Thursday, February 24, 2011

Objects and materials: On creativity

My posts for the last few days have tried to explore some of the issues surrounding our interactions with objects that populate the world, and the materials they are made out of. Again, I am no expert on these issues, and it would be wonderful if I can get a designer to write about the psychology of objects and materials. But until then, I'll continue to muse and surmise.

There seems to be a massive social learning and association component to materials. It seems like when you are growing up, someone (say, a parent) may tell you, "That is a disposable plate." On asking why so, that person may say, "Because it is plastic." (or whatever...Styrofoam). Maybe the connections between materials and their fate are thus made, never mind the actual potential use of the object after its initial use. The next time you may come across something made of a particular material, you may not feel bad about throwing it in a trash can. And if you don't know otherwise, why would you feel bad? Everyone around you is doing so, and maybe your mum or dad, someone you trust and learn from, tells you that it is okay. What I am trying to say that is maybe the compulsion or tendency to throw something away has more to do with material than it does with the functionality of the object. Maybe...What do you think?

Maybe it is a lack of creativity, though, that plays a significant role in why we feel something can be thrown away, or gotten rid of. I can absolutely see this in the West, having grown up in India, where when I was growing up at least, you would see people make use of objects until they are able to be blown away and disintegrated by the wind (just like how men, me included, will wear underwear until each and every underwear molecule can't retain the properties of a turns into underwear vapour). Books are continuously handed down from older students to younger ones, as are school uniforms and shoes. Every morning, a "plastic bucket repair man" comes on his bike to your home to see if your plastic buckets need repairing. Once we eat a watermelon, we peel the skin of the watermelon off, thinly, and cut up the white part and curry it and eat it. Old flat breads are given to the cows that stand outside of the temple. There is a creativity of use. I guess that may be an outcome of the heretofore lack of abundance of objects, and it is actually sad to see how India has changed since I've moved to the US.

Creativity is something we lack in almost all aspects of our communities. A reductionist world necessarily devolves and doesn't consider things outside of the well-defined topical areas. A reductionist world can make us think that a bottle can't be used as a cup, because it just isn't a cup. But what exactly are we trying to do? If you're trying to drink something, a bottle can serve as a cup, and a cup serves as a bottle.


  1. Because I am currently a pneumoniac and am slightly dazed on cough syrup, I have nothing more creative than this to say: I absolutely love this blog. I'm attempting to move beyond patting myself on the back for being vegetarian and recycling to really exploring the stuff I buy and the trash that comes with it. Great work.

  2. Hi there =)

    Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts. I hope you are feeling better. I would love to hear more of your story; I just read your first blog post!

    Do you have pictures you can share? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Let's keep talking...or typing...

  3. I think that a lot of people are unhappy with their lives and use new things to try and fill the void that unhappiness leaves. When happiness, content, a sense of usefulness, etc. don't exist within an individual and an item doesn't "help" then it may be "disposed" of and replaced.

  4. Sam, can you elaborate a bit mmore on that last sentence of yours? How come we buy things thinking that they might fill those voids, when they continue to disappoint?