How to Use Twitter in E-Waste Research (Fatty Fatty Boom Boom style)

I was a huge skeptic of Twitter when microblogging first came out.  Reading page after page of what people I was "following" were "doing" at that minute?  Writing back what I'm "doing"?   Seemed like a South Park episode waiting to happen (and it was).

Within about 6 months, however, I found out how to use Twitter.   Simple.

Twitter is about its SEARCH BOX.

In the search box, you use keywords, and it greatly multiplies the number of experts and opinions and views that you are exposed to.  And increasingly, you can find the words of African TEchs talking about their own view of the "E-Waste Poster Child From Disney" debates.

Just this week alone:   "The Gaze On Agbogbloshie, Misrepresentation At Ghana's E-Waste Dumpsite" by Heather Agyepong.   Heather is also covered here at Carbon Creative Arts.

“My initial intention was to understand how waste could still be illegally dumped in Ghana and understand the conditions about how people felt. However when I arrived it was nothing of what I had read about the place. It was just super organised and not as dystopic as I thought. From the month I spent with the boys who live and work in Agbogbloshie, I wanted the images to represent that distortion. The images have that cross process look which leaves the images looking apocalyptic. I wanted this to exemplify how the western gaze effects our understanding, not just in Africa but how we can see other issues.”
Through Twitter, you find what Interpol is doing ("Project Eden" seems de-emphasized in this months Interpol Africa newsletter, in favor of wildlife crime... a welcome turn if it's sustained).   More emphasis on putting Elephant Poachers in jail, rather than Nigerian TV repairmen.

Save the Exoticism! Africa Funky Trash Rap Needz U
Via Twitter search, you won't find just intelligent essays like Agyepong's.  You will still find lots of gushy poverty porn and button pushing liberal cinema, often with Chernobyl scale exaggeration.   On BoingBoing yesterday, David Pescovitz posted about Samuel Goldwater's short film Regolith, which almost a pure duplicate of David Fedele's "silent watching" film of Agbogbloshie from two years ago.
"Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana, is the world's largest dump for electronic waste from all over the glob.   Meet the teenagers who tend it in this short film..."
That's right, don't be distracted by the Sims, ERI, Creative Recycling, URT massive factories processing thousands of tons per year (or Middlebury's Good Point Recycling's 4-8M lbs).  Fedele and Goldwater have "been there" and can tell you that  most of the world's e-scrap is actually managed by six teenage boys with a wheelbarrow.

Fedele and Goldwater and others (even Kyle Wiens, preeminent Fixer, initially fell in this trap in 2008) mistake the fact that they are EYEWITNESSES for expertise.   This article in ScienceInsider links to several psychological studies, some going back to the 1970s and 1960s, reporting how the accuracy of eyewitness testimony and recognition declines by half when another race is involved.   That's right, "To Kill a Mockingbird" fans, eyewitness testimony is always suspect (or given too much weight), but whites and blacks are particularly bad at accurately reporting what each other are up to.  (I like to note that it's a reciprocal problem).

It's obvious, you can see it right in the film.  Recall David Fedele's response to this blog when I critiqued his poverty porn film as "accidental racism".     Black kids.   Display devices.   Obviously no Africans could have been using internet or watching TV.   Pieter Hugo only seems to visit Halloween parties, seems to represent Africa like Lady Gaga trapped in a South African Die Antwoord "Fatty Fatty Boom Boom" cameo.

Twitter search will bring you lots of Fedeles, Hugos, and Goldwaters. plenty of #wastecrime hyperbole.   You can find all these "me too" experts on Twitter, and flip through them.

But you can also find facts.   Did you know Lagos Nigeria had about 6.9 million households with television back in 2006, (according to @WorldBankAfrica)?  And if you search other words in Twitter, other booleans with Africa besides "waste", you find a lot more posts about internet and ICT and Geeks of Color.  Suddenly e-waste and #wastecrime and Agbogbloshie appear in the same context as a metal scrapping operation in Boston.   What if a foreign journalist became obsessed with photographing homeless visits to Salvation Army soup kitchens?  Fine.  But what if that's all that Europeans ever saw about Boston?  You find Rebecca Enonchong.  You find Raphael Font (@RecyHub).  You meet Adam Minter and Atterobay.  You can stumble onto news about Freyja Knapp...

Lots of tweets amount to "Queue the pity".   Won't someone please think of the children.  

You will find a lot of lousy news via Twitter search.   Exponential hyperbole.   Tedious old psaws.  But you will also read things you wouldn't have read, and meet people like Heather Agyepong and Raphael Font.  It's a modern library tab card in 140 characters.  It bypasses Jim Puckett, bypasses big shred factoids, bypasses industry associations.   And you can find out a lot if you're a little discerning.

Get a Twitter account.  Don't tweet out about your toe fungus.   Just use the SEARCH BOX.

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