Many of you have read my manifesto (a work in progress) and some have even been so kind as to provide useful comments and criticisms. I recently had my theories and intentions tested and placed into high contrast when I ordered a shiny new MacBook Pro (my 5th laptop since my first Powerbook 100 which I got in 1993). For some reason Apple offers all sorts of unwanted (by me at least) offers to sweeten the deal like free printers and ipods. Its hard to resist something free and I succumbed to a new ipod shuffle. Such a cute and seductive piece of gizmo jewelry. Being imbedded in my studio of late I ordered all of my new silicon based goodies on-line and they have been arriving in a strange summertime Christmas pageant throughout this week.
The iPod provides a perfect counterpoint to the admonition in my manifesto to buy, make and honor the ‘local’.
The tiny jewel-llike device arrived a few days after it was ordered, hand delivered by Fed-Ex to the door of my studio. VERY NICE.
But what went into this contemporary shopping experience? Not even including the design, production of the item itself or the details of my on-line shopping operation, the arrival of this tiny gem was a marvel.
Firstly, my order was transmitted to Suzhou in China where my iPod was engraved, packaged and despatched. The following manifest shows its trip across the Bering Strait and down into the US by air and then by road to my door.
What a huge trip for such a tiny thing!
It arrived at my door pristinely packaged and ready to disclose its secrets.
I know we’ve all experienced this moment, innumerable times.
The joy of a package in the mail.
The incredible detail, quality and functionality of contemporary electronics.
The sheer fun of having hundreds of songs or audiobooks or podcasts available at a thumbs press.
The guilty sin of being able to leverage international banking, unlimited (or at least unreasonable) credit, online shopping, off-shore manufacturing, international air freight and road shipping, door to door service, and individually custom-specified and detailed products.
And in this case, all for ‘FREE’, as a thank you for shopping with Apple.
It leaves me excited, fascinated and horrified all at the same time.
My friend Marty Marfin led me to the recent book Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling – “A manifesto for the future of design, impeccably crafted by Bruce Sterling and enhanced by the delicately emphatic graphic intelligence of Lorraine Wild…”.
Sterling creates some novel definitions for Artifact, Machine, Product, Gizmo and his newly coined ‘Spime’. His manifesto casts some interesting light on my thinking about the ‘local’. I wonder if my ambition for increasing the local focus of design is simply counter to the direction of the international interconnectivity and deeply information enriched design that Sterling sees as our irrevocable future. Have we passed what he calls a “Line of No Return” so that all objects can no longer operate merely as ‘artifacts’ but must be ‘gizmos’?
I recommend ‘Shaping Things’ to you as a provocative manifesto. And if you have any thoughts on this please leave a comment.