Changing Things: The Future of Objects in a Digital World
by Johan Redström and Heather Wiltse
September 2018, 192 pages
In their new book, “Changing Things: The Future of Objects in a Digital World”, assistant professor Heather Wiltse and professor Johan Redström explore what the networked, digital products of our time actually do and whom they are really designed for.
Many of the things we now live with do not take a purely physical form. Objects such as smart phones, laptops and wearable fitness trackers are different from our things of the past. These new digital forms are networked, dynamic and contextually configured. They can be changeable and unpredictable, even inscrutable when it comes to understanding what they actually do and whom they really serve.
In this compelling new volume, Johan Redstrom and Heather Wiltse address critical questions that have assumed a fresh urgency in the context of these rapidly-developing forms. Drawing on critical traditions from a range of disciplines that have been used to understand the nature of things, they develop a new vocabulary and a theoretical approach that allows us to account for and address the multi-faceted, dynamic, constantly evolving forms and functions of contemporary things. In doing so, the book prototypes a new design discourse around everyday things, and describes them as fluid assemblages.
Redstrom and Wiltse explore how a new theoretical framework could enable a richer understanding of things as fluid and networked, with a case study of the evolution of music players culminating in an in-depth discussion of Spotify. Other contemporary ‘things’ touched on in their analysis include smart phones and watches, as well as digital platforms and applications such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Johan Redström is Professor and Research Director at Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden, and previously Design Director at the Interactive Institute.
Heather Wiltse is Assistant Professor at the Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden.