Obsolete Design Manifesto


What: Designed and written by me, Obsolete Design Manifesto was my contribution to the WORM ACTIEKRANT publication. Other contributors include Dennis de Bel & Roel Roscam Abbing, and HuMobisten. This frame of thought developed out of Holycrapparel and gave birth to the TLTRNW (Too Long To Read and Write) project and Tactics and Poetics of Invisibility, an ongoing research project into how analogue steganography can make up for deficiencies of digital media.

1) Get off the technological hamster wheel.
Obsolete Design is a response to the accelerating change explicit in the exponential rate of technological change. The more change speeds up creating newer products that are ‘faster’ and ‘better’, the more obsolete technology, abandoned tools, media spaces and commodities are created. While busy running on this perverse treadmill of innovation, enraptured by the newest changes from upgrade fever, the existing but unexplored potentials are inevitably overlooked. Furthermore, the accumulation of (electronic) waste on the one hand reveals that the culture of consumption is increasing and at the same time contradicts the notion that our world is increasingly immaterialised brought on by technological developments.

2) Innovation ≠ Good, Obsolete ≠ Bad.
Obsolete Design is also a critical response to innovation for the sake of innovation understood in an industrial/commercial context. Further ‘planned obsolescence’ or ‘designed obsolescence’  is a production policy inducing consumers to consume more by the built-in useful life span of a product (Apple is notorious for this strategy). In the software industry it is known practice to deliberately stop support for older technologies as a calculated attempt to force users to purchase new products to replace those made obsolete. Software which is abandoned by the manufacturer support-wise is sometimes called ‘abandonware’.

3) Obsolete Design.
Obsolete Design inverts that notion - instead of designing the death of consumer goods, the commodities, tools and mediums that Obsolete Design uses are dead already – as in redundant, forgotten, out-of-fashion. It is also interested in the various (un)natural causes of its death, for example the decline of its political, economical, social or environmental disvalue. In any case, this situation allows us to fully reclaim, appropriate and share it, similar to works in the public domain where its intellectual property rights have expired. Obsolete Design researches and enact its unrealised artistic, practical, speculative, educational and tactical potentials of obsolete technologies, ideas, media, tools and bits of knowledge that have been overlooked in the process of innovation. It is a critical and playful practice in finding alternatives and resistance to being on the perverse treadmill of exhausting innovation.  

Obsolete Design is a way to look for ways to reclaim these spaces, innovating backwards. It is a critical/playful practice in the resistance of (or finding alternatives to) being on the technological hamster wheel.