Objects in flux: the consumer modification of mass-produced goods by Scott Mitchell

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Abstract

This research investigates practices of object modification with specific focus on the consumer modification of mass-produced goods. Such practices present a diverse array of activity, ranging from car customisation to the remaking of domestic appliances. As an amateur leisure-time pursuit, these practices typically operate outside the commercial processes of design and manufacture. As such, they are often positioned as deviant interventions or interruptions to the object’s ‘normal’ operation and may be actively suppressed by manufacturers. Despite this marginalised status practices of object modification represent a large body of productive activity operating within contemporary society.
Taking a participatory approach, this research develops a number of ‘hacking’ and ‘modding’ projects that connect with online communities and mirror existing traditions within practices of object modification. What emerges from this engagement is a complex story, or rather a number of overlapping stories that speak of the relationships we form with objects and the affordances given within contemporary society for reshaping these relationships. The stories told here trace the forces that bind consumer practices and the lines of flight by which consumers and objects escape their socially normalised position to become something other. Through this research the homogenous, mass-produced object is revealed as a site of diverse activity, a space for shared experience, and a platform for communal experimentation.

Year: 2011
Examiners: Professor Peter McNeil, Professor Tom Barker, Professor Craig Bremner   Supervisors: Assoc Professor Soumitri Varadarajan, Assoc Professor Pia Ednie-Brown

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