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Running the Number

What is it in the photo?

426k phone

Zoom in a bit closer.

phone zoom in

It is 426000 old cell phones Americans discard every day. The photo created by Artist Chris Jordan in his Running the Number Series showing at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles. Chris Jordan try to give a new perspective of American statistics in this series by giving the number a visual meaning.

I admire his effort to increasing the public awareness of many social issues through his creative artwork.  However, just like plain old statistic on paper can lie, statistic represent in photos can also lie.  Chris twists the reality to deliver the stunting visual effect, just impress the audience without giving any meaningful interpretation of the statistics. He pick an arbitrarily very very large number to aggregate the statistic for his photos. Yet he forgot a simple fact, US has over 3 billion population. A photo full of old cell phones looks scary, but you do the math, it is only one new cell phone per person every two years, which is quite reasonable.

Here is my art work depicts half a cell phone, equal to the number of cell phones retired per person in the US every year.

.half phone

See, old cell phone is not that scary after all if you represent the statistic in the right way.

3 comments to Running the Number

  • Michael

    Chris Jordan’s work is just stating one fact among many others. Often, the amount of waste we produce on a per person basis isn’t that much. But if we add them up, it’s a different story. As you said, I think he just wants to increase public awareness. While there may not be much we can do about discarding a cell phone once every two years, we may need to put more resource into research in replacing the raw materials with something more environmental friendly so that we don’t end up with so much silicon junks. This is perhaps less a problem than the number of computers we junk.

  • Strictly engineering speaking, all waste are by product of flawed design. Giving enough resource, we can recycle close to 100% of everything.

  • trishama

    Hey I have to tell you that at first these pics are for psych testings! ie. testing what you see in an array of circles in different colors. kakaka

    Yea, I love to recycle everything in my household – inc. old cellphones. I believe in 100%-recycling.

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