Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Report from consumption seminary at Konstfack

Hyper Island student Elin Cederborg, at the Interactive Art Director program in Stockholm, visited a seminary at Konstfack by industrial design professor Teo Enlund. Here is her report:

Professor Teo Enlund at Konstfack held a two-day seminary, concerning a controversial subject with huge effect on society. The seminar also deliberated around the significance it might have on designers. A wide range of engaged speakers elucidated the subject.

Generally spoken (and it´s not possible to be anything but general in this case) the discoursers were split into two camps, the first half claims that consumption is not the problem – it is the solution. Jonas Frycklund from the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise writes about consumption from a positive view and claims that it is consumption which leads our development. Social welfare comes from consuming - the more exclusive and expensive - the better.

One can find it easy to believe that increasing consumption demands a lot more resources, several problems with our environment has decreased the last decade even thou our consumption has escalated. The more it escalates, the better our lives will be and we will afford environmental improvements at the same time as our technical development will continue. Active consumers and producers will have the capital to find better ways for us to consume and produce. If we decrease consumption our economical development will come to a halt and there will be no benefits in doing so.

"McDonaldization" might not sound so pretty, but it will bring many small restaurants in its backwater.
-People don’t want possibilities; they want the exact thing that they want. Not more or less. An indicator of social welfare is a prospect of choices. Our problem is about consuming non-pareto optimal products; we need more economical welfare to consume better products. It is as simple as that.
-Oh no! says approximately the rest of the world. Editorial and former scientist at the royal institute of technology - Christer Sanne tells us that there is absolutely no doubt regarding the development of our aggrandizing disparities in this world, our ravage consumerism and unequal workloads, which we really by this time would have been able to eliminate with some good and reasonable common sense.

We should be able to live in harmony with nature and share our work. In 50 years we have doubled our consumption three times, and we are not a bit happier! What defines this social welfare? What we need to do is to share our work and abbreviate our work hours, and develop smarter ways to consume. If we all get together with our fireworks it will turn into a gigantic one.

Between the anti or not anti-consuming fight, two journalists from the Swedish radio tells us about a trip to China they made, disguised as Swedish merchandisers. It was the only way to get a insight into the deadly dangerous factories from which almost fifty percent of all our products come and in which more than 136.000 Chinese die every year. The most common cause of death is called Miner´s lung. Someone is paying for our flash prices real bad.

Another aspect of consuming came from brain-scientist Martin Ingvar and his "Theory of mind", which basically attends to different basal-brain functions development in an evolutionary social point of view. Ingvar answers questions like "Why do we buy and use things that are dangerous to us?". A rather significant wondering if you think about it. Not to mention his first question: "Why do we have a brain?". I have to admit I actually never wondered.

Anyway, the interesting stuff is not a question about consuming or not, it is about how we use our resources regarding consuming. According to Al Gore we have approximately seven years to deal with this issue and if we shall accept the challenge maybe it is time for us as designers to look a bit higher and start redesigning the product systems, let them become more environmental, helpful and effective. Redesign our world famous wall of ignorance.

Elin Cederborg

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