Abstract

This paper discusses the relationship between abstract conceptualizations of design and the uncertainty and contradiction that result from the need to re-configure our relationship to the material world that is presented by issues of sustainability. In ‘About the Word Design’ (2005) the philosopher Vilém Flusser provides an etymological analysis that goes beyond the word’s conventional connection to representation and form giving, pointing out a relationship between the ‘Design’ and the sense of human intentions, ‘to have designs on something’, connecting this with a sense of ‘cunning and deception’ - the designer is ‘a cunning plotter laying his traps’ (1999: 17). He suggests that design can be thought of as the bridge between the art and technology, and notes how its effects tend to become invisible in the practices of every-day life. The paper proposes aspects of ‘trickster’ strategies to re-configure the compounds of ideas, material goods and habits that comprise the practices of everyday life by making such relationships visible again. It relates Flusser’s ideas, to the theory of social practice (Reckwitz 2002, Schatzki 2002) which is being used to understand how everyday practices that consume resources are configured, in order to help to see how to re-configure them. The design of our material environment is one element in the configuration of practices. The paper considers discussions of the trickster concept in anthropology, contemporary art and the history of religion to discuss two case studies that may indicate ways to modify every-day actions. These cases – practices that relate to packaging for everyday goods and women’s hair-care – both have consequences for resource use and demonstrate the conglomerations of material and immaterial factors that cohere in a practice. The paper considers relationships to existing designs and the tricky consequences of radical re-design of both material objects and of practices.

Keywords

trickster, sustainability, social practice

COinS
 
Jul 1st, 12:00 AM

Design as Trickster

This paper discusses the relationship between abstract conceptualizations of design and the uncertainty and contradiction that result from the need to re-configure our relationship to the material world that is presented by issues of sustainability. In ‘About the Word Design’ (2005) the philosopher Vilém Flusser provides an etymological analysis that goes beyond the word’s conventional connection to representation and form giving, pointing out a relationship between the ‘Design’ and the sense of human intentions, ‘to have designs on something’, connecting this with a sense of ‘cunning and deception’ - the designer is ‘a cunning plotter laying his traps’ (1999: 17). He suggests that design can be thought of as the bridge between the art and technology, and notes how its effects tend to become invisible in the practices of every-day life. The paper proposes aspects of ‘trickster’ strategies to re-configure the compounds of ideas, material goods and habits that comprise the practices of everyday life by making such relationships visible again. It relates Flusser’s ideas, to the theory of social practice (Reckwitz 2002, Schatzki 2002) which is being used to understand how everyday practices that consume resources are configured, in order to help to see how to re-configure them. The design of our material environment is one element in the configuration of practices. The paper considers discussions of the trickster concept in anthropology, contemporary art and the history of religion to discuss two case studies that may indicate ways to modify every-day actions. These cases – practices that relate to packaging for everyday goods and women’s hair-care – both have consequences for resource use and demonstrate the conglomerations of material and immaterial factors that cohere in a practice. The paper considers relationships to existing designs and the tricky consequences of radical re-design of both material objects and of practices.

 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.