Design, Emotion, Sustainability

In his passage in Companion to Environmental Studies, Design, Emotion, Sustainability, Jonathan Chapman argues that design has the potential to unravel some of the difficulties in creating sustainable production of goods. Chapman advocates for increasing the lifespans of the products we create in order to reduce waste, and objects that operate in a closed-loop system with minimal waste. Part of his argument includes the emotional experience of the consumer with both the company they are buying from and the product itself. He advocates for products that have easily replaceable or fixable parts and that are made with materials that age gracefully. Ideally, this will create deeper relationships between individuals brands and consumers, benefiting companies.

Chapman argues an important point about waste and disposable items. However there are a few underlying assumptions here that would benefit from elaboration. In order to give an argument like this, which is agreeable and fairly simplistic in it’s presentation more weight, I would argue that there needs to be adequate discussion of the challenges implicit in its implementation. There is little discussion about which corporations or businesses are best set up to work towards extending the life of their products, or which may be more likely to work towards extending the life of their products. Similarly, if most corporations have been constructed based on creating disposable products, there will likely be significant challenges related to changing this. 

In his discussion, Chapman used the reductionist language that is often used when discussing sustainability. For example, he describes the earth as a balanced system. While in some ways this is true, it doesn’t take into account complexities that emerge. This ties back to this discussion of incorporating waste reduction into design. While he makes important points, his language is fairly idealistic. 

Sustainability, Design, and emotion relates to my thesis research because of its discussion of emotion and people’s experience of matter. I am interested in artists considering waste and the cycling of human-made materials.The discussion of emotion and the use and construction of materials is important to considering new materialism. 

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