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the most precious jewels are not made of stone, but of flesh – Robert Ludlum

Next Nature – what does it mean? Nature and Culture – two antonyms are growing together. Mankind has domesticated nature that we can create new species, live in inhabitable areas or bear products. On the contrary, man-made culture and technology develops a nature of its own. The finance system has become uncontrollable, domestic robots do our dishes and meat is made in the lab. With these examples in mind, it becomes apparent that the conventional way of defining nature is no longer bearable. When born and made are fusing, a manmade nature and a naturalized culture are emerging. This nature has to be dealt with differently than in the past. It is a continuously shifting state – it is Next Nature.

An introduction to NanoSupermarket

There is no life without consumption. Ever since the supermarket has replaced gathering and hunting with a shopping experience mankind struggles between biological instincts and cultural conventions. The supermarket’s perfectly artificial and closed environment has become a new ecosphere in which new rules apply. Of course given the rather short life of this concept, our brains still stick to their programmed behavior of collecting and hunting. Within this ecosphere a new demigod entered the scene. A power, able to cure and cause cancer, invisible for the Homo sapiens, is about to shatter this balanced ecosphere. It is a mighty cultural artifact: Nanotechnology. This project investigates through speculative products how a new possible future could look like. It is about stimulating debates and getting a hand on the evolution of these objects, to shape societies upcoming reality.


Personal interpretation of the project

Nanotechnology is an almighty innovation. Unlike other technologies, it has the power to heal and cause illnesses; on a scale impossible to see with human eyes. With yearly about 8,000 products being released, a debate is overdue. On the one hand, I have perceived this project to be a catalyst for discussions. This is why I went for such a radical concept. Polarizing design that deliberately crosses ethical boundaries creates debates with and for users. These debates raise the awareness about the capabilities of nanotechnology, but also explore the limits of what is doable within nanodesign. On the other hand I interpret this project to tear down dogmatic walls in an explorative way in order to drive innovation. Asking consumers what they want and expect from nanotechnology, I often heard to just improve existing products. Yet this is in my opinion not the aim of this project. It is about to challenge one self to thrive an extreme and disruptive innovation, facilitated in a consumer good.

Content Introduction


Concept Development


First Ideation


Final Concept




Technological Concept


Technological Research


Public Debate


Concept Direction


Reflection on Project


Research on Jewelry





First ideation Nanotechnology offers an overwhelming variety of possibilities to work with. Be it healthcare, energy or mobility almost all parts of our life are already influenced by this intriguing technology. Approaching nanotechnology from a social point of view raises the question in which area it will influence our lives. An already ongoing development is the shift in modes of communication. Be it interpersonal communication through body language, new means of sharing thoughts virtually or conveying values in other ways, it is always about the natural behavior to express ourselves with cultural artifacts. The medium to communicate with has become a statement of its own.

Lacking congruency between medium and message creates tension.

Written letters, posters, e-mails or a conversation all conveying the same message are received in a different way, therefore influence our perception of the content and its values1. Culture came up with a multitude of technologies to communicate. With the evolution and introduction of new technologies social exchange transforms. The adaption feels and looks strange in the beginning, becomes normal after a while and at some point natural. Still this all takes place in the supermarket, the ecosphere of groceries. Further exploration focuses on how (future) consumer products could influence our communication. Especially the conveyance of values has been a point of interest, because social developments like cocooning and economical imparity point towards a shift in the creation and communication of values. This can also be seen at the increased focus on sustainability within this paradise of overabundance.


Exploration of Value Creation through Making: On the one hand according to T. Habermas2, people claim that intimate products like heirlooms, pictures or objects they can relate a special moment, story or feeling to are the most precious ones. This implies that the object’s value is only visible to those who know about “Values are the the background and is therefore dependant on the point deepest of view.

