Week Two: Critical Thinking
“So, what’s critical about this?”. Five words that can send an instant shiver down the spine. Think of a modern day phenomena, embody it and create…something. Initially, I had so many ideas for contemporary issues, that I spent the first day just typing up thoughts and feelings; subjects ranging from, waste, CO2 and obesity, to MRSA, addictive social media and HIV / AIDS. The instinct was to try and solve these problems by inventing some object or enforcing a restriction, but this would be an affirmative approach, not what was asked. I flipped between various topics, before settling on CO2 and the excessive use of Earth’s natural resources, knowing that to be a global issue, truly affecting everybody, but where no one person thinks they are responsible or can do anything about it.
How to approach this? How do I not ‘solve’ the issue. My understanding of critical design, is to represent the issue, to highlight it, potentially through a comedic or shocking approach, but never cruel; to make people ‘see’. So, rather than banning people from buying things, or giving people heavy fines for buying resource heavy items, (affirmative), I decided to give people ownership of their purchase, but not of their item, of their piece of Earth they have bought and the damage in CO2 caused by producing the item. This item contains resources that CANNOT be replaced, they are yours to own, look after them dearly; they’ve taken a long time to produce.
What was the best way to get this message across? A cardboard box. A box with the essential facts and figures stamped on the front – along with the tongue in cheek tag ‘you’re welcome’, attached – and a feeling of responsibility. Responsibility, not enforced guilt.
The box would have a barcode that would direct the owner to a ‘birthing site’, where they can plant their box – it’s impregnated with CO2 absorbing tree seeds – to offset the CO2 produced by the manufacture of the item.
This is your responsibility though; you have to look after it, you have to nurture and care for it. You have to give life to it – pee on it. The seeds are coded to your DNA, so only you can fertilize the seeds to start the growth, and only you can keep on feeding the growth for the first 18 months on it’s life (the average lifespan of contemporary tech). This purchase comes with a long term commitment to do the right thing. Enjoy your iPad, plant a box, nurture a tree; you’re only one person, but you can make a difference.