Pratt Institute School of Design

Desire Deleted: Perceptions of Waste
Yvonne O. Chow
Discard occurs in moments of valuation that beget a myth called waste. Waste is a social construct fueling capitalism: all matter holds meaning, value, or functionality. It’s time to redefine and confront waste as discard, the deliberate action of placing commodities into the “rubbish” mindset, severing references between artifacts and identities through abstraction of space and human labor. Contrasting attitudes between digital and physical discard—our mindful restraint amidst climate change contends an information economy conveniently heedless to consequences of overgenerated data detritus—provoke inquiries into our evolving perceptions of waste.

Storylines We’ve Become
Music communicates the nuances of relationships that typography or graphics cannot. This capstone uses sound as a tool for narrating humanity’s relationship to and fostering critical thinking toward waste.
Waste lives at the intersection of public and private spaces, between sight and invisibility. Insights from cultural probing revealed that privacy is a mental contest: you can feel both public and private in the same physical space, boundaries are fuzzy, and perceptions of space can be controlled.

In response to Aluminum Upcycled by Carl Zimring, which advocates for repurposed aluminum and argues “while waste is a product of design, design can salvage waste,” I sewed Alumiquilt with snack bags and salvaged fabric from FABSCRAP, intending to divert waste from landfills while protecting and warming people experiencing homelessness.

“Dead” Data
Proper data sanitization is a deliberate process for irreversibly obliterating data, which means simple deletion, as with disposal of physical objects, often means your discards aren’t truly gone, away, or dead.
Freehand speculates automated action upon the valuation of physical discards, a framework borrowed from artifactory cleanup practices. Build artifacts are deleted or relocated after a certain time passes or if available disk space is greater than a defined value. What if we applied quantifiable discard rules to tangible items?

100 Days of Deleting
For 100 days straight, I asked strangers to delete an image from their phone and provide the reasoning behind their intentional discard. Technological advancement has given us more channels of data-based creative wreckage.

During the 2020 lockdown, the idea “waste=food” from Cradle to Cradle inspired me to convert pages of past thesis papers into boxes containing fresh homemade cookies and deliver those fresh-baked goods to residents in Brooklyn by bicycle.