mundane extravagant (2018)

These explorations were created for the workshop Disruptive Improvisations at CHI2018 and is further part of ongoing work on strategies to explore the technologically mediated mundane. Non-digital artefacts that we can consider to be mundane often disappear through everyday use – we might not actively think about what meaning they have for us, yet they support and shape everyday practices. Technologies that we use daily take on very different roles: with updates, new features and apps, these things are actively trying to remain remarkable. On the other end of the spectrum, autonomous digital technologies (e.g. heating systems, refrigerators) are taken for granted, but up to the point that we no longer form any attachment to them: they only take on functional roles. How can we further understand the technologically mediated mundane, what values exist in the mundane and how these are amplified or reduced through technologies?

An inherent challenge of these questions is how we understand the notion “mundane”, which as a concept is difficult to grasp – or to design for. For, when giving attention to mundane a thing, that thing might reveal itself in ways that obscure, diminish or completely erase its “mundane-ness”.

In the workshop, we aimed to defamiliarize mundane artifacts to better understand the notion. We were particularly interested in understanding better the design spaces that exist between dichotomies.

mundane <> extravagant
background <> foreground
invisible <> visible
natural <> artificial
functional <> frivolous

Our recipe for a disruptive strategy was:

  1. Take a thing that is often overlooked, unconsidered or used without noticing
  2. Take another thing that marvels, requires attention, and is always noticed
  3. Combine the first thing with the second thing so the overlooked thing now marvels, and the unconsidered thing requires attention, or the thing used without noticing is now noticed
  4. If successful, the new thing will both be overlooked and marvel!

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