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Title:Let's Talk About E-Waste: How Can LIS Pedagogy Engage This Difficult Problem?
Author(s):Jones, Jimi; Jones, Karin Hodgin
Subject(s):Library and information science education
Abstract:For the past decade, LIS education has given considerable attention to the problems associated with the stewardship of digital materials. LIS pedagogy tends to focus on the digitization of analog materials, migration and retrieval of digital objects, digital format sustainability, metadata extraction and so on. While these topics are, of course, critical to the provision of access to digital materials over time, discussions of digital hardware are comparatively minimal. It is easy to overlook the materiality of digital objects but nonetheless these ones and zeroes do have to reside somewhere, on some physical medium. As more digital content producers and repositories choose cloud-based storage solutions, this conversation about the physical artifacts associated with digital preservation becomes even harder to have. One timely and critical conversation that is needed in the cultural heritage realm relates to what happens to the digital objects – hard drives, monitors, computer peripherals, storage media – when it’s time to upgrade our digital preservation environments and workflows. The flow of these objects out of our digital repositories contributes to a rapidly growing global environmental problem known as “electronic waste” or e-waste. Electronic objects are complex and may contain multiple toxic materials that pose special challenges for recycling and disposal. The materials are difficult to safely extract, costly to recapture for reuse and extremely difficult to remediate if they contaminate ecosystems. Though the U.S. EPA, the World Bank and the United Nations have cited the increasing volume of e-waste as a growing global crisis in urgent need of long-term management strategies, there are still few regulations governing the stewardship of e-waste. In the past 15 years, 25 U.S. states have passed laws governing e-waste disposal and recycling, yet facilities to manage the waste are inadequate. It will take time to build adequate capacity to manage the existing waste awaiting disposal and longer to match the trend of device production. Our presentation will fit into the “Gaps in LIS Curriculum” topic. This presentation will treat several issues related to the e-waste problem as it relates to LIS pedagogy and practice. We will first discuss the dearth of publications and conversation regarding e-waste in our field. Next we will talk about how the choice of encodings and formats in digitization workflows can be an effective strategy for minimizing digital storage needs and, by extension, the amount of electronic waste produced by memory institutions. We will discuss relevant parallel issues like holding institutions accountable for the e-waste they produce, avoiding duplication of digitization efforts and anticipating storage needs at the outset of digitization initiatives so as to increase efficiency and minimize waste. How to draw students’ attention to these issues is an integral part of the conversation we hope to spur in this presentation. To this end we will conclude with a discussion of what we are doing as instructors to bring the topic of e-waste into LIS pedagogy here at GSLIS.
Issue Date:2015-04-11
Series/Report:Proceedings of the 2015 Symposium on LIS Education
Genre:Presentation / Lecture / Speech
Rights Information:Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-06-16

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