- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (April 15, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415950422
- ISBN-13: 978-0415950428
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,242,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers and Many Other Things Come To Be As They Are New Ed Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
The complicated, dynamic relationships between inventor, society, corporation, regulator, shopkeeper, community, family and customer is terrifically laid out by UC Santa Barbara and New York University sociologist Molotch in this persuasive monograph. Myriad links, he argues, ultimately produce and constantly change what we want, buy, keep and throw away; thus, neither consumers nor producers are to be blamed for our numerous possessions, since these items and constituencies all "lash-up" with one another, creating and reinforcing lifestyles and needs. Molotch's paradigmatic toaster requires an electric socket, bread and butter or jam to be useful. Adherence to "type-form"-modern or retro styling, color options to match kitchens, and knobs and controls for different functions-provides opportunities for the small appliance's owner to mark his/her identity and associate feelings with it, removing the object from the realm of the mundane. Manufacturing techniques, marketing, retail display and ultimate disposal also play large roles. The importance of all these factors is well argued, but despite the subtitle, no specific products (even the vaunted toaster, mentioned throughout and depicted graphically in the header) are studied in sustained or thorough enough detail to satisfactorily explain their continued forms or popularity-perhaps to avoid accusations of product placement. Even so, Molotch's description of systemic person-product complexes could work to end blame-the-consumer guilt-mongering in the popular discourse.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Successful products must fit into the whole panoply of life and society. The whole story can only be told by someone with a grand view of things, who sees both the trees of design and manufacturing and the forest of the social and political forces upon all of us. Three cheers for Harvey Molotch--this is a great book.
-Donald A. Norman, author of "The Design of Everyday Things
"Manages to answer questions that have puzzled me for a lifetime. On nearly every page is some absolutely fascinating bit of useless information."
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Top Customer Reviews
I found this book fascinating. Some items of `stuff' - such as toys and lamps change relatively quickly in response to fashion. Some other items - such as pencils and toilets - do not. The influences on change seem to vary, depending on the item.
Take, for example, the chair.
Chairs are not universally used around the world; many people squat, sit cross-legged or sit flat on the ground. But where chairs are used, we actively train our children how to use them `properly'. And as a consequence, for many of us: `Chairs have become part of the methodology of respect and rectitude.' The design of chairs has changed, and while there is some contrast between the utilitarian and the artistic, the distinction is often blurred.
It's interesting to consider some of the cultural and other factors that influence design, as well as the functionality that mirrors contemporary life. There are plenty of examples including the garlic press; the Palm Pilot; and the Chrysler PT Cruiser. And there are items that could be different: the computer keyboard (which evolved from the typewriter) for example, or the conventional western toilet which could be modified to accommodate squatting but isn't. Why things are the way they are and what factors influence this makes for very interesting reading. The linkages between items are interesting to consider: the toaster (to give one example) did not develop in isolation. Toasters require a source of power (a power outlet), a place to sit (a benchtop) as well as bread sliced to a particular width and toppings (Vegemite for this Australian).
While this book primarily discusses what is rather than what might be, it's possible that an awareness of the politics of design could result in more environmentally friendly products.
Who influences whom, and how?