Reconnecting: Reimagining design

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther

Abstract / Description of output

Humanity’s sense of disconnection from the world is due to the concept of ‘nature’; a western concept, which draws a boundary around non-human organic life, and places it in opposition to humanity. This is a problem, in that organic life becomes framed as a techno-scientific resource, devoid of sensorial value and detached from everyday human activity. Social theories attempt to address this problem through re-thinking environmental relations. However, social theories can only go so far, in a world where conceptual boundaries are made physically real and are continually reinforced through the material design of urban space, architecture and technology. An engagement with the practices of modern design, and it’s role in the formation of material culture, is thus fundamental to exploring sensorial reconnections between humanity and other organic life. Modern design is founded on dualities; of humanity:nature, body:mind and surface:infrastructure. These dualities in-form the material world, creating physical boundaries which obscure sensorial perception of the messier and livelier entanglements of everyday life. Active flows of matter and energy are concealed, or situated as a backdrop, in the design of modern material culture. In our daily activities with things, and in our everyday movements through places, opportunities to sense underpinning material-environmental relations are diminished. Thus, design must be reimagined. It should not be a process which demotes matter and energy flows within perceptibly impenetrable objects. Rather, it should be imagined as a process which weaves matter and energy into lively textile-like constructions; creating fabrics of informed sensorial interchange with the world around us. This is a challenging proposition to take forward within the conventions of modern design practice. The place to start is through the imagination of anthropology and through an engagement with the values of a sentient ecology.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2011
EventSensory Worlds Conference - Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Dec 20119 Dec 2011


ConferenceSensory Worlds Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • design
  • anthropology
  • nature
  • material culture
  • environment
  • perception


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