Human and the self:
Everything has a start and an end, there are a lot of experiences and mater contained between these two limits. We as humans are able to experience the world with our individual senses in a collective community and we have the curiosity to try to explain these feelings and bring them into a rational language, where through time, we were separating mind and body between each other without realizing that the world is perceived within this interaction. We feel what science explains, “whereas the real world was a world of mathematical properties which could only be grasped by the intellect and which was entirely at odds with the false testimony of the senses” (Lévi-Strauss 2001 p.2) There are some postures to classify human rationality, where they can be classified as “primitive” or “modern”. According to Malinowski (Lévi-Strauss, p.5) the notion of people is determined to fulfill their basic needs of life and therefore you can understand their social behavior, beliefs and organization while Lévy-Bruhl establishes that the difference between primitive and modern lay in the fact that primitive thinking is guided by emotions and mysticism.
These two ways of thinking lead into different mental capacities and intellectual development, as one person living in the countryside may know how to hunt, harvest or make a fire in the deep forest another in the urban environment may know how to drive a car, use a computer or watch a movie online. In both cases the difference on what they know in order to survive in their world, is consequence of different context and are these differences in cultural context that make each society unique and original, as long the globe is becoming over connected, an homogenization may occur and this uniqueness will diffuse. These cultural backgrounds have more impact into our personal development as we may think, according to Joseph Campbell, our inner dreams are influenced by the collective imaginary but interpreted personally. If we confront the opinions of these two authors, is possible to see the relation between them, in both cases there are statements about how we influence culture by creating myths and how culture influence us. Even though is a possible see diverse interpretation of life translated into religion, or myths, a common thread can be seen in the way the symbolism is used, the metaphors or the message itself.
Society and Lifestyle:
Humans themselves cannot live by their own, they need levels of interaction with other persons, to generate culture and define lifestyles. Sociologically speaking, lifestyle refers to the “distinctively style of life of specific status groups” (Featherstone, 2007 p. 81), which in contemporary society, could be define as “consumer culture” or consumerism, where goods are placed as central element of interaction in a society , with high value in determining the role each person play in society. Consumerism, according to Featherstone, is not only the consumption of value or material utility is the consumption of the signs we are exposed to, and more than ever, we are expose to different signs with different messages in different platforms. Jean Baudrillard (1983) describes this lifestyle as an over beautification of reality, a loss of social humanity leading to a nostalgia for what is real (people, value sex), in resume, the effect of the post modern culture. People have left behind their capacity to communicate to each other in a direct way, instead, a communication is being hold trough our possessions, letting our clothes, house, car or furniture speak about us and show an image of us (fake or real), an image we want to impose and high light over the rest of society, this means, a distance between different social groups and lifestyles should be maintained or even increase this gap.
An “image” is now a commodity (Pallasmaa,2005 p. 21) we are all exposed without being aware of, designed spaces, architecture, advertisement, are all examples that reflect the hegemony of eyes over the contemporary culture contrasted with the nihilistic experience of touch. The alienation of the other senses is due to the over stimuli of our eyes and is leading our current behavior. This issue is extrapolated to our way of behavior and social interaction, where this exposure to images becomes a quality of “taste”, reflecting our preferences and social status that makes people more similar or different than a certain group or community (Woodward, 2007 p. 86).
Design, a tool for society:
“All men are designers. All that we do, almost all the time, is design, for design is basic to all human activity” (Papanek, 1972) Defining design is something that designers, young and experienced, have and are discussing in order to state something that, according to Papanek, is more related to human activities instead of an area of study or profession. An approach to design is found more related in the meaning than in the problem solving adjective, a meaning not found in labels as “beautyfull”, “ugly”, “nice” as well as “functionality”, where many designers state it´s importance and relevance (Form Follows Function) in fulfilling human wants and desires for being profitable and leaving aside the actual human needs. What have been presented so far are just some points a focuses of designers abut design, if we turn our heads to another circle, economic for example, we can see a completely different perception, or in some cases called definition, of “what is design”. For the private sector design is “a tool to improve profits and expand market share” (Thorpe, 2007) a for profit activity that focuses on sales, marketing where is not even mentioned the aspects of needs; often a scale of hierarchy where designers are hired by consultancies that are paid by multinationals to develop new products according to their demands. These corporations and multinationals are mainly demonized as evil and controlling the world with their extremely wealth and lack of responsibility within the environment, and we as designers, consumers and citizens are also responsible for this destruction.
