Things are not what they used to be. And design cannot be what it used to be if it is to work with them responsibly.

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Image by Marije de Haas

Contemporary digital things are more like fluid assemblages than stable objects. They are composed of a variety of components and connections, including resources provided by various platforms and other kinds of infrastructure. They change over time and in response to activities and other inputs they are configured to register. …


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Image by Flickr user Chris Elt

Things are not what they used to be.

Consider the difference between a walkman and the music player on your smartphone.
Digital things nowadays are more like fluid assemblages than stable objects. They are composed of a variety of components and connections to various platforms and other kinds of infrastructure. They change over time in response to people’s behaviour with and around them. They collect data that they feed back into the networks of which they are a part and to other actors that extract value from all this.

Can design be what it used to be? What design opportunities…


What is going on with things?

This is a question that has been animating my research for the past few years. It has led to identifying some basic shifts underway in how things are made, when, where, and by whom, and what they are made of. Due to networked connectivity, things can be active and responsive, dynamically configuring themselves to particular users and contexts and pulling together networked resources to assemble themselves on the fly. Because of these characteristics, Johan Redström and I have termed these things fluid assemblages (in our book Changing Things) in order to conceptualize them in a way that can help us…

Heather Wiltse, PhD

Digital technology and design theorist, writer, teacher. Currently working at Umeå Institute of Design on developing design philosophy for things that change.

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