Saturday, 15 August 2009

Slowness by Kundera

I have been reading Slowness by Milan Kundera. Page34 says "Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time" which led me to ask - when did we get so disgusted by that which we have just created so as to need to vacate its presence so fast?

To quote William Morris; "...looking backwards to the time when history first began, we note that the progress of that victory [over nature in terms of living how we want] has been far swifter and more startling within the last two hundred years than ever before. Surely, therefore, we moderns ought to be in all ways vastly better off than any who have gone before us. Surely we ought, one and all of us, to be wealthy, to be well furnished with the good things which our victory over nature has won for us." He goes on to ask "who will dare deny that the great mass of civilised men are poor?" (both p10, Useful Work Versus Useless Toil)

Morris considers that people are poor when they suffer from a lack of quality in their life - it is not a monetary poorness that he speaks of. Similarly Kundera speaks of those moments when we move faster to escape things we wish to forget, to look at this from a consumer perspective you could say that with every upgrade, every new toy, every cheap piece of clothing bought on a whim is a sign of a poor quality of life and a wish to forget this by moving on from the last hasty purchase as fast as we possibly can on to the newest, latest distraction. From a design perspective this is a sad state - we, as designers, perpetuate this swiftness, this lack of quality with every piece of design brought out with the wrong kind of care behind it. When we care only to make something for the money or to beat a competitor we bring the bad qualities of design to life, where as well thought out design, - design meant to improve not only the manufacturers bank balance or the market share of the company but also the quality of life of the consumer and the use of products previously owned - well thought out design improves everything for everyone by not attempting to obliterate past memories or move us to throw 'away' the old in favour of the new (let us remember that there is no actual 'away', it is exists only as out of sight(Braungart, McDonough)), it exists to improve the quality of our time and enjoyment, to make fond memories of that which you own and form emotional attachments with your belongs, thus prolong their lives and again negating the need to move on and run away so fast.

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