficiency goals and open a space for explicitly designing for disassembly and salvage practices; that ultra slow prototyping challenges perceptions of design’s appropriate pace; and that recognizing the residues of making all around us invites re-envisioning the permanence of our work as designers and how its effects might escape our control.

Through this research, I introduce the reflexive method of ecological inversions, experiments in reversing material flows to expose the wider infrastructure on which they depend.