Denisa Kera: Open Hardware Fantasies and Conflict-Free Minerals


Bits That Matter Panel

Where: Paccar Theatre

When: 15:00 – 17:00 15/11/14

How to map and navigate the space between conflict-free and open source, between regulation and wild creativity, geopolitical interests and entrepreneurial experiments, never ending hunger for consumer electronics and the immense tragedies of five million dead Congolese?  The minerals in our electronics connect us to meteors and stars,  but also to the African warzones, the dire conditions of the Shenzhen factories and the present geopolitical games for global economic governance.  If we look closer behind the calls for conflict-free devices, such as the U.S. Government’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act (2010, Section 1502) requiring American companies to audit the mineral supply chains, we see the image of the “Minerals Baby”.  The Minerals Education Coalition (MEC) uses this symbol of innocence, but also entitlement  to visualizes the average U.S. consumption and remind us about the “importance of mined substances to our lives and lifestyles”, e.g.  the life of an average American born in a given year with an average expected lifespan of 78.7 years.  How can this “Minerals Baby” turn into a “Political Homunculus”, where the certification systems protect the economic interests of several big corporations, backed up by NGOs and inter-government regulatory bodies fuelling geopolitical conflicts behind the rhetoric of “conflict-free” materials?