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The Contemporary Context



“Society suddenly finds itself put back intoa state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if afamine, a universal war of devastation had cut off thesupply of every means of subsistence; industry andcommerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Becausethere is too much civilization, too much means ofsubsistence, too much industry, too much commerce”

in The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels


We live in an era where much progress has beenachieved in a short amount of time. Within this urge forevolution, societal values have changed and those valueshave shaped us. It can be represented by the idea of a spiral,an infinite growth, where transformation happens as anevolution defined by the previous circular movements of thesame spiral.

According to Henry Home, there are 4 socialstages of evolution.: the hunter-gatherer, the nomadic,the agricultural and the commercial. He believes that thelast stage has evolved into what today we call capitalism.In Home’s opinion, England and France, were in thiscommercial/capitalist stage at the end of the 18th century.One hundred years later, Marx and Engels stated thatthis fourth stage of human evolution was a “momentarybarbarism” and the capitalist ideology was not the rightideology for our society.

Today, a century later, we still live in a world based on the same principles. The line “too much civilization, toomuch means of subsistence, too much industry, too muchcommerce” of Marx and Engels is now more relevant then ever.

Referring to what I said before, human values areconstantly shaped by what we call progress. The curve ofthis change is growing exponentially driven by the will formore development in ever shorter time. This change of how we perceive evolution started with the Industrial Revolutionwhich we now consider to be the mother of today’s society.

The Industrial Revolution raised a new trade powerand industry started to be a very important part of economictheory. Today we know that the consequences of the IndustrialRevolution have brought not a new way of thinking about theproduction of objects, but also a massive generation of waste.The industrialists, engineers, inventors, and other mindsnever intended such consequences at the time. It all tookshape gradually, and these actors tried to solve problems andto take immediate advantage of what they considered to be opportunities in an unprecedented period of massive and rapidchange. It is a fact that this “rapid change” of the industrialdevelopment brought the western world an extremely highquality of life, compared to one hundred years ago.

In the beginning of the 20th century when Henry Fordimagined his Model T as a production line, he also created anew power of making. This new way of producing was basedon the idea of serial production and this new process ofmaking reinvented the notion of the object at that time. Themachine was used to set the world’s pace and humans had toadjust to a new notion of time and progress, in order to be partof this evolution. Ninety years later, in the late 20th century, another catalystin the evolution of the human kind occurred. The Internetbrought a new dimension to the concept of communication.

Today the world lives in a constant live streamingreality, which changes the notion of time and space. Theidea of being in constant connection with the outsideworld developed new meanings of communication. Theinformation that I receive today, my grandparents couldn’timagine getting 80 years ago, even when the television wasfirst available on the market.

Furthermore, this new and liquid tool called internetraised the level of communication to its peak because of itsinstantaneous and world-wide qualities that cross severalsolid borders. Now the new world’s pace is defined by thespeed of the computer.

In this context, I define the computer as an object that runs an action through a program that does not allowany doubts while constantly processing information. I would like to stress this idea of “not allowing any doubts”,because to my mind it is the most beautiful and dangerous characteristic of this new species: seeking a pure and abstract perfection by having a dialogue with the purest imperfection of the planet - The human nature.

I think that the beauty of contemporarytechnologies sits in the idea of a natural match betweenthose technologies and humankind. This dialogue between technology and humankind should take on theinterdependency characteristic to a natural ecosystem.

In the design field there have been several examplesof notorious changes. The most famous example is thecompany Apple, whose simple aesthetics are a beautiful translation of how to turn a complex system into anextremely user-friendly interface. This dialogue, which Appletransforms into a human need, is indeed beautiful but alsodangerous in the sense of its simplicity. Apple doesn’t bring abetter understanding of “what we consume” but in contrastcreates a distance from the user. I believe that through timewe could all end up in a moment, where the attraction to thescreen that pretends to be the world will alienate us from ourbasic roots.

As a designer, I don’t neglect the digital possibilitiesbut I think that we should use them as a medium to explorenew messages, and not as an end result.

My intent is to appropriate some ideas of VilémFlusser. He argues that all this evolution is necessary to keepthe machine of the world alive. But he also says that for abetter understanding of the present (world) people shouldlook and understand how objects are produced. Flusserbelieves that in the future the concept of factory and schoolshould merge to reconnect the members of society with whatthey consume.
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