Material culture


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  • Dynamic relationship between the process:
  • Miller starts by referring to an observation of S. Langer that human perception of aesthetic objects (fine arts, e.g.) is not of “discursive” form, as in case of text, but of “presentational” form, which means that people perceive it “at once, rather than sequentially” (97). He then refers to criticism of imposition of linguistic methods on studies of architecture, since “arbitrary” meanings (as of words) cannot be extracted from the spatial and functional context of the material of buildings.
  • Language requires the complete break between sign and signified, as the development of linguistic system is based on arbitrariness. Material objects, due to their concrete nature, can never be entirely abstract or arbitrary. A material object can be perceived in thousands of different ways, each determined by certain conceptual systems, but it, anyway, “does act as a firm physical constraint upon them
  • Material culture

    1. 1. Extracts From Material Culture And Mass Consumption D. Miller Nagihan Tuna ID 501 Advanced Product Development
    2. 2. Daniel Miller (born 1954) is an anthropologist most closely associated with studies of our relationships to things and the consequences of consumption. His theoretical work was first developed in Material Culture and Mass Consumption A prolific author, Miller criticizes the concept of materialism which presumes our relationships to things are at the expense of our relationship to persons. He argues that most people are either enabled to form close relationships to both persons and objects or have difficulties with both.His work on material culture also includes ethnographic research on how peopledevelop relationships of love and care through the acquisition of objects in shoppingand how they deal with issues of separation and loss including death through theirretention and divestment of objects.
    3. 3. The Humility of Objects Aim: •The subject is the artefact that form which is the result of human labour, as opposed to equally concrete natural phenomena. •Uncovering the object •Properties of things in themselves Chapter Covers: •The relationship between the symbolism of object and that of language and the use of the artefact in play. •Distinguish the social properties of the object from those of language as expressive medium.
    4. 4. The Humility of Objects – The object in ontogenesis •Jean Piaget – Play, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood •Melanie Klein – Notes on some Schizoid Mechanisms Representation of the relationship between the human subject and culture. According to them; through the relationship between the infant and its environment, the object can become itself.
    5. 5. The Humility of Objects – The object in ontogenesis - Piaget Dynamic forms only achieved a long process of interaction with the environment , in which the infant develops cognitive abilities as a means of dealing with the world. In the child’s mental process action is at least as important as perception. Through action the child encounters the world directly, literally feeling its possiblities and constraints. According to him, each stage is depended upon the previous developments and to an extent absorbs rather than replaces, the early stages.
    6. 6. The Humility of Objects – The object in ontogenesis - Piaget In Assimilation, what is perceived in the outside world is incorporated into the internal world without changing the structure of that internal world, but potentially at the cost of "squeezing" the external perceptions to fit .
    7. 7. The Humility of Objects – The object in ontogenesis - Piaget In Accommodation, the internal world has to accommodate itself to the evidence with which it is confronted and thus adapt to it, which can be a more difficult and painful process. In the database analogy, it is like what happens when you try to put in information which does not fit the pre-existent fields and categories. You have to develop new ones to accommodate the new information
    8. 8. The Humility of Objects – The object in ontogenesis - PiagetIn reality, both are going on at the same time, so that—just as the mower blade cutsthe grass, the grass gradually blunts the blade—although most of the time we areassimilating familiar material in the world around us, nevertheless, our minds are alsohaving to adjust to accommodate it.The lack of Piaget’s work: a consideration of cultural context of such concept formationis largely absent.
    9. 9. The Humility of Objects – The object in ontogenesis - PiagetAccommodation is, e.g., dominant in imitation (a child rubbing its hands as if washinghands), while assimilation is dominant in play (a child using a stick as if it were a horse),which “leads to increasingly complex imagined worlds over which the child assumescontrol” But at some point, accommodation comes back when a child is confronted bythe external rules of the game (as a social activity). This is, thus, a dialecticalmovement of dynamic interaction between the subject and object, which allows tocreate a sense of self and other.• Sensory motor actions : Stimilus response form of imitation. ( no object function hasbeen formed.•Accomodation moves towords a higher level at which egocentricism of play isconfronted with the external rules of the social game.In order to examine all these more dialectically we have to see them as self and others,because subject is increasingly confronted by the social world in which rules areimposed from the outside.
    10. 10. The Humility of Objects - Klein (assimilation = projection) and (accommodation = introjection). Klein’s Model projection intojection Projective identification Of the self on objects Of the objects to the selfShe explins subject-object relation with the term “paranoid-schizoid position,” which means that the primitive ego of aninfant “splits itself” and then projects these part onto material objects in the outside world. As these objects can be “good”or “bad,” part of infant’s ego (projected on these objects) become good or bad, too., when an infant is confronted with areal breast, it projects it onto certain parts of its ego (projection), but when an infant is confronted with absence ofmother’s breast, it tries to introject (i.e., to pretend as if it exists) that part of its ego, which is associated with the “good”breast, onto the outside world, pretending as if “bad” breast does not exist.