manifestation of culture.” G. Hofstede

On the other hand values communicated are more generic and rarely that personal. To reduce complexity in mediation of values, a cultural code of symbols is used instead. They have to be more generic for the sake of comprehendible symbols and are rarely as meaningful for individuals as objects with a rich history. In the best case these two categories are combined, leading to a wearer who can identify best with a sharable meaning. Being part of a certain peer, belief or cultural region is commonly shared and easily decodable messages sent out constantly. Inherited objects can function as symbols and may be considered to communicate with third persons as well as to one self. Once again, a financial aspect is not pivotal in value perception of these objects. In sociologist G. Hofstede’s theory3, values are permanently conveyed via rituals, heroes and symbols through practices. This means that each of these surrounding shells are carriers of cultural messages. Furthermore it implies that they are depending on different points of view, manifested in the multitude of tribes and cultures. Value perception is, from a philosophical perspective, a constructive process. Linking a virtual interpretation to a physical object might result in a different perception of one and the same object. A picture can serve as a piece of paper to write down notes on the back, for others it is the turning point of their lives, giving them power every time they look at it. This different interpretation of reality indicates that even though there are values agreed on, most of our surroundings are perceived in a unique way. Values are an inter-social construct. From a historical point of view, the creation of value has changed. From a selfsufficient generation of value in the pre-industrialized era towards the automation of technical processes after industrial revolution – human impact on the production process has ever since shifted. Away from craftsmanship towards engineering, the assembly of actual producing machines. Today this can also be retraced in the shift from a product to a service oriented economy. This economy tries to maximize its outsourcing of manual labor and production. A development like this opposes the worldwide development of scarcity of resources and ecological sustainability. It provides the basis for a throwaway society.


On the contrary, looking at Amazonian native tribes like the Huaorani (who are unaware of the principle of money) the production of goods itself is a sacred, spiritual process, which everybody follows and feels thankful for4. The value of objects appears to be higher and emotionally deeper than to developed societies. Many of the warriors build their own weapon and keep them for the rest of their life. Not only because the lack of availability but the level of involvement and effort is higher.

Creation is one of the most sacred procedures of mankind

With new technologies, innovative trends to reinclude the consumer in the process can also be found in today’s market. Mass-customization and co-creation offer new means of value creation. End-users are being increasingly integrated in the designprocess. Not only to have an (semi-) individualized product as a result, but being part in the act of creation. Especially the phenomenon co-creation indicates, that the monetary value is again secondary in comparison to the experience. These technologies base on the concept to provide a unique possibility or opportunity for the user5.

The deep urge to express individuality in a mass-producing world leads to new ways of expression. This refrigerator looks almost like cave-paintings

Evaluating this exploration through research led to the assumption, that being involved in the act of making no matter if it is conscious or not, intensifies a positive experience and results in a more valued object. The emotional relationship between men and subject is more intense. Hence, following concept development explores what new methods of creation can be established with the help of nanotechnology and how do they influence the individual perceived value?


Technological Research Before the development of concepts, different new technological ways of creation were researched and discussed with experts on their feasibility. New means of creation influence also the conveyed value. Molecular self-assembly is a process on nano-scale in which components, either separate or linked, spontaneously form ordered aggregates according to a previously encoded pattern. Passive self-assembly can occur with components having sizes from the molecular to the macroscopic, provided that appropriate conditions are met. Although much of the work in self-assembly has focused on molecular components, many of the most interesting applications of self-assembling processes can be found at larger sizes (nanometers to micrometers, like the depicted cube)6. These larger systems also offer a level of control over the characteristics of the components and over the interactions among them that makes fundamental investigations especially tractable for biomedicine. In future, self-assembly will also be possible for even larger systems, resulting in spontaneous creation of simple every-day objects. Developmental Biology offers innovative methods to grow cells in Petri-scales. Within the TU/e campus a facility is growing artificial heart valves for future medical use. Experts provided an insight into how stem cells are grown with a pre-defined blue print encoded in the genes. This can of course also be used to create a personal object, yet is in terms of interaction rather on the side of growing a plant, and therefore dismissed. Another field of current research is modifying bacteria with the aim having them produce unnatural products, like gasoline, plastics or other chemical components that are difficult so synthesize. This genetic modification can also be used to grow whole objects. A technology, which can be provide a new value to the user in terms of creating an interaction via change of the ambient. So-called bone morphogenetic protein 7 (in the following BMPr-7), a natural protein that is able to stimulate bone-growth within the human body can be modified to have it grow different metal compounds, like cementite (iron-carbide)7. This technology reaches a new level of interaction between user and object – they become one in the process of making. Instead of grafting an object on its wearer, it is extracted from its producer. The most drastic technology has been chosen for further development of concepts, since a debate should be stimulated within the context of this project. Through an extreme process, a more intense relation between men and object will be created, an object of high individual value.


