A coltan collar

Filed under: 2014, image_machine

A coltan collar is a device consisting of a motor-driven mechanism that ends in a moving head covered with sandpaper that slowly erodes a zinc plate painted in blue. The machine needs an internet connection to work, as it detects tweets sent from devices located in an geographical sector in central Africa, the one where most of the minerals needed for the hardware inside digital systems are extracted from, with barely no revenue for local economies but extremely hard working conditions.

Whenever a tweet sent from this area is detected, the machine performs a movement, transforming the digital act into the mechanical work of eroding the colored plate. This erosion recalls an extraction process of rare earth minerals, as it unveils under the bright blue colored surface its hidden mineral support.

While the production of digital hardware continues to depend on labour exploitation, the affective economies of social networks rely on the exploitation of data exchanged by users within their free online services. A coltan collar plays with the interweaving of these two different types of exploitation, as users tweeting from the selected region in central Africa are the workforce in a system that recalls the illegal mining labour embedded in every digital device. It is a domestic image-machine, whose presence brings to the everyday space this dual notion of exploitation diffused in digital systems.