Instructor Reflection – Congo Coltan War PSA (2.2)

By Justin Hodgson

Despite the clear targeting of Apple, which may be intended here as synecdoche, as being a part representing the entire personal electronics industry, I think this project asks us to think about a lot of things. Particularly, one of its strengths is that, if nothing else, if raises an awareness about coltan and the potential crimes against humanity that are going on in relation to this mineral. So, from that stand point, it works as prior to Keely’s video project I had no idea that there was even a mineral named coltan. But what I think is really engaging about this project is that it starts with a little girl receiving an iPhone, and ends with images and information about child labor, child death, and child exploitation. The youth-frame asks us to situate two radically different worlds in a single blow: how different the lives of these children are, how different their futures are. These are the tensions that linger with me after seeing this video, and I think this too is one of its strengths. There are, of course, some technical and rhetorical issues at play in this video that could be better addressed, and I think these things actually open up interesting moments for us in classroom discussions, but even with those elements the video leaves an impression: it makes me start to think about coltan, about my relationship with technology, and about how so much of what I use, eat, consume, engage is made with a plethora of things I know nothing about. In this sense, the video actually gets me to start to rethink the knowledge position from which I operate as a consumer, and that is a very troubling thing to consider.