The capability of designing our environment is certainly one of the major differences between us human beings and animals. We started transforming natural goods to buildings and objects about 2.6 million years ago 1. Today, by far most people live in an environment that is not of natural origin anymore.

Welcome to DESCOURSE, a blog trying to examine the shape of our society. A permanent design discourse can help us understand our artificial world and the role of products in our lifes.

The entirety of all this synthetic objects produced by us humans is called “technosphere” 2. When we look around us, we see numerous objects of different kinds for different tasks. They are an inherent part of our world. They affect our actions, our thoughts and even the development of our society in total. Products have become a very important part of our culture, of such a great meaning that a world without products is hardly imaginable nowadays. It is not only hardly imaginable, it most likely simply would not work out.

As we are dependent on products in every situation of our lifes, the relevance of a conscious selection of the products in our world becomes very clear. We buy products depending on a purpose, aiming them to help us improve our life. But they do not only affect our wellbeing in a positive way.

No product lasts forever. Every object comes to the end of its lifetime someday, may it be because we simply do not want to use it anymore or may it be because of damage. Then a useful product turns to trash, a kind of anti-product, that we need to get rid off. Today, against the backdrop of climate change, we are getting more and more aware of this fact. Even the most useful product may become dangerous four our environment, after its use.

We see that the consumption and use of products has a major relevance for our life in the so called “civilized” world. Whether we see them as an enhancement of our character or just as tools in purpose of fulfilling a task, product shape our lifes.

Therefore, those who determine which products are produced and how they look and work, are in a powerful and crucial position within our society. People like product managers, engineers, architects, designers etc. significantly change the ppearance and the nature of our society. The usefulness and social as well as environmental compatibility of products in the end are in their hands.
What are the motivations of our society to introduce a new technology or product? How do products affect our values? Who is responsible for the consequences of their consumption and use? All those and many more questions are to be discussed to understand the significance of products and our relation to them. This understanding can lead to a conscious product culture with objects helping us reach the goals of our civilization.

Let us keep discussing on products. They are nothing less than our artificial nature.

Christian Bax

1. Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History: Early Stone Age Tools. [ accessed 2020 Jul 01]. https://humanorigins.si.edu
2. Vienna Anthropocene Network: Technosphere. University Vienna [accessed 2020 Jun 30]. https://anthropocene.univie.ac.at/resources/technosphere/