Friday, March 20, 2009

Considering Material Practice

Material selection, the production of objects for use and the impacts of objects on the human world are interdependent aspects of material ethics. At the beginning of this semester, I was most focused on the issues surrounding social justice. I began with an interest in exploring the appropriation of an impoverished aesthetic through design. As seen in work of many designers, such as the Campana brothers, the aesthetics of poverty are often translated to appeal to the middle and upper classes through products. This appeal for the impoverished appearance leads to a lack of understanding of the meaning and consequences behind the image. Often this appropriation exploits the ideas and image of the poor for design inspiration; yet the disadvantaged receive no compensation, nor are they served by these products out of their economic reach. I see an opportunity here to employ and learn from the values behind an impoverished aesthetic to inform issues such as social, economic and environmental sustainability. I am interested in creating objects out of an aesthetic of poverty that can both serve the communities they are inspired by and learn from their values to inform the design process overall.

After considering the readings and discussions of this class, I am now more conscious of how material selection and the production process impact social and environmental justice. I am now asking myself to think more deeply about how my choice of materials (even in model-making) is just as important as the intended production and function of the product. I was and still am focused on who has access to the objects I design, what needs or wants they serve and how they contribute to excessive consumerist tendencies. However, now I am also considering how people are affected by the materials I choose to build even my models and prototypes. What are the working conditions of the factory workers who produce these materials? Is their health being jeopardized? Are they being paid a fair wage? Is the environment being degraded in the communities where the raw materials are being sourced? I must also envision a production process. Who will be involved? How would their working conditions be considered? During use of these products, how will the materials affect those using them? And after use, where will these products go? Will they be dumped in disadvantaged communities. These are all questions that I must consider in moving forward with my interests.

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