The Story of Stuff is a wonderful 20 minutes animation movie about the chain of links behind our modes of production and consumption, and its impact on the environment. It explains clearly some economic and marketing concepts, like "externalized costs", "planned obsolescence" and "perceived obsolescence", that keep this chain going by way of our gullibility and our self-depreciation.
Every time I buy something, even if it costs 50 cents, I wonder who I buy it from, where it was made, at what costs, if I really need it, why I buy it, for how long I will use it and how I will dispose of it. Some times, I do buy things on a whim, or because I do need to feel better about myself for few minutes and it's easy to do so with shopping or just because it's fun. But I try to always question my purchases and never take them for granted. It brings a stronger awareness each time, and eventually I get to ask the same questions to the people I buy the stuff from, even if they don't have the answer - at least, it puts me back in the active part of the chain - where I can consciously exert my "consumption power".
I like the idea of buying second hand goods, of recycling jam pots for my cooking spices and herbs, of giving, lending and borrowing books, of renting DVDs, of downloading music, of sending ecards, of looking for unique handmade crafts around the world, of not caring to get the latest plasma screen (or any TV for that matter) and of staying away as much as possible from plastic, processed food, waste-generating products and chain stores / major brands items. It's not always easy, but it's actually a lot of fun because I get to play around with my habits, my temptations and my imagination.
I read an interview of Starck today in Le Monde where he addresses harsh criticism against [product] design and defines it as "useless". I don't think we should understand that point in a very literal way but I agree with him when he says "We don't need more. We need less and better." It's probably one of the greatest task designers will ever have to undertake. We have so much already, how do we think creation, production and use when we don't need more and we shouldn't make more?
10 February 2008
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