Our Mobile Phones and their Origins

In the past weeks, I have conducted a series of three workshop days with a school in Bad Tölz in the context of the program “Bildung trifft Entwicklung” (education meets development).
With head, heart and hand, we explored the different stages in the life cycle of a smartphone, tackling global interconnectedness in the raw material extraction, production, trading, usage and recycling processes.
On the first workshop day, the focus was on working conditions and global inequalities within the chain of mobile phone production. Through a “privilege check” – roleplay, the participants could phyiscally experience the (social justice) gaps between different actors involved in the production chain of a mobile phone.
The second day started off with a world map game, in which population, GDP and mobile phone usage was explored through positioning on a large world map. In a second step, a thread helped to locate different [geographical] stages in the life cycle of a mobile phone around the world. We then concretized the entanglements by focusing on Coltan extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On the final workshop day, we focused on usage and proper disposal of the mobile phones, reflected upon our agency and possible actions we can take as small parts of a wider (postcolonial and neoliberal) structure with an inherent logic of cosumption. As a result, the following cluster has emerged, pointing towards roads for possible action within our limited frame of innersystemic options.

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