In a new book, MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman asserts that we need to overcome the Internet’s sorting tendencies and create tools to make ourselves ‘digital cosmopolitans.’
Anyone who's stuck with something they're about to throw away can offer it for free to others in the MIT community who might have a use for it. An e-mail list allows members of the MIT community to post and browse through materials and items that would otherwise be discarded by the owners.
The free service is open only to members of the MIT community, and items must be available on the MIT campus or in the surrounding area. Offices or labs wishing to dispose of equipment that carries a Property Office sticker need to get the sticker deactivated first by the Property Office, and some items may be restricted to transfer within MIT. Contact Property Disposal Officer Michael McCarthy at x3-2779 or email@example.com for more information.
Examples of items that have been listed and claimed include home furnishings (stereo and TV equipment, carpets, beds, furniture), CDs, bicycles, computer equipment, office equipment (desks, shelves, photocopiers, three-ring binders), technical lab equipment, books and magazines, event tickets, kittens and guinea pigs, cinder blocks, chalkboards, taco sauce, Venetian blinds, a pogo stick and a soda machine.
Higher-quality items have been known to generate at least 10 responses in less than two minutes, according to Michael Jacknis, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and former list administrator.
"Much of the stuff is functioning or broken computer equipment," he said. "Surprisingly, no matter how broken or strange the junk offered, it always seems to be taken."
For more information on the service, including how to announce availability of items or request something specific, rules for using the list and how to subscribe, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, where it will reach list administrators Dan Kamalic, a junior in mathematics, and Garry Zacheiss, a sophomore in physics.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 4, 1998.