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Disturbances #16: The Price of Perfection
Mark Wilson argued that this vulnerability is in fact luxury: “Apple’s glass iPhone is impossibly beautiful because it connotes fragility – the preciousness of something you have to handle with silver polishing gloves”

Put a case on it to keep it safe, though, and the stainless steel frame gets abrasions as dust and grit get inside, and get rubbed against the device.

This is an essay about the impossibility of perfection - and some of the costs of trying to get there anyway.

It’s also an essay about surfaces.

The actual material surface of the iPhone is meant to disappear. The iPhone X marketing copy says as much:
“Our vision has always been to create an iPhone that is entirely screen. One so immersive the device itself disappears into the experience. And so intelligent it can respond to a tap, your voice, and even a glance. With iPhone X, that vision is now a reality. Say hello to the future.”

The goal is not only a screen you do not notice, but one you have to interact with less and less. Facial recognition to log in, not tapping in a passcode. Siri voice recognition, not typing. Airdrop earbuds, not looking at a screen....

In her 2017 book iMedia: The Gendering of Objects, Environments and Smart Materials, media theorist Sarah Kember talks about “the metamorphosis of glass into skin via plastic” as glass innovation focuses on haptics, on bendability, on creating a responsive surface that can heal itself....

To achieve the desirable, hyper-smooth satin surface finish on the iPhone, Apple’s manufacturers use dust - fake diamond dust, as it happens: “Each case is machined and polished, then blasted with microscopic zirconia beads to achieve a consistent, satin texture.”...

a new "rotational 3D Polishing" method. Apple Insider shared the details of how this was done.

Again, it uses dust: “A machine drags the aluminum housing through a specialized powder, which buffs out imperfections and helps to produce a mirror-like effect.” Then, “In the last step, the housing is spun through a bath of magnetized "ultra-fine" iron particles, used to polish the anodized layer for extra sheen.”...

The perfection of the rendered image proves impossible in real life. As soon as you pick up the jet black iPhone 7, as soon as you bring it near your sweaty, flaking, leaking, shedding body… it’s defiled. On a surface this shiny, every trace of dust – every fingerprint, every smear – is exposed....

As such, ressentiment: “a sense of hostility directed at that which one identifies as the cause of one's frustration, that is, an assignment of blame for one's frustration.”

In plain English: people want to destroy these things....

Smash Some Stuff, a group of Canadian men from the forum Planet Boredom who, in 2005, took $400 into an Apple store and bought an iPod - then smashed it right in front of the staff who had just painstakingly explained the warranty to them. Over the next four years, they did this again in an array of videos available on YouTube documenting their destruction of Apple products and gaming consoles...

“The problem is that reporters come here thinking this is the destination for old laptops exported from the United States,” explains Robin Ingenthron, CEO of Good Point Recycling in Vermont, USA, to the Smithsonian. His firm exports used, working laptops to Ghana. “But this isn’t the destination at all. The computer shops are.”....

Neither is Guiyu in the Shantou region of China. For a decade this was the "e-waste capital of the world” operating at vast scale, processing 1.6 million tons of electronics waste a year in 5,000 or more informal e-waste workshops and dismantling facilities employing 150,000 people. Six villages specialised in circuit-board disassembly, seven in plastics and metals reprocessing, and two in stripping wires and cables. But the Guiyu industry disappeared almost overnight in late 2015 as the Chinese government's “war on pollution” imposed better regulation on electronic waste in order to deal with what was becoming more of a domestic (not just imported) problem....

in the last six months Thailand, with its laxer environmental laws, has reportedly become "the world's rubbish dump".

But Thai locals want their government to reject this trash, and sooner or later it's likely laws will change here too. Western countries (and potentially China too) will look again for yet more marginal countries who need the foreign income from processing this waste too badly to be able to say no, and the cycle will continue.

But that system of displacement is backing up: the Guardian reports that "in Hong Kong and Singapore, where most of the world’s e-waste is sent before it is bounced to less-developed countries, there is already a backlog of e-waste in shipping containers. If south-east Asian countries do not take it, it has nowhere to go."...

In a project called Bodies of Planned Obsolescence: Digital Performance and the Global Politics of Electronic Waste Dani Ploeger and colleagues from the UK, Hong Kong and Nigeria sought to face up to the material facts of the digital technologies they use in their artworks and performances, and the social, economic and political consequences of their ‘afterlives’ as electronic waste. ... the online promotional videos for the plant emphasize its cleanliness.”

Yet “Nevertheless, our experience of the visit was overshadowed, at times literally, by clouds of dirt and dust.”...

“Unlike the work we witnessed and participated in in Lagos and Hong Kong, which consisted mainly of disassembly and detachment of specific components, the processes at SWEEEP are based on grinding and pulverizing devices, after which the particles are separated according to material. Whilst this process allows for a much higher rate of recycling through the use of hi-tech machinery that sorts materials according to colour the grinding process causes a great amount of dust. Quite unlike the promotional video we found online and the documentaries we watched in the PR office with Jason, large parts of the factory were covered in thick layers of dust in which small shiny particles could be spotted with the bare eye. Dust could be felt. Surprisingly, most workers did not wear mouth protection and safety posters indicated that it was ‘optional’....

Dust, with its tiny particle size, has a high surface area - which maximises its exposure to oxygen, as does its tendency to be literally floating in the air. Dust is so reactive that the US National Fire Protection Association says only 0.8mm (1/32 of an inch) of volatile dust covering just 5% of the surface area of a room "presents a significant explosion hazard".

So a dusty factory (or grain elevator) is a very dangerous place...

At the Chengdu facility, in particular, the report lingers over the “alarming” occupational health and safety issues caused by chemical exposure, overwork, “military” style management - and large amounts of airborne dust....

Industrial dust diseases are collectively known as pneumoconiosis, but they’re infinitely specialised: asbestosis caused by exposure to asbestos fibres; berylliosis caused by beryllium dust in everything from aerospace to dental ceramics; silicosis or ‘potter’s rot’, caused by silica encountered in many mining and construction occupations, and recognised by Hippocrates in Ancient Greece and Pliny in Rome. ...

What Apple sells us - what modernity sells us - is a vision of shiny new perfection that is in fact impossible.

There will be dust. There is always dust. By that I mean there is always time, and materiality, and decay. Decomposition and damage are inescapable. There is always the body, with its smears and secretions and messy flaking bits off. There is always waste and it always has to be dealt with, and shipping it out of sight overseas to the developing world does not change the fact this work has to be done ...
design  iPhone  screens  surfaces  fragility  repair  dust  ewaste 
august 2018 by shannon_mattern
Which is Worse? How the Most Unsuspecting Surfaces in Your Public Restrooms May be the Germiest Offenders
Can you identify the germiest surfaces of your business restroom? Consider the potential worst offenders of your facilities and why they should be professionally sanitized throughout the year with a game of “Which is Worse?” in your restroom.
restroom  surfaces  bacteria 
july 2018 by Adventure_Web

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