Convivial Design for the American Breakdown

Peter Jones Wu Wei

Part II.   Human-Scale Tools for Change While many authors recently warned of the consequences of an ideology of unfettered growth, including Ronald Wright, Jared Diamond, George Monbiot, and Thomas Homer-Dixon), philosopher/priest Ivan Illich warned us 40 years ago.  He foresaw a collapse of the post-industrial economy, which did not happen then. Illich proposed that autonomous, creative citizens take responsibility for creating the tools that might regenerate a civilization for real human needs and purposes. Perhaps both, breakdown and a creative civilization, are happening now. As with the Club of Rome (1969) and their Limits to Growth (1972), Ivan Illich was right – but at the wrong time.  Those who remember the 1970’s may recall that alternative publications at the time (I have all the old Co-Evolution Quarterlies) treated the mid-70’s as if the apocalypse was happening then. Perhaps it always seems that way. As Dayton’s (now Austin’s) Troy Campbell sang on 2004’s American Breakdown, The World Keeps on Ending – every generation reinvents their desire the end the problems they inherited before the problems end the generation. Yet this time …

Intent and Content: Unbooking the Book

Peter Jones Information Ecology, Wu Wei

Industrial and communications designers, authors, new publishers, product innovators  –  Everyone is rethinking The Book in 2009. So then who owns the concept of the book, anyway? Publishers? Society at large? Those of us who say so? And if we say so, does said ownership prevent certain types of  innovation? What we don’t know about the book can help, or stifle the uptake of its innovation.  “Ceci n’est pas une livre.” Yes, this is not a book. “The Book” is an object of cultural invention and centuries of evolution. The print book is the embodiment of a perfect marriage of Gutenberg press technology and the editorial management and distribution of publishing. The Gutenberg Bible was not immediately recognized by those who read it as a “book.” The texts were extremely expensive, and for over a century  printed texts were inaccessible to laypeople. Even so, hand-printed texts were considered the more valuable cultural contribution for some time. The identity of book accrued over time with its diffusion into culture. People had to learn what a book represented to their own culture, …

Design Leadership for Problem Systems

Peter Jones Human Values, Wu Wei

The full article is currently on Social Design, so first let me send readers to Joana’s stunning new design site.  Here I’ll recap the central theme of Design Leadership for Problem Systems. The design industry grew rapidly in the 20th century, by satisfying the massive and growing needs of consumer products, industrial systems, and a business ethos of growth, fueled by advertising. (What is design’s future to be now that agreement about that ethos is changing?) I observe a significant change occurring in the language and outlook of people in the design fields, especially apparent in my adopted home city of Toronto. I see a new ethos emerging in this new century, one that stands on the shoulders of many who have long argued for systemic change. Citizen designers and interdisciplinary leaders are guiding clients and peers toward sustainable design and progressively toward a social transformation agenda. And this shift in values (or the predominance of actions consistent with values) co-occurs with the devastating upheaval in economic fortunes among those heavily invested in the previous century’s perspective and commitments to …

Markets of Meaning (Find Portishead a Biz Model)

Peter Jones Wu Wei

Thanks to Alex Osterman via Twitter for suggesting this link to their appeal on Creative Commons: Help Portishead Find a New Business Model Portishead, an experimental-pop group and pioneers of the early 90s electronica movement, announced yesterday that they are now “free agents”, having completed their three record deal with Island Records. The band is looking at new ways to sell their music and are reaching out to their fans for advice. Portishead is not Radiohead, and should probably not release their own “In Rainbows” (or in their case, “In Rain”). They should not just follow the strategies of Big Ticket arena rock heavyweights. They have a deeply loyal fan base that waited 10 long years for last year’s P3 release! I would personally pay more for their work (on auction) than I would Radiohead just because of all their suffering for their cause. And because they are not going to see the mass volume of Yorke-induced sales. But they are a sufficient (and big enough) niche market example. Their business model should go beyond the “business.” They have a market …