On technology as material in design

Johan Redström
Interactive Institute

 

 

And what is the purpose of writing music? One is, of course, not dealing with purposes but dealing with sounds.
John Cage Silence
 

In many ways, design has been moving away from the physical object. Emerging practices such as interaction, experience and service design, often utilising new technologies with almost 'immaterial' properties, seem to point to a situation where the material 'thing' as we used to know it is replaced by communication, information, systems and infrastructures.

From another perspective, however, the importance of the things themselves is being re-discovered, and perhaps these new 'immaterial' technologies play a role in this. A central reason for this shift is that though technical objects are often characterised by their practical functionality, their everyday lives seem a bit more complicated than these official functions might suggest. Thus, the predominant focus on practical functionality in the design of technical objects need to reconsidered and above all complemented.

As we turn to these things, we do not only have to re-locate the functions of technical objects within a rich context of use; to understand the presence of technical objects, we also need to consider the materials that build them. In what follows, I will present some ideas on how the properties of technologies (such as information technology) seem to influence the way we think about the design of technical objects. Further, I will try to challenge the instrumental perspective on technology by considering it to be design material, asking question about it such as: what are its expressions as material? What are its form elements?

 

In Willis, A-M. (ed.) Design Philosophy Papers: Collection Two. Team D/E/S, Australia.
(Originally published in Design Philosophy Papers, De/re/materialisation (contra-futures), #02, 2005. Team D/E/S, Qld, Australia)

 

© 2005

johan redström