    11. 11. The Humility of Objects - KleinShe argues that as an infant grows and is capable of grasping more complex objects (motheras such instead of her breast as a good object or absent breast as a bad object), it developsan ability to integrate the operations of projection and introjection—as in case when aninfant is forced to confront “the good breast” and “the bad breast” simultaneously in itsmother’s object.“super-ego” is formed as an interiorized form taken by parental authority. Moreover, thismechanism explains how, by way of growing up and later education, certain symbolicprocesses provide the foundations for the ego, become highly integral and intractable.According to Miller these two concepts are important as they allow to return to materialobject. Their importance in the creation of the social order.
    12. 12. The Humility of Objects - PlayHere Miller evaluate the play in terms of material objects and language.A major mechanism for socializationIt is first about material objects and language comes later.Piaget says play represents a major advance in the ability of the child to control its ownenvironment and engage in a variety of the strategiesMiller argues that, only at a late stage of development, when a child has a significant level ofinteraction with the material world, the abstract functions of language can be mastered.While after this stage, a man is able to negotiate her interaction with the social world throughlanguage, it does not mean that the role of material objects in determining his social positionbecome less important. According to Miller, it occupies an “ambiguous position… betweenself and the outside,” and has a special “relationship to the unconscious”
    13. 13. The Humility of Objects – Objects and languageObjects as sign – objects as symbol(debates)In the levels of abstraction objects become vehicles of meanings.According to Langer language and thought are discursive processes and grammar makes themstructurise.For him, art is on the other hand is too personal to compare with language.Scruton sees architecture as a different mechanism which has its own rules so it will beinappropriate to compare. Colquhoun agrees by saying that language change occurs only onepart of the system at a time however architectural styles may alter through time.Miller concludes these comparisons by saying that linguistic expression may appear as slowand clumsy, it has greater significance over other forms of expression.
    14. 14. The Humility of Objects – The artefect per seArtefact is a bridge not only between mental and physical worlds, but also betweenconsciousness and the unconscious.Language strengthens its hold on consciousness and through writing on the explicit world ofknowledge objects may retain their place in the oredering of the unconscious world.Language holds on consciousness and writing leave objects as belong to uncouscious worldso it is not a denial to the role of language in naturalising cultural deifferences but saying thatartefacts may be still more powerful mechanisms in this process.
    15. 15. The Humility of Objects – The artefect per seGombrich characterizes common objects which reflects the tastes of its owner and whichworks as an medium of communication of social information as effectively as language,although in an absolutely different way. (picture frame)The humility of the common object is especially in the clear of mass material culture. Forexample, furnishings are backgrounds which shouldn’t attract the attention to themselves.This shows “unconscious, non-linguistic processes may act to control conscious and linguisticarticulation”While the contextual world of objects may be last an most overlooked component of themechanisms of social interaction, because of its embedded relationship to the unconscious, itis the most significant factor of all.
    16. 16. The Humility of Objects – The artefect per seMiller then refers to Bourdieu as the latter’s conceptual framework also helps to avoidsubjectivism or objectivism, instead combining the two into a coherent picture of socialagency.Habitus is a “set of classificatory schema,” which imposes on children the normative order ofits society. Habitus then allows the subject who belongs to it to apply these schema againstnew phenomena and assimilate them into his/her cultural order.Habitus is a classificatory schema which was placed to the child’s mind as trues.It is an interactive process rather than a learnt thing. In other words, it not learning, it isfamiliarty. The habitus then organizes subject’s social activity “as a structured set ofdispositions which provides a basis for the enactment of strategy according to interest,perspective and power” Yet it does not dictate how to behave: there are strategies, ratherthan rules, but strategies are pursued within the objective limits of the social field.
    17. 17. The Humility of Objects – The artefect per seThe common point of Bordieu and Langer is stressing the relationship of this object world tofeelings rather than language. For example, it is more effective to grimace rather than sayingthat you dont like it.For Bourdieu, materiality is very important in the reproduction of the social order, as it is“embodied in details such as dress, body movement and manners” . The material world, then,is not a “vulgar” determinant factor of the social practice, instead physicality is whatconstrains and modifies our social vision, but never totally determines it.Although object is a fundamental aspect of socialization, because of being an instrument ofsocial strategy it is flexible. This may be refined by Bourdeu’s concept of habitus. ( Interactionmay affect the way that a social group look to a form but it doesnt have a historicalbackground. )The difference between artefectual symbolism and linguistic symbolism is that; languagepossesses much more control over its interpretation. Because the other evokes variety ofinterpretations.
    18. 18. The Humility of Objects – The artefect per seThe difference between artefectual symbolism and linguistic symbolism is that; languagepossesses much more control over its interpretation. Because the other evokes variety ofinterpretations.So far, the writter said that objects in society perceived differently by the different socialgroups. However, it cannot be mentioned about the superiority of the way of seeing by aperson from one social class over another.Consequently, here the thing that must be focused is the object itself. Because it has moretendency to be seen as presentational form. Although artefect is seen as the bridging thing itroles as signifier and signified both at the same time.
