Process the Performance of Matter:
Part #2 — Is the alienation in the object ?
“ Teenagers don’t wear wristwatches ... kids nowlive in a world which is digitalized and time for them iseverywhere...(wristwatches) are a single function device”
In Ted TalkKen Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution
To begin this new chapter, I would like to go backin time in order to explain my perspective of when thetransformation of the idea of an object started to happen.
At the end of the 19th century, the painter PaulCezanne started to reduce the world to its elementary shapes.A mountain became a triangle and an orange became a sphere.Cezanne became a huge influence on the art movement ofcubism and its way of seeing the world. Avant-garde artbecame more and more disconnected from the reality as wesee it. Perspective and representation in paintings started to bedistorted, enhancing an expressionist vision of reality.
This emotional interpretation of reality grewrapidly and led to abstract art. This evolution created a gapbetween the artist and the viewer. This new expressive layerthat the modern era added to the world was a step into amore complex art. In fact, it brought new possibilities ofinterpretation, new levels of representation and differentfeelings.
It is clear that some anthropological transformationsin the early 20th century were the consequences of the initialeffects of the industrial revolution. On an aesthetic level,artists were influenced by the machine as the embodiment ofthe promised future. On the other hand, this industrial socialenvironment lacked emotions. In my opinion, the search forthe purest state of art as a representation of emotional beliefswas an early reaction to the changes created by the IndustrialRevolution.
In the context of design, I will use the wordalienation instead of abstraction, because alienation isreferring to a human natural detachment that happen whenthe individual is not able to think or act by itself. The dailyinteraction with objects generate a routine in which thehuman behavior is detached by itself and the object becomesthe element that define our actions.
In design the alienation of the object started withthe Industrial Revolution. The factory took over from theworkshops and the products were becoming ‘colder’ andmore distant from the final consumer. The new process ofproduction evolved into a more complex frame (the factory),which in turn created its own rhythm.
Serial production on an industrial scale changedthe idea of what an object should be. The efficiency of therepetitive movement of the machine “cradled” the humanrequirements, and daily objects could be consumed faster.This overloaded idea of new everyday objects fed the humannecessity to consume. The economic part of the industrialboom saw a possibility of a growth in this acceleratedconsumption, and this social behavior was the perfectcontext for the capitalist ideology. This “snowball effect” demanded for more speed in the production process andincreased the complexity in the process. The gap betweenthe production and the final consumer grew as well. Thesolutions to new problems resulted in multifunctionalobjects. They evolved and turned into disposable gadgets,which increased the amount of waste that the industrialgrowth was already producing. The idea of ‘the gadget’spoiled the idea of what an object should be and broughtwith it the “fast design” consumption model.
Later on, the merging of the digital revolution withthe idea of disposable gadgets turned out to be the elixir ofmodernity in the eyes of the manufactures.
Every year thousands of new objects come out onthe market, each as appealing and revolutionary than thenext. The consumer has become completely lost in thisfast and multifunctional need of experiencing life. Thewestern worlds hurry is now seeking for a lifestyle based onexperiences and the notion of what and object should be ischanging again.
Ken Robinson in the TED talk - Bring on thelearning revolution explains that: “ Teenagers don’t wearwristwatches” because “kids now live in a world which isdigitalized and time for them is everywhere”, this is a clearstatement that explain how the digital revolution broughtwith it a new range of possibilities and “a single functiondevice” is no longer satisfactory to someone that wants tobe inside of the frame of life. This in-satisfaction makesus seek for more and turn the object into amore complexproduction. This multi layered function of possibilities inone object raised the user’s alienation to its top.
Once more I use Apple as a reference because it isIs the alienation in the object ?a fact that this company is very good at creating new needsfor their own benefits. Apple has raised the standard needsof functionality and communication to another level. Thiscompany achieved a perfect system of products which issimple, light, small and very well designed.
The iPad is in my mind the best contemporaryrepresentation of a world wide daily used object ofalienation. Apple transformed the notion of a notebook intoa window for the world. The user-friendly interface gives tothe user a feeling of control over the machine, which in theend is not real.
A highly complex system inside of a beautiful andsimple abstract squared is the pinnacle of the contemporarydigital world. The simplicity of the object allows the userto experience its full length of possibilities, but the lack ofphysical references generates a misunderstanding betweenthe user and the object.