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Opening the black box in consumer culture

Consumer culture maintains an inculcated ignorance of manufacturing and an alienated discomfort with the products that populate our lives. Our conception of manufacturing lingers in a capitalist mythology of the industrial revolution. This vision is irreconcilable with the modes of production familiar to information and service workers. At a time when self-imposed ecological disaster and increasingly apparent social inequities demand a revolution in our relationship to “stuff,” we are left without the means to understand contemporary object-making. So, we turn to science-fiction and futurism—imagining utopias resulting from technological innovation—to envision new relationships to the material world. But do these images and rhetoric make up more than futurist utopian fantasies? Do they drive development of the future technologies and paradigms of production? I’m beginning to see it this way.

Furthermore, I’m finding that in researching tools for mass-customization, even Star Trek, hokey as it is, is a real touchpoint for tech developers. Here’s how some of them imagine the ideal person-product relationship. It appears on command, no materials-acquisition needed, as a result of a massive sub-servient computer. Hmm.