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Design for the Real World, chapter 5 - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2004-07-02 18:07
Design for the Real World, chapter 5
In Chapter 5, Papanek continues berating the automobile industry, claiming that more automobiles were recalled than sold in 1977, and that American automobile manufacturers irrationally refused to add a third top-middle taillight despite its low cost and proven benefit. He moves on to malign manufacturers of certain badly-conceived and badly-designed toys, safety equipment, appliances, and other "tawdry idiocies" before finally settling down to talk about disposability and obsolescence, the title of the chapter.

In the design of disposable items, Papanek advocates two rules: that an item's price should reflect its disposability, and that the designer consider what happens to the item after it's thrown away. In their use, he promotes pricing items based on how often they are replaced (though it seems strange that he would advocate often replacing things at all, given his previous rants), and leasing often-replaced items (though he doesn't discuss what happens to the items after you trade them in). He also talks about recycling and biodegradability. Strangely, he "applauds" a semi-disposable culture, as long as it (somehow) "did not lead to waste making and pollution." He describes one of his projects on a giant biodegradable burr coated with seeds to counter erosion.

Despite Papanek's unfocused style and extensive use of ad hominem and straw man, he does raise important points that designers need to pay careful attention to safety - as BART's first day of (entirely automatic) operation and the infamous Therac-25 debacle attest - and should consider the full life cycle of their products, from design to purchase to death or obsolescence.
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2004-07-03 01:14 (UTC)
(no subject)
that the designer consider what happens to the item after it's thrown away.

I've long pondered the idea that the companies that produce an item should be responsible for its eventual disposal -- or at least the reseller that sells it to consumers should take the item back again eventually. Those details are complicated -- but my sensation is that it's appauling that "bury it in the ground" is still considered a tractable and reasonable scheme for disposal. It would be nice to have a closed cycle of industry, one that consumed its own waste to make new things.

BART's first day of (entirely automatic) operation

Do you have any links about that? I'm interested in the story.
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Fata Morgana
2004-07-03 02:09 (UTC)
(no subject)
I didn't have any luck finding a link about BART via Google, but I originally heard about it from Brian Harvey - I'll ask him if he has any links the next time I see him.

I occasionally hear rumblings of national requirements for computer manufacturers to take back and reuse/recycle old computer parts. Right now, some "recycled" computers are actually shipped to China and have created a huge environmental disaster.

I've been pondering various research possibilities concerning the full lifecycle of technology for over a year now (as has Alastair Iles, who's in one of the reading groups I'm in). Last fall I put together a report on the illicit mining of columbite-tantalite in the Congo, which is used in capacitors in cell phones and elsewhere. Hopefully I'll be able to do more projects in the future ...
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2004-08-03 04:36 (UTC)
California law is moving to require recycling
One recent story
Computer recycling fee hits wrong note, area retailers say (http://sanjose.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2004/07/26/story8.html)

Many European laws already require manufacturers to accept back at no cost their products at the end of the lifecycle.

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Fata Morgana
2004-08-05 18:53 (UTC)
Re: California law is moving to require recycling
This is a wonderful requirement, I think - much more in the spirit of accounting for full life-cycles and of general social responsibility. Yay for reducing externalities!
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