Author Archive | Fernando Domiguez Rubio

Discarded ontologies

Blanca Callén Lancaster University,


Behind the images and narratives of progress, effectiveness and innovation of electronics that make us believe in dematerialized technology without consequences (Gabrys, 2011:57), there is something dirty and ‘forgettable’ (Hird, forthcoming). That is electronic waste (e-waste).

Over the past November and December, I followed a group of informal waste pickers in Barcelona to study how they re-materialize and re-purpose discarded computers. What I found is that e-waste is not merely about dirtiness and forgettable materials. It is also about innovative everyday practices that compete to establish and negotiate different ontologies of value and functionality as waste moves across different legal regimes.

A common European Directive, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), currently regulates the Spanish system of e-waste management. …

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Why do you like your beer in a glass?

So why do we prefer to have our beer in glasses rather than in plastic cups? After all, plastic cups are much more practical: they don’t break, they are easily disposable, and they can’t be used to attack people. Beer glasses, however, do tend to break, they cannot be easily disposed of, and are often used to attack people (in the UK, for example, more than 5,000 are attacked with glasses every year , costing the health service more than £2bn).

So why then, do we keep using glass to drink beer?

The answer to this mystery can be found in Mark Miodownik‘s upcoming book, Stuff Matters. The book is not out yet, but you can read a great excerpt published in The Guardian a few days ago here.

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CFP: ‘Fashion and Materiality’ Special Issue of the journal Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty

Whilst the fashion system persists over time, the relative fashionability of an item of clothing is, by definition, ephemeral; the knowledges and transient meanings that are seen to constitute fashion would seem to be at odds with a focus upon materiality of items of clothing.

Even if items wear down and change, their material persists for longer than they are fashionable. However, this special issue will engage with understandings of materiality not only in terms of persistences and endurances, but also in terms of transformations and material processes. The emphasis then will be upon how fashion is materialised, and conversely, how clothing is immaterialised. Paradoxically, even if the immaterial sense of ‘being in fashion’ can be detached from a specific garment, often it is the very materiality of clothing that was necessary to the creation and connotations of fashionability in the first place.…

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CFP: Good Things & Bad Things

The good/ bad things in question include guns, things in questionable taste, immaterial things, sportified things,criminal things… among others.

The programme will bring together a range of approaches to the ‘rights and wrongs’ of designs, designers and designing, hearing perspectives from Design (Jana Scholze, Victoria and Albert Museum), Sociology (Tim Dant, University of Lancaster), Social Anthropology (Mike Anusas, U of Strathclyde), Art (Gene-George Earlé), Design History (Ralph Mills, MMU), among others.

We intend to start discussion about these as crossing points between ideas of virtue, propriety, moral conduct and the agency of material and immaterial objects.  This will connect both with debates from object orientated philosophy, and about designs as manifestations of social and cultural practices.

‘Good Things’ is Hosted by Nottingham Contemporary, to coincide with the exhibition ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’curated by Mark Leckey and is a collaboration between the Design Research Society OPENSiG (objects, practices, experiences, networks), Nottingham Trent University, the Design against Crime Research Centre at Central St.…

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The computer that you have in front of you right now will die sooner or later. And when it does you will get rid of it, perhaps, if you are well-behaved citizen, in one of the designated recycling drop-offs points your city council has created for technological equipment. That, however, won’t mark the end of your computer’s life. It will only mark the end of the first phase of its life as a valuable cultural and technological object.

After you dumpt it, you computer will start a second, and more complex, life as e-waste, most likely somewhere in India, China or Africa. You can see some pictures of what will likely be your computer limbo here and here, or here. …

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Kids love stuff

It probably has happened to you. One day, you find by chance in a random box one of those treasured possessions of your childhood: a broken die-cast car, a puppet, a book…Magical stuff that once was so powerful that it could suspend any distinction between dreams and reality.

What is fascinating about these objects is not only how they can enfold the memories of an entire world, or how they have managed to leave an indelible dent in ourselves, but also how much they can tell about us, and about the hopes, desires and dreams of those who bought them for us. For toys are also the stuff of which many expectations, norms and rules are made.

It is probably this fascination with toys, and their dual role as one of the most intimate and at the same time most social objects, populating our lives what has led the Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti to spend 18 months photographing kids around the world with their most treasured possessions.…

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Material Lessons from a Plastic Beach

Kim De Wolff, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Communication, UC San Diego

 Kamilo [Kah-MEE-loh] Beach, Hawaii: meeting place of land and sea, lava and marine life, and floating plastic from all around the Pacific. Here sea turtles swim in surge channels decorated with snarls of nylon fishing gear and the shattered remains of consumer goods; the overwhelming plastic content making ‘sand’ worthy of scare quotes. Though covered in discarded human products, this is not litter in the conventional sense. Kamilo is a remote beach near South Point on the Big Island, accessible only by miles of four-wheel drive road as ragged and devoid of people as the shore. Plastic is brought here by the intricacies of wind and water currents, not dropped or dumped by humans directly.…

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CFP: The Politics of Materiality

Call for Papers: Annual Sociology Conference 2013
New School for Social Research
New York City
Saturday, April 6, 2013

Can national and global politics be viewed through the lens of our
material environments? Can the architecture of a city square incite
political demonstration? How, through the use of drones, are
populations transformed into targets? Do Nike shoes define
citizenship? Where might we locate power in reproductive technologies?

Sociologists often locate political power in the spaces and dynamics
between agency and structure: organizationally embedded,
interactionally negotiated, or structurally entrenched. The spaces we
inhabit and the objects with which we interact, however, also shape
our politics and in turn become the means and targets of political
struggles. Objects, spaces and technologies can be activated as tools
for empowerment or experienced as carriers of inequality.…

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The Art of Being Infrequent: Erratic Cultural Consumption and the Attachments of Taste

Ana Gross, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick


A number of years ago I conducted research amongst infrequent audiences to the Opera, Ballet and Theatre in London. I was working within the cultural policy arena, looking at identifying the dispositions, gestures and mechanisms which perpetuate infrequent and erratic patterns of attendance to such artforms. By that time, we were focusing the analysis on an understanding of cultural inequalities as being produced by qualitatively distinct social tastes. However, one could also explore such inequalities by trying to understand how they are being actively produced via the implementation of collective techniques, myths and ceremonies of pleasure (Hennion 2001), attachments which can contribute to explain from a micro perspective the quantitatively unequal exposure to culture across different social groups.…

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The Jane Fonda-Kit House: arquitectural prototypes and the promised bodies of sustainability

Fernando Dominguez Rubio, Open University and NYU

Today’s post is the result of a collaboration between a brilliant group of Spanish architects, Elii, and myself. The text that follows accompanied the Jane-Fonda Kit House that Elii designed for an exhibition that took place at CIVA‘s room in Brussels.


              The Jane Fonda-kit House at Night

And 1…and 2….warming up!: Stretching & flexing sustainable futures

Conceived as an experimental “house of the future”, the Jane Fonda Kit House departs from those grand architectural visions that have attempted to offer normative or desirable models, to offer instead a rhetorical artefact that seeks to interrogate hegemonic and taken for granted models of sustainability and green architecture.

The JF-Kit house renders the image of a possible future where citizens produce part of their domestic energy requirements with their own physical activities.…

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