Concept direction: What new possibilities does this technology offer in terms of involving the user more in the act of creation to intensify the emotional relation to this object? Not the functional, but emotional value of an object should be investigated. This is why functionality of an object should be kept at a minimum for emphasizing the emotional connection. In the end, a product that stimulates a debate should communicate and guide the designer’s idea as clear as possible. Since the product still is set in the context of mediation, a naturally understandable language suits this way of communication best. Body decoration fulfills the criterion of non-verbal communication and is used ever In the end, a value is a since the evolution of mankind. In belief, tied to emotion and particular jewelry appears to be the most intimate and precious of these nothing like cold ideas. body extensions. In hindsight of creating a product that can be passed on to the next generation, the concept of jewelry fits this the connotation of precious heirlooms as well. Especially against the background of creating an artificial nature, this product then becomes a natural artifact.

Handed on pieces of jewelry each have a unique meaning for its wearer

The practical functionality of this method of body enhancement is considerably small, yet people have spent much effort on it for more than the last 100,000 years. Decorating one self with symbols is the primary extension personality. It is an individual process and will be decoded on different levels from third parties. Therefore decoration also features a strong constructivist element. Decoration has slowly evolved in what today is referred to as fashion. Fashion is used as a medium to communicate, a social tool, too.


Research on jewelry: From a bio-evolutionary point of view, jewelry serves three purposes8: According to Darwin, mankind’s loss of hair over the course of evolution is the result of expanding the hairless sexual areas (i.e. naked skin on apes is found in genital and anal regions). The guiding ornamental characteristics of jewelry on naked skin enhance the sexual stimulus of certain body parts. Jewelry can serve as a sexual stimulus. A second approach towards jewelry can be interpreted as signs of battle and war. Prey animal body parts like feathers and bones have This representative study often been the about the most precious basis of archaic owned objects shows that jewelry. This jewelry serves a higher extends to modern value. times in form of military ranks and trophies. The last reason is to express personality and reliability with jewelry through costly signals. These represent honesty, wealth and potency and are the most exploited category in today’s world of jewelry-purposes. Yet, because of the ubiquitous nature of this overly used symbolism, these types of body-decoration lose their value in modern times, the more they is being used. The following concepts therefore aim to restrengthen or restore these mediated characteristics through shifting the creation process back to a personal level.

Based on a study from 20049, the most important aspect of jewelry for private use is to self-communicate and creating a certain mood. For the communication with third parties, the instrumental part to establish an own identity has been mentioned to be valuable, too.


Concept development To develop the concept of value mediation with the help of nanotechnology further, the process of producing jewelry within oneself is placed in context of different use and evaluated. 1. To grow empathy with a close person who is going through a tough period in life, for example an illness, a piece of jewelry is grown simultaneously. This provides deeper insight in the progress of the other person. After the treatment, the piece of jewelry can be extracted and depending on the outcome be given to the other one as a sign of empathy or kept as an object to remember this person by10. 2. Because of the speed of this growth slow processes can be evidenced. A product can be grown inside of the body, to stimulate empathy and motivation. For example progress in treating an addiction is depicted early on and helps to overcome weak phases. Through the threat of losing the object if the drug is applied again, a stronger link to abstinence is created. After a successful therapy, the extracted object shows the progress and strength so far and lowers the risk of fallbacks11.

3. In modern partnerships, marriage decreases in popularity. The longterm value of marriage is dissolved through socially acceptance of divorces. In order to establish a new ritual to have couples stay together, they grow a ring for each other. This could lead to an increased commitment and a test phase before having a child together.


These concepts were explored in from different starting points. Through expert feedback from psychologists, the motivational character of this process appeared to be replacing one addiction with another ritual that will get lost over time (or after the extraction). To increase empathy with a close person, a standardized way of growing a one-of-a-kind jewelry was considered to be cynical in a conducted user survey. Growing partnership rings was not considered to provoke a stronger commitment, but rather a forced one. In regards to psychological human-artifact relations, the process of being the creator of one’s own product appeared to create the tightest and closest relation. This relation is deeply linked in human behavior. It can be followed especially at children’s pride, before effects like socialization overrule them. Their own creations appear to be for them the most pleasing, spare all imperfection 12. To some extend the same is true for parents and their offspring in terms of perception. A more extreme effect can also be recognized with circa 30% of cancer-patients, who also have positive emotions towards their tumor13.

