Each chapter describes one of the case studies in detail and relates it to a question surrounding the co-evolvement of (socially desired) practice and the actual artefacts. The authors refer to Latour’s concept of inscription, description and distribution of competence to look at the material ecologies of DIY practice. They explore how fast practice changed with the introduction of digital photography, and how this process is due to the properties of digital images. They depict how the advantages of a new material like plastics was always tied to an actual product, and how the shape of the products changed with respect to the new production requirements.
There is also a chapter especially about design practice, and its focus either on the user or the object. Here, the authors try to get to the actual value that design is supposed to add to a product, by interviewing a number of design practitioners as well as students. Their conclusion of their previous findings is that there should be a “practice-oriented design” that consciously deals with the mutual influence of artefacts and practice.
I was very happy having found this book. The case studies it presents are well linked to each other, reasonably concisely described, with a very useful delimitation towards existing work in the introduction. It therefore gave me a valuable overview of sociological studies of artefacts, and some interesting thoughts in each of the chapter.
The design chapter, however, is the one I am still most sceptical about, although I cannot yet figure out why. Probably it is the limitation of the authors to actual design practitioners, leaving out most of the academic developments in the field as well as the work of research institutes. They argue well for their decision, but it feels as if their proposal for practice-oriented design is not that groundbreaking anymore if you consider the academic branch as well.
Anyway, what they are surely right about is that much of the design research work never reaches the bottom of everyday design practice in consultancies and small businesses. And they made me think by rising the question what value it exactly is that design mysteriously adds to a product, if success is not guaranteed.
All in all, it is a nice little book definitely worth reading. Attached you can find my reading notes to get a more detailed notion of what it is about.
Elisabeth Shove, Matthew Watson, Martin Hand, Jack Ingram: The Design of Everyday Life. Berg Publishers 2007