If design is all human activities, is about functionality and meaning, making profits and expand market share, what can design do to improve the actual social situation we are living in? first we need to ask and reflect ourselves about the damages that have been created and how as designers, we can stop doing what we destructively do and take the right measures to change this pattern. An answer still in the air but sustainability and new politics in design deployment are key issues to facilitate decision making to those who, knowingly or unknowingly, are being responsible (Tony Fry ,2010). Establishing a new approach to products, redefining the relationship between product and consumption, changing the way products are used and time enduring, developing new economical models for a sustainable society are key activities that designers must take in their agenda.
What designers are doing?:
Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby are a design couple based in London, their work is exhibited in different fairs around the world, their work includes “ the Bell Lamp” for Louis Vuitton, furniture design for vitra and “Established & Sons” among other curricula. This an example of what contemporary design studios are doing in the field of design, where a constant search for beautification of everyday objects and the practicality of its use is the main mantra of these studios. Working in product and concept development for international brands and manufacturers that lead these objects into museum pieces is a recurrent modus operandi and an aspirational goal. Other activities designers are being doing in the field, is collaborating multidisciplinary with user and researchers in a different “design methodology” named Co-design and co-creation. These two collective-working methodologies (different but related) base their structural approach in human capital and empirical experience rather than theory (Sanders & Stappers, 2008), both involving people besides designers and engineers, and collaborating with workers, final user, distributors, etc. as an attempt from companies business and marketing departments to increase the value offered in the market.
The world of design has been refreshed by the â€œopenâ€? community, where projects downloadable design from the design firm Droog Design (Open Design Now, 2011) are stimulating a different exercise of design practice and design vision of the coming decades. Communities that share files, platforms that generate customized furniture and local manufacturing, are some key issues that open design is facing to give a twist to the current economical system.
Design and social intervention:
The practice of design has wider its multidisciplinary boundaries by co-working in different fields not directly related to the design world, going from economical, ecological, social and institutional issues, to philosophy, science, education, anthropology, among other sciences, and is its ability and creativity to operate and adapt to new systems, that makes design capable to deal and incursion with uprising issues. Activism is taken different forms and using new communication platforms (ICT) as well as the evolved ‘post industrial’ society and developing in topics like environmental, political, social based on collective or individual actions, non-profit or influenced by political parties. In any form activism may take, they work to catalyze and elicit change, working in a series of frameworks that goes from environmental, human, social, financial and, manufactured. An activist is motivated by personal beliefs to embrace his/her needs, desire or goals, to follow a certain philosophical approach or another internal factors as altruism or morality, the aim is to change some or all of these issues, but the activist and the cause suffer ´transformational activism´ too, where internal hindsight change the outward activist expression. It could be said that design activism could be another avant garde behavior or a serious representation of what could or is happening in the world, more specific, according to Faud-Luke design activism is “design thinking, imagination and practice applied knowingly or unknowingly to create
a counter-narrative aimed at generating and balancing positive social, institutional, environmental and/or economic changeâ€? (FuadLuke, 2009). To speak about breaking the boundaries of design among it have been stated in this article, is necessary to take a look to Paola Antonelli, curator from MoMA, who argument that technology is humanizing the rest of the world and shows in some exhibitions, what designers are doing with the use of technology, to change the way we interact and perceive the world, from avatars that brings a real experience of second life to a menstruation machine that makes men to feel what menstruation feel like (Volume Magazine, 2011 Vol.3). All this different approaches to design technology and interaction and leading to a speculative future, where technology rules over our body and we lose gradually our physical social interaction, this is something Peter Paul Verbeek might think about the use of technology â€œyou might just as well be against gravity; the influence of technology in our lives is always there, whether we want it or notâ€? (Open Magazine Vol. 24, 2012).
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