Looking at value from a psychographic perspective reveals that possible designs will be most appealing to postmaterialists, who resemble about 10% of society. This social milieu is trying to re-establish the value “behind objects”. The main part of this social group is born after the 60’s, a generation growing up in overabundance. Material prosperity has been omnipresent; therefore monetary valuecreation was replaced by other means. For this group, an object’s history (including the process of making) is at least as important as the object itself. Even


though this peer-group is also located to a main part in the upper class, jewelry is sold below average14. Concluding, perceived value of an object is higher if creator and wearer are the same person. They relate the most intense feelings to their own creation, due to above-mentioned reasons. Therefore the final concept aims at creating intrapersonal mediation through jewelry for a post-materialists consumer group.

Final Concept Through research on the most suitable locations to grow this non-organic matter, only muscles, bones and the uterus provided the necessary requirements of a closed and chemical stable environment. After testing insertion and extraction of all three cases and having gotten extensive feedback on, the most natural and feasible interaction is provided via the uterus. This is also the only way to extract the grown jewelry painlessly. Due to maker and user being the same person, the final concept has to be from and for women only. Looking at the different stages in life and moments to remember, research revealed that out of all women in their menopause over 30% state to feel like a neutral being instead of feminine. A common method from psychologists is to treat these emotions through linking these two life-phases through reprogramming these emotions. This can also be achieved through positively connoted objects, objects with an intimate history. Whitehead introduced this method into his concept of “process-psychology”, based on a similar philosophical approach to overcome the dissection between subject and object (see also Plotin’s “ differential structure”) Conducted interviews picture. In this group, important intersection Furthermore it turned

at a retirement home in Cologne revealed a similar many women said that this phase in life has been an of their life, but many of them dealt with it on their own. out, that the asked women in their menopause would have liked to possess an object that reminded them of their feminine side. They agreed more often, the longer they had been in their menopause.

Women who have doubts about their feminine side also stated in this survey, that they did begin to intensively think about topics like death with the end of their menstruation-phase. These women felt no longer feminine but neutral, and developed psychological issues after their climacteric 15.


Therefore the final concept is to grow jewelry inside a woman’s uterus, to create a one-of-a-kind object that remembers her of her feminine strengths. The grown ring has a high value to the creator, through a shared period in life. Since the creation is based on natural processes, the result will look unique. Because of the technological possibilities, only simple, non-mechanical objects can be grown. This is why the object was picked to be a ring. Once this unique ring is extracted, it reminds its wearer of her feminine power – a product that can only be made by a fertile woman. The growth-process prepares its creator for this certain development in life, too. It is the physical evidence of a peripheral process16.

Introducing Menoé: Menoé is a product for women who thrive to create a special link between two life phases. After a woman is sure to no longer have children (in her 40’s), she begins to take menoé, a coated tampon in the classical manner during her menstruation. Through this (nowadays almost) natural process the genetically modified bone-growth protein BMPr-7 is introduced in the uterus. There growth of a cohenite-ring is initialized, using resources from the ambient. The use of menoé has to be continued throughout the rest of the woman’s fertile life (which ends at an average of 55 years) to reapply the protein to the cells. During the growth period, the woman will forget about the existence of the ring, have doubt about it or is looking forward to the moment of birth . All different emotions during the creation are later on related to the physical object. Throughout the peri-menopausal stage woman are guided by a gynecologist – the person who will extract the ring out of the uterus during the final check-up. This procedure symbolizes the end of the life-phase. It resembles a new rite of passage, an introduction to a new phase in life. After extraction the ring is fitted through carving to the new owner’s finger-size. She begins to wear the jewelry as a symbol of strength, one that she can use to reminisce and savor her achievements. During use, the ring will get more and more polished because of the material characteristic. This can be understood as an analogy of adapting to this new phase in life. Once the ring is completely even, the perception of others also changes towards a more sterile, thus better acceptable object. The ring has become a new heirloom of the family.


