The Future is Banal

The following is an excerpt from DEFECTOR #001

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…Clearly, obsolescence occurs with or without “planning.”

With respect to things, obsolescence occurs under three conditions. It occurs when a product literally deteriorates to the point at which it can no longer fulfill its functions — bearings burn out, fabrics tear, pipes rust. Assuming the same functions still need to be performed for the consumer, the failure of a product to perform these functions marks the point at which its replacement is required. This is obsolescence due to functional failure.

Obsolescence also occurs when some new product arrives on the scene to perform these functions more effectively than the old product could, The new antibiotics do a more effective job of curing infection than the old. The new computers are infinitely faster and cheaper to operate than the antique models of the early 1960’s. This is obsolescence due to substantive technological advance.

But obsolescence also occurs when the needs of the consumer change, when the functions to be performed by the product are themselves altered. These needs are not simply described as the critics of planned obsolescence sometimes assume. An object, whether a car or a can opener, may be evaluated along many different parameters. A car, for example, is more than a conveyance. It is an expression of the personality of the user, a symbol of status, a source of that pleasure associated with speed, a source of a wide variety of sensory stimuli— tactile, olfactory, visual, etc. This satisfaction a consumer gains from such factors may, depending upon his values, outweigh the satisfaction he might receive from improved gas consumption or pickup power.

The traditional notion that each object has a single easily definable function clashes with all that we know about human psychology, about the role of values in decision making, and with ordinary common sense as well. All products are multifunctional.


Defector is a free zine about art and protest. Read the full first issue here.