1 – Why should we take culture seriously in an age of innovation? Support your
answer by drawing from concepts and examples presented in the course.
toasters not used in italy.
the importance objects like sticky notes and sharpies play in ethnographies of infrastructure.
Social culture determines practices that become considered “normal” or appropreate in specific contexts.
2 – Harvey Molotch uses the toaster as an example of what he calls a “lash-up”.
Define this concept and, using an example related to media and communication, explain why it can be used to provide insights into how “stuff” is designed.
The term “lash-up” is used to describe a series of connected knowledge and truths that allow for the creation of a good. For an object to be created, conceived, and even considered valueable, knowledge embedded in physical processes as well as social and cultural patterns and values must align, or “lash-up” simultaneously. Molotch and Thomas Thwaites both use the toaster to pull the connections and networks that facilitate design into the foreground. “No one person knows how to make a toaster”
The Mongol 482 pencil that wrote its own autobiography I,Pencil, by Leonard E. Read. It details the processes, materials, transportation etc. that allow each aspect of the pencil to come into being. I heard this on a freakonomics podcast.
A small trend, but will it grow into a consumer movement that demands to better understand the goods we use?
I use this blog to record my process book notes. Just like a toaster, when asked why I chose to use this object, I might reply that it was “just convenient.” What I am really saying is that the processes of production have conveniently created a product which has conveniently been made available to me for purchase, I then choose to use the product because it delivers utility, and I have also chosen to make this object a part of my routine because it fits into my socially constructed ideas of what a valuable and acceptable recording method is.
By considering the connective processes that come together to meet a design need or serve a purpose, we can boil down our interaction with the object. Be deconstructing the relationships that construct an object we open it up for reinterpretation, redesign, innovation, improvement.
3 – Choose an original example of a “dead medium” and explain what insights one
can draw from this dead medium in order to gain a better understanding of a
contemporary medium (media) today. (MIXTAPE VS YOUTUBE PLAYLIST)
Look at why it was used, what made it convenient to use. How did that material object serve a function at that time in history. Why was it widely used.
Path dependency – the play/pause, rewind, fast forward buttons are in the same placement relative to each other.
4 – What are the key aspects of an ethnography of infrastructure and how can it
contribute to a better understanding of media design?
Ethnography is a tool for understanding the significance of trends by studying the world as an anthropologist. The practice of ethnography is an often immersive research method, the goal being for the researcher to deeply understand, rather than just observe and take note. By taking an ethnographic approach to study infrastructures, or daily objects and practices built into a system or way of life, we are able to expose lash-ups and social relations that may be taken for granted if you are a part of the community-of-practice. Irani et al use Star and Rhueder’s eight aspects of infrastructure to examine how physical objects such as sharpies and post it notes, and spirographs are important to conform to a western idea of what good design looks like. By looking at the design world from and Indian firm’s perspective, Irani et al expose not only the objects and practices embedded, invisible, and taken for granted by western design, but also expose the work that goes into maintaining D-design’s unique position as a firm stradling and functioning in understanding both the western and indian contexts. D-design have become masters of living in the space between practices and infrastructures of these two different cultures. They do this ‘invisible’ work in order to aquire the tools that will help their firm look and feel legitimate – by being familiar and recognizable to western design clients.
In Charles Pearson’s Medium article, “Ethnography = Better design”
He argues that ethnography is a tool for better design because it is a tool to allow the designer to understand the situation and the perspecitive of those he is designing for, the values of those he is designing for.