New Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts Exhibition Highlights Harmful Effect of Digital Technology on Environment

By Tom McLaughlin

In this day and age – when photos sit on the cloud, spam is archived in email accounts, and “trash” icons on computer desktops collect the vestiges of once-useful files – it is easy to think of the digital world as offering infinite resources without having any real, material impact on the world around us.

Chris Jordan, Circuit Boards, Atlanta (detail), 2004

But is that true? What really counts as “trash” and is the effect of digital technology on the environment much greater than we realize?

Those are the questions piling up in the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts’ new thought-provoking exhibition, “Digital Trash,” running from Sept. 5 to Dec. 7 in the Stedman Gallery.

Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The exhibition, curated by Director James Brown and Associate Director Robert Emmons of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University–Camden, draws attention to the various ways in which digital technology is playing a central role in the Anthropocene – the proposed, current geological age marked by significant human influence on the Earth’s climate and ecosystems.

Pinar Yoldas, P-Plastoceptor, 2015

“This exhibition features works that highlight that impact, bringing our attention to how digital technology actually produces vast amounts of trash,” says Brown.

For instance, explains the Rutgers University–Camden researcher, the Internet is not an unlimited, purely virtual space, but rather “a collection of server farms gobbling up energy and spewing carbon dioxide.”

Furthermore, he says, digital devices are constructed from mined materials that exploit workers and economies, and those same devices are dumped without much concern for environmental impact.

According to Brown, the exhibition forces the audience to confront these and many other environmental ramifications of humans’ gadgets.

“It is also a call to action: ‘How can we create more sustainable digital practices?’” says Emmons.

For more information regarding the exhibition, contact Nancy Maguire at (856) 225-6245.

Posted in: Arts and Culture

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