By Mike Gifford

April 2, 2007

This past summer I posted a picture (or three) on Flickr of a laptop I ran across while swimming in the Ottawa river upstream of a local beach. You don't often run across laptops in the river, but and figured that it was unique enough to photograph between yanking it out of the water system and tossing it in the trash.

Cyber Trash Photo The ecological problems with high tech toys are considerable with batteries and the heavy metals that are used in the construction. Greenpeace is one of many groups looking at pressuring computer companies to be more environmental responsible. Disposable tech toys are becoming much too common, and this is fundamentally unsustainable. I do like the approach of groups like Greenpeace's Green Apple Campaign and the Computer Take Back Campaign. Ultimately, we consumers do need to give corporations the message that we are holding them responsible for cradle to grave management of what they are selling us.

I tossed up these pictures, described where I took them an then tagged them so that it would be easier for individuals to find them. Tagging is a useful way of describing something in a way which is more meaningful and intuitive than many other forms of organization. I used the terms - pollution, trash, cybertrash (I like this one if you're looking to tag similar junk), laptop, toss, garbage, ottawa, "ottawa river", westboro - which will get you a range of other images. This isn't a bad way to search for images for all kinds of things. The map feature is also quite useful if you do want to see where this was (and how close it is to the public beach).

In anycase I was pleasantly surprised to find that someone had stumbled across my computer trash photo and wanted to use it in a new website put out by the Ontario Government, obviously.ca. The article was looking at the problems with this technology and some existing solutions.

I have my photos on Flickr to automatically set the copyright to the Creative Commons. This allows people to publish images without seeking a confirmation from me, as long as it fits a set number of conditions which I can choose. However, I was happy when I was contacted and asked for permission.

There are millions of images, videos and publications which are licensed under the Creative Commons. It is a useful way to propagate your work an contribute to a creative community of individuals who may be able to extend your work in ways that are impossible for the original author to imagine.