Medium-as-social-actor presence: Swedish city adds risqué voices to trash cans to discourage littering

[In an amusing example of medium-as-social-actor presence, the Swedish city Malmö is encouraging people to use its public trash cans by having them “dish out racy audio messages after being fed trash,” as reported below by CNN (and in case you’re wondering, confirmed by Snopes). The original story includes a video (also on YouTube) that demonstrates the trash cans’ voice responses (in Swedish). Initially the voice was only female, which generated objections similar to those regarding the gendering of virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa; a writer in Quartz noted that “If we’re socializing the idea that women should talk dirty but be grateful for having trash tossed their way, what message could that possibly send?” But a follow-up story in Malmo’s The Local reports that the city has now added a male voice (and that the identity of the female voice has been revealed); see that story or YouTube for a video featuring both voices. I first heard about this in a comedy bit on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (which includes a subtitled version of the initial video and is available on YouTube). –Matthew]

[Image: The Local’s reporter Becky Waterton experiences the new sensual rubbish bins. Source: The Local. Credit: Richard Orange]

Sexy trash cans? This Swedish city is taking a risqué approach to garbage

By Jack Bantock, CNN
Updated June 10, 2022

(CNN) — The Swedish city of Malmö is taking dirty talk to a whole new level in its latest effort to clean up the streets.

By installing talking garbage cans that dish out racy audio messages after being fed trash, authorities are hoping for an increase in rubbish being deposited.

Pedestrians that drop trash into one of two bins on the city’s Davidshallsbron bridge are rewarded with extremely positive feedback from a sultry female voice, who offers a range of responses.

“Oh, right there, yes!”, “Come back soon and do that again!” and “Mmm, a bit more to the left next time,” feature among the programmed messages.

While the seductive approach is a fresh tactic, trash cans with voices are not a new addition to Sweden’s third-largest city. In 2017, the city council bought 18 talking cans, though today only two still speak, according to CNN affiliate Expressen.

During the pandemic, they thanked depositors for adhering to social distancing regulations, but a new era calls for a new method, the city road department’s section chief believes.

“The sentences are part of the campaign’s intention to get more people to talk about the dirtiest thing there is: littering,” said Marie Persson, according to The Local, quoting Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan.

“So please go ahead and feed the bins with more rubbish…yes, just like that.”

Malmö has long been renowned as a pioneer in eco-friendly living, so its latest innovation should perhaps come as no surprise. The city’s eco-drive is epitomized by “Bo01 – City of Tomorrow” — a project launched in 2001 — that has transformed a polluted, defunct shipyard in the city into a green, sustainable living district. All energy needs for homes, shops and office buildings in the area are met with renewable sources, with food waste converted to biogas to run local buses.

This entry was posted in Presence in the News. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  • Find Researchers

    Use the links below to find researchers listed alphabetically by the first letter of their last name.

    A | B | C | D | E | F| G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z