In the book Design Anthropology Object Culture in the 21st Century, Jamer Hunt’s article, “ Prototyping the Social: Temporality and Speculative Futures at the Intersection of Design and Culture, resonated with me because Hunt criticizes the way modern design and anthropological practices have created a dichotomous way of solving large-scale problems. He recognizes that there has been an emergence of new design practices such as co-design, participatory design, and ethnography design, which implicitly shows that designers have adopted a wide range of tools of social observation to generate new ideas. The root of the problem for Hunt is, how can ethnography help shape design for social transformation? I ask myself the same question because I am a strong believer in adapting social observation as a tool to help ground my design work.
Opening and critiquing the uses of ethnographic studies used for commercialism
I connect closely with this because Hunt addresses how design is and should no longer isolate to commercial design and that the use of ethnographic analysis should be put in better use to solve the social, political, and economic problems.Hunt says, “We can no longer be content with anthropology’s hands-off sensibility and design’s ‘more is more’ mentality. There are simply too many complex, large-scale problems that now pressure out very existence…whether global warming, overpopulation, water and food shortages, or economic inequities real social transformation is urgently needed.” I have had first hand experience working as a freelance graphic designer at a corporation producing marketing collateral that did not contribute to society nor fulfilled my expectations as the designer I envisioned myself to be.
Looking at the past, by anthropological studies
Hunt challenges me as a designer to think outside of the box by not only focus on what is in the present, but also focus on the past. He states that, “Implied in the position outlined is that designers place the current needs of the market in second place to the politico-ethical project of gaining sustainability”. If I pinpoint what the current target audience needs and then design around that concept, it would never truly help our future because I am not studying the cultural values over generations of time. “Design, in the first instance, has to be understood anthropologically”(pg. 36). It is very similar in which, longitudinal studies are important to research, and they contribute tremendous insight about cultural needs. This pushes my limits and helps me think about how I can apply my ethnographic research to my design projects.
Embracing Design for Social Transformation
I am a strong believer in adapting social observation as a tool to help ground my design work. Hunt says, “Design without both material and social impact in the world would not be design; designers must act in the sense that their outputs change the facts on the ground.” Believing in social change and approaching design concepts with this idea will allow me to give back to communities by breaking down systems and rebuilding it so that opportunities are available for need-base communities. I would like to see myself approaching my concepts with strong anthropological research, to study how communities build stronger networks and what matters to them in terms of communication.
I see economic, political, social, and humanity, changing rapidly in the world, and so it is important to keep technology and design as part of that movement, and not let it falter. If these socio-political systems are integrated and dependent on technology and designers to support their structures, then improving the way we use technology and design will only push these structures past the boundaries that constrain what could be, and what should be for the future. The project I would like to make is a box in which it represents the designer and it is hosted by a series of complex strings that represent the larger scope of socio-economic problems.
Clarke, A.J., 2011. Design Anthropology Object Culture in the 21st Century. SpringerWienNewYork: Austria. (pg. 33-44)