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Garbology

 

Assignment 1 runs throughout the course, but is split into two submissions: a check-in submission halfway through the course and a completion at the end. Follow the detailed instructions and check the Course Schedule for the due dates for the two submissions. Start working on this assignment as soon as you can.
Instructions
1. Choose Your Locations
Choose three outdoor locations that will give you a good selection of litter dumped on and scattered across the landscape. No dumpster-diving or trash-can picking allowed! The litter must be true litter, in the sense that someone has dropped it on the ground or amongst the vegetation, rather than placing it in a proper disposal container. Each of your three sites should be different in nature (i.e., have a different geography or surrounding).
Some obvious places you could choose would be roadside ditches, bus stops, areas of brush adjacent to busy traffic zones, parks and playgrounds, mall parking lots, beaches, etc. One key factor is that these places should be conveniently located near your own home, work, school, and so forth, so as to avoid the need for long travel to get to the collection sites.
2. Create a Schedule
Next, create a schedule to guide your work. (A Word table or an Excel spreadsheet may prove helpful here.) You will need to sample each of your three sites three times, for a total of nine recording sessions. Each recording session should last until you find twenty littered objects at that particular site. Obviously, places with more litter will be quicker to sample. Your schedule will also come in handy for the Site Visits and Artifact Analysis sections following.
3. Site Visits
You must schedule each visit to each site at a different time of day, on a different day of the week (or weekend), and/or at times spread throughout the term, in order to record how the scatter of litter has changed or evolved.
You will need the following equipment:
• A digital camera.
• A tape measure or ruler (to provide scale in photos).
• Trash bags (if collecting).
• Latex or work gloves (for hygiene).
For each site visit record the location, date, and time of the visit on your schedule and create a sketch map indicating:
• The location of each collection.
• The site features (roadways, buildings, benches, trash cans, etc.) that exist in the immediate area of each study location.
• Your collection zones.
Choose a five-by five-metre square (5 x 5 m2) with the densest litter at each location, and record all the litter within it. If you measure your walking pace before going out to the sites, there is no need for an exact measurement of the square—just estimate the size of the square using your own natural stride. If your square does not contain twenty objects, continue your survey outwards until you reach the minimum of twenty. If you survey the whole study area and it’s so clean you don’t find twenty objects, you will have to record that fact and give up for that session.
To record the materials in your study zone you can work as you go, or pick up objects and bag them for later analysis (record the date, time, and location zone on the bag), or photograph them on the ground (especially if they are too icky to pick up or your roommates won’t appreciate you bringing home fresh trash and sorting it on the dining room table). Collecting or photographing the materials means you can quickly leave the area without having to spend time painstakingly recording them while at the site. You can then analyze them later at your leisure. Collecting the material also makes for a better study because when you return to the zone later in the term it will be easier to see what new material has been deposited.
4. Artifact Analysis
As you collect and record materials, you will need to develop a system to analyze what these materials represent. Create your own set of categories (functional, stylistic, etc.) and use these categories to summarize what kinds of trash are showing up in different areas, and to present summary numbers about how much trash of each kind shows up at different times and places. You may wish to add this information to your schedule.
5. Check-In (your first submission)
Submit a single photo typifying your collection to date and a brief paragraph explaining your progress thus far with this assignment (i.e., the successes and problems you have encountered). You will receive a small participation grade for this paragraph and photo of your trash location. (See the Grading section below.)
6. Completion (your second submission)
Submit a report on the trash study you have completed. This report must include:
a. At least three, but not more than six, photographs of the study zones and the trash strewn within them.
b. A single-page table or spreadsheet showing the categories of trash you developed; the times, dates, and places of collection; and the numbers of artifacts in each category.
c. A one-page written analysis discussing your conclusions to the following questions:
i. What density of trash did each site produce (items per square metre)?
ii. Did trash materials vary at different places, times of day, and days of the week?
iii. Most importantly, what do the categories of trash and their distribution suggest to you about who may be depositing the trash, and why it is ending up in these locations at these times?

 

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