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The chimera reified: design, meaning and the post-consumerism object

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date03/2010
JournalThe Design Journal
Journal number1
Volume13
Number of pages28
Pages3-30
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The design and production of short-lived electronic consumer goods are not only creating enormous environmental and social damage, their very transience indicates that, as objects, they possess little enduring value. This paper considers the design of these goods within contemporary society and suggests a direction that is more consistent not only with the priorities of sustainability but also with more profound understandings of meaning. A brief overview of electronic products is given in terms of their instrumental, social and positional attributes, along with some of their social and environmental consequences, and a simple conceptual 'post-consumerism' electronic object is presented that encapsulates various aspects of contemporary critique. This is followed by a consideration of the meanings of contemporary electronic goods, and the changes needed in our approaches to design, production and disposal to address concerns linked to deeper notions of human purpose. Based on this examination, which draws upon philosophical and environmental critiques of technology, new priorities for design practice are developed that are in accord with theoretical arguments for comprehensive reform of design and manufacturing. The potential implications for electronic goods are demonstrated through a second conceptual object.