Because this object is created through an once-in-a-lifetime process, the ring’s personal meaning is established through the shared episode in life. It got nurtured and hosted by its producer. In terms of value creation, the end result is a personal and viewdependant product. The woman who created the ring has a deeper Natural beauty relation to the through chaotic object than third parties. Because design elements the growth process is to some extend chaotic, its imperfection will make it special. Looking at pearls for example, the same is true. Modern technology could produce better pearls than nature, yet the real grown ones are appreciated more. Hereby the process is also reflected in the final product. After all menoÊ is evidencing a (semi-) peripheral process in the female body that is slowly proceeding. This can help women to adapt to this process more consciously, because they are confronted with this process sooner and are able to prepare themselves. Even though this product is accessible to all women, its demands to the user place it only in an extreme niche-market. It addresses open-minded consumers, who are willing to explore their feminism from a new perspective. Instead of having a subtle hygienic product, the new tampon is better understood as a lifestyle product. This market positioning should also be resembled in a different package design of the product.


Shape, size and interaction are supposed to remind its user of a commonly used well-being object – in this case a chocolate box – to make the act of using it more aware and give its user a feeling of special action. The graphic design of the box is based on a user-survey about what shapes would communicate nanotechnology best (hexagon) and what colors do represent hygienic (crisp colors) and comforting products (earthy tones). The colored waves are an interpretation of a life’s emotional multitude. Because the actual coating is colorless, it is important to create a visual link between the facilitating and resulting product – this is done through adapting the tampon’s color to the “cohenite” color of the ring. The subtle interaction with the product is worth mentioning, because of the long delay between initializing the growth and extracting the final product. The motivation has to be kept up in order to meet the requirements for the growth. This is on purpose to have the user share a long period together and explore different stages of a relationship, just like in social interaction. From a cultural view, it is worth mentioning, that the differentiation between pre- and post-menopausal periods is almost only made by western societies. Asian and African cultures do not recognize this human development as an intersection into two different life-phases, but is seen as natural. Therefore the piece of jewelry only effects western countries and therefore could be considered to be a new ethnological artifact. To put it in the words of Next Nature: jewelry from the “western tribe”.


Technological Concept

The tampon is coated with a layer of BMPr-7 proteins. These are stored in acidity-gradient depending coating for conservation (1). The coating is used in modern drug delivery to place a substance in a very specific milieu, here between the uterine lining and mucous membrane (2). The proteins are infused into the tissue cells and begin to stimulate the growth of the nonorganic material, in menoÊ’s case cohenite. In between cycles, the less Grown metal samples agglutinated particles will be decomposed. Because of the limited resources, the cells themselves will only grow the proto-ring at one place, similar to regulated bone-growth (3). This initial process is chaotic and might take more tries. Due to the growth area, the ring is covered during its growth by tissue, which gets discarded during the menstruation. The ring therefore grows at the surface area of the tissue and is can be easily taken out (4)17. Currently, the growth via this method only results in oval shaped matter, yet biologist expect to be able to grow a more complex shape in the future. The ring gets extracted with a probe, already used for gynecological examinations. Because of the Currently used probe materials hardness, the ring is easily to modify and can be fitted to its wearers size. This characteristic also leads to a change of the ring’s texture from crystalline and rough to polished and shiny.



Debating the Concept in Public: Because NanoSupermarket is supposed to stimulate a debate, I wanted to talk to people, have a discussion and alter opinions, including my own. Even though this idea is rather radical and has been initially rejected by the majority, it still stimulated a debate about the ethics in design. Thinking along the lines of in-vitro fertilization and gene doping, this idea does not appear to be far fetched. People who followed this line of thinking were interested in the mechanisms. Especially men found the concept “disgusting” and “shameful”, whereas women were more understanding. In comparison to the first user survey, a concrete concept has been presented. This led to a different reaction in terms of age: From asked people, women in their late 40’s did find the idea innovative and could see a (niche-) market for it. In the end a lot of people stumbled upon the conflict between wanting a precious object, but only in exchange for low commitment. This paradox reveals how we have to alter and re-innovate our wants, needs and social demands; we have to design our behavior.

