Digital Sonic Rubbish

At this point, many more chapters could be added to Jennifer Gabrys’ prescient 2010 book Digital Rubbish. One set of pages might be devoted to the 5.6 Billion $ (USD) “bioacoustics sensing market”, about which I am working on a piece with Karen Bakker. Thousands of new sensing tools – portable recorders, digital hydrophones, automated sensors – are now on the market, and with them, batteries, casings, plastic sheets, and all sorts of of electronic gear. These tools are regularly put out for months in difficult environmental conditions, where they suffer damage, shed parts, or are completely obliterated (as happened to me with a few tools on the Pacific West Coast). The upshot: tiny bits of sound recording rubbish are being added to the welter of electronic stuff that occupies a not-so-small section of our Capitalocene payload…

The ecological residue of contemporary media rarely gets a sonic treatment, which is something I was fortunate to consider when Gunnar Cerwen shared some WAVs from one of the damaged AudioMoths we found at Spillpengen in March 2021. The ripped plastic bag – probably pecked away at by a seagull or an eagle – still held the unit intact (although other units did not do so well). But there was a new audible aspect to what Gay Hawkin’s once called the plastic bags’ “stubborn materiality” and probably a few more stories to tell from the rest of the inventory too…

From March 9, 2021

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