For Transition Design Seminar II, Allison Huang, Min Kim and I worked together to identify, define and map the key components of a wicked problem. Inspired by a recent frustrating experience Allison had with her cell phone provider, we decided to tackle the question of “Why do we need new phones on such a regular basis?” After examining social reasons for needing a phone (staying in touch with family, friends, coworkers), we began to explore some manufactured reasons. Phone makers and service providers hold monopolies over the industry, leaving consumers with limited choices for what kind of phone to buy. The options available are products that are not made to last long, and are generally not user-friendly or affordable to fix. With consumers constantly in need of new phones, manufacturers are making over a billion new phones per year. This production comes at the cost of people and the environment, as companies often set up factories in countries that have lax laws for labor and ecological protection. Over the years over-mining for precious metals found in phones has led to deforestation, which among other things leads to climate change. A major byproduct of climate change are severe weather storms which have ravaged coastal populations. In 2012 Hurricane Sandy wiped out telephone lines along the East Coast, creating a new dependence on cell phones for people in the affected areas.

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