Although the concept is extreme and only for a niche-market; out of 38 people who were confronted with the concept, a small amount of women stated that they would at least consider it. In respect to the skeptical public opinion on nanotechnology and the huge interference with one of the most sensitive regions in the female body, this can be seen as a success in regards to disruptive market innovation. Other forms of body-modification like sub-dermal implants or tattoos, certain peer groups appear to even willingly suffer pain in order to achieve an altered appearance. The commitment with this product is different, uncertain, hence psychological more intense. One of the main points of critique has been surprisingly the fact, that through the thread of “losing” the ring, the user has to keep on taking menoé until the end of her climacteric. One could describe this method to be a new approach to tie customers, particularly since it is increasingly popular in brand-relations (e.g. iTunes from Apple). All the extreme reactions to this product led to the conclusion that a field of design has been tackled, that raises many ethical questions and can only be solved through a vivid dialogue between all involved parties.


Reflection on NanoSupermarket: In spite of the radical concept I have created, the project fascinates me in multiple facets. Doing is in an extreme way drove my motivation to consider these aspects in my future design work. To start with reflecting on the design process, the results can be understood by looking at the approach. Instead of finding a solution to a problem or improving an object, starting from upcoming future developments opened space to design for a product-category. This social approach to nanotechnology also demanded to build a house on three pillars: Technology, socio-interaction and the facilitating design. Every tweak in one category led to enormous changes in the other two fields resulting in a systemic design approach. Instead of following a goal-oriented design, the whole system had to slowly emerge. Starting with a social approach has created opportunities but also burdens. The permanent uncertainty during the design process could only be endured through curiosity for all three areas. Jewelry has been a very intriguing topic to work with, especially since it seems so resistant to all other social and technological developments. The urge to decorate us is as natural as mankind itself. All technology in the world does not change this archaic drive, even though it sometimes feels like modern societies’ leading force. The project turned out for me to not force fit this fascinating invention into a consumer good, to bridge the gap between natural and artificial. My research also revealed, that the “technology of jewelry” has not adapted to modern social needs. To the largest extend it remained a superficial method of showing blatant clichés. During the project, I started believing that technology and nanotechnology in particular has the power to change our behavior, to shape society – if accepted. Designing a debate has been an opportunity to design after my own vision into a possible future. The essence of this vision is communicated via the final concept. Since I wanted to expand my vision and not stay in the field of redesigning, I experienced the most intense design process in terms of receiving feedback and developing a concept. The techno-era promises new and democratic ways to participate in our habitats. Additive production methods and decentralized assemblies all resemble new approaches towards an experience based customer involvement. Looking at the development of the design-discipline, I think it is the beginning of the first real human-centered design. Design from within society. Although the technological part of this project is already feasible, society has not adapted this idea of object-relation. It proves that technological evolution is faster than human evolution. In the end, we are still Neanderthals trying to cope with more than we could handle. We are worshiping an unexplainable force – the Next Nature.


Appendix 1

“Miteinander Reden”; Friedemann Schulz von Thun, ed. 2010 “Second Thinking Jewellery Symposium”, The Psychology of Objects, Tilman Habermas, 2003 3 “Kulturdimensionen nach Geert Hofstede”, Markus Westerhoff, 2008 4 “Naturvölker Sozialsysteme im Einklang mit der Umwelt”, Jose Ramon, 1978 5 “The future of competition: co-creating unique value with the customer”, C.K. Prahalad, 2004 6 “Supramolecular Chemistry – Concepts and Perspectives”, J. M. Lehn, 1993 7 "Therapeutic outcome in tibial pseudarthrosis: bone morphogenetic protein 7 (BMP-7) versus autologous bone grafting for tibial fractures", G. Zimmermann, U. Müller, 2007 8 “ThinkingJewellery – A theory about the theory of jewellery”, W. Lindemann, 2011 9 ibidem 10 “Empathy – Philosophical and Psychological Persepsctives”, P.Goldie, A. Coplan, 2011 11 “NLP Workbook A Practical Guide to Achieving the Results You Want”, J. O’Connor, 2001 12 “Kindorientierte Elemntarpädagogik”, A. Krenz, 2010 13 “European Journal for Cancer Care”, N.B. Swarte, M.L. van der Lee, 2006 14 “LVMH first half interim report 2009”, LVMH, 2009 15 16 ibidem 2



Project Report NanoSupermarket  

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