“Beautiful seams”


A truck-mounted crane lifts barrels of waste into its cargo area after they’ve been carried from a nearby building by a laborer with a carry-pole. This scene somehow made me recall a very entertaining presentation BERG (RIP) gave to interaction design students at SVA called “Immaterials”, where the duo described how they do not aspire to create a “seamless solution” (with a bit of playful ribbing on a familiar heavy hitter in the design consultancy field), but rather to craft “beautiful seams”. Poetic stuff, worthy of deeper reflection.


Here, consider what causes these “seams” (“rips”?) in the familiar fabric of municipal maintenance, and how a more beautiful seam would look/work, keeping in mind that even seemingly mundane services are also deserving of love, attention, and good design. As for waste removal in Shenzhen, reasoning may range from political (overemployment is perceived as the safest means of insuring nobody is disenfranchised with “the system”), to low labor costs, to perceptions of machines as unreliable compared to humans. Which of these is most likely to radically change next, and why? Also, what are the factors that en/discourage keeping particular processes “manual” in your context?

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