THE ANTHROPOCENE SLAM: A CABINET OF CURIOSITIES NOVEMBER 8-10

WISCONSIN INSTITUTES FOR DISCOVERY DELUCA FORUM MADISON

EXTINCT DEVICE

photo of a thick rubber gloves

In early modern Europe, when naturalists filled their cabinets of curiosities, they collected freak forms embedded in rock: unclassified lusus naturae, or sports of nature. Many objects in these pre-scientific mini-museums - "philosophical toy shops" - were actually works of artifice. In that spirit, I have created a future fossil. It's a fossil of a gadget - a BlackBerry Curve 8300 - that has gone extinct despite being mass introduced as recently as 2007. Hardly anyone in the world under age 20 would recognize its shape, though for a pop culture mini-epoch it was globally iconic. Given that the progenitor of my fossilized Blackberry was Research in Motion, and given that the genus name for the blackberry plant is Rubus, I denominate my specimen Rimus rubus curvus. I make the analogy to biology and extinction in sport and also in seriousness. There's a troubled relationship—material and verbal - between throwaway consumer capitalism and biodiversity loss. Brazenly, technologists have coopted the language of ecology and evolution to naturalize planned obsolescence and to pay tribute to the economic game of extinction.

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