Presentation on Scapes, Imagination and Design Noir

Global Issues in Design and Visuality in the 21st Century – Presentation by Heather Christensen


This posting is a review of Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization

by Arjun Appadurai as well as summary of my October 7, 2008 in-class presentation.


Globalization can be defined multiple ways, a few issues to review in alignment with Appadurai’s definition of  globalization:          

Media plays major role in transforming the world. Does media increase imagination?

“The imagination is now central to all forms of agency, is itself a social fact, and is the key component of the new global order” ( Arjun, 31).

Ava Gardner and other media images are seen globally and therefore increase the activity of “imagination” worldwide.

We are looking at the world differently now – no longer a collection of autonomous, monadic spaces.


Multiple representations of the world now exist, one being a graphic designer’s representation of the world:


And the world is simple a place to traverse conveniently:

Key to Appadurai’s principles are the terms “scapes”. He summarizes five types of scapes:

Ethnoscapes: People moving

Mediascapes: Distribution of information (“old” method of transferring information is a hand-painted sign. New method of transferring information is the internet. Old method meets new method to advertise availability of new method. But is everything linear?)

Technoscape: Process of production

Financescape: Capital flowing across borders

Ideoscapes: Shared images from media to create a world view


Art installation at the 2007 Venice Biennale

Each scape represents a change in some way – motion, exchange, flow.


Made from electroluminescent lace, a camera, speakers and software, Sonumbra explores a new role for textiles, while responding to global ecological concerns. It is a ‘sonic shade of light’ as the designers Rachel Wingfield & Mathias Gmachl like to describe it.

And to review Design Noir… analyzing changing the use of design.

Design and the Elastic Mind, MoMA, 2008 displayed “I want you to want me”.  In a complex computer program based on the most delicate and personal feelings harvested from the internet, Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar have created “I want you to meet me”. An interactive installation on a 56” high-resolution touch screen displays the emotional data where an individual is represented as a balloon and the viewer can access and review each individual’s profile. Experience this at

Critical design rather than affirmative design (against global capitalist values)

Cultural Design (not industrial design) which challenges conventional values

Design above a consumer item

Possibly new designscape?

A place where designers do more than just create good for the market?

“Most designers, especially industrial designers, view design as somehow neutral, clean and pure. But all design is ideological, the design process is informed by values based on a specific world view, or way of seeing and understanding reality. Design can be described as falling into two very broad categories: affirmative design and critical design. The former reinforces how things are now, it conforms to cultural, social, technical and economic expectation. Most design falls into this category. The latter rejects how things are now as being the only possibility, it provides a critique of the prevailing situation through designs that embody alternative social, cultural, technical or economic values. Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby

Discussion Points

Appadurai appears to speak of globalization on a linear timeline yet Jamer Hunt speaks of time/movement perhaps as a spiral – not a rush moving forward, do either appear true? How do global citizens think of time? Review images of maps, world is flat, world is round, world is graphic, world is a place to navigate.

Imagination: formerly poetic now realistic? Imagination = creativity = innovation

Appadurai’s “Cultural Dimensions” versus Jamer Hunt’s “Hertzian or electromagnetic space” as a cultural design…



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