    19. 19. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts - IntroductionAim:To invastigate through a series of illustrations the interaction between material culture andcertain contextual dimensions emphasizing the implications of the materiality of the objectsas symbol rather than to construct a systematic model of the properties of material culture insociety
    20. 20. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – The artefact asmanufactured objectThe factor which distinguishes the artefact from the natural object is that it is the product ofhuman labour.Manufacture objects can show the constraints of the technology.Society – Division of labour – ManufacturingManufacturing cant be a separate arena of social relations. The concern of Boas in order tounderstand the relationship between technology and cultural form is the origins of primitiveart. He says by repetetive movements a regular pattern can emerge.
    21. 21. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – The artefact asmanufactured objectMarx and Hegel say that technology may become the foundation for the dominant ideologiesof industrialized world.Symbolism is more part of a general ability to proclaim or deny from a distance from nature:stone blades copies the style of a metal object.Miller then says that in the domain of material culture, the connection between the objectand its function is very important: it’s the basis for naming for kids (which means that forthem it’s fundamental), and for adults functions of things play “an important, though highlyflexible, role in the description of objects in daily life”The problem here is that this connection between an object and its function is not aconnection between an object and its everyday use. In daily life, there are hundreds of typesof shoes which perform the same function, and a behavior of a consumer selecting a specificshoe is mostly likely related “to social rather than functional considerations which may moreconvincingly account for the majority of purchases”
    22. 22. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – The artefact asmanufactured objectThe relationship between artefact and function affects recognition of objects. This is anoutcome of material or industrial design process of efficiency between object and use.The reason that a person picking a glass material from the various ones is because of socialreasons not the functional ones.Modernist artefact is the advocator of form follows function but in the last century provesopposite because in the past objects formed entirely according to utility.This embodiment of utility and technological rationality in the object as modernist form maybe a powerful example of the much more general tendency towards the legitimizing rolebeing played by technological rationality in the modern world.
    23. 23. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – The artefact asmanufactured objectThe best exemplifiers of utility are tools but it will be wrong to associate with efficiencybecause when it becomes a level that answers our biolocigal needs it turns a definition ofculture.In order to diffeenciate the object from utility it is necessary to use it other than productiveactivity. However it will increase the need of the tools that we wont need for productiveconcerns.
    24. 24. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – Artefacts, the selfand societyAnthropologists argue the transition from labour to objects.Brideservice – bride wealth – alienationTheir discussion of this realtionship between self, object and society is dominated by themore general analysis of exchange.Gift commodityThe concept of property suggests a close relationship between person and thing whilst inpractice private property is an institution which works to produce precisely the oppositeeffect.The writer claims with respect to the object as objectification it might be better to use a termsuch as personal property.
    25. 25. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – Artefacts andspaceMiller discusses the key role of things in the social construction of space, not only in terms ofspatial planning, but also in creating stereotypes about geographic locations and evenimposing these stereotypes on the “other” through economic motivation (he brings anexample of “oriental” style of textile which was produced in India due to economic demandon this type of textile in Britain, even though this “oriental” style had nothing to do withIndian own textile design). This is particularly important at the level of ideologie.s
    26. 26. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – Artefacts andtimeJust as objects may come to symbolize time. Significance may radically alter. (e.g: pot)Nation-states, e.g., used archeology to legitimize their historical existence by dating theirorigins back to paleolithic age through museum exhibitions. Another example is fashionwhich endows objects with the ability to signify the present.If it is examined under te concept of theory of objectification time is te significant effectrather than people or things.
    27. 27. The Humility of Objects – Artefacts in the contexts – Artefacts andstyleMiller finally comes to a very important domain, the relationship between artefacts and style.Miller looks at all objects of the same kind (all cars, all curtains, etc.) and claims that theinternal relationship between these objects of the same kind is built on the principle of style.They will differ in certain details while retaining similarity in essential features, and thesedetails ensure the internal order within a domain of one type of things.Social groups may be divided according to the logic of objects with which they associate,which includes the objects’ autonomous tendencies towards pattern, as well as their physicalconstraints.In a way, societies can be characterised “as a reflection of style,” and different social changeswould be marked with minor shifts in the style of things. Consequently, in the modernsociety, the form of things can start dominate over their functionality, as in the case ofapartments in which everything is purchased to match a certain style.Ironically, that set of ideas and ideals which expressed the legitimacy of form followingfunction was most effective in ensuring that function followed form.
    28. 28. The Humility of Objects – ConclusionThe medium of objectification matters.Form Media(in the process of becoming) (artefacts have tendencies in an age of rapidlyfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff increasing material cultureThe physicality of the artefact lends itself to the work of praxis which is cultural constructionthrough action rather than just conceptualization.Objects can be integrator between representative individual and social group.
    29. 29. The Humility of Objects – ConclusionAlthough conventionally the totalizing property of artefact is stressed as a condition of thenon modern and commodity – the fragmented medium of modernity.Modernist building can purely be rational but it is just a disguise because they can reach theiraim only byusing the objects ability and it can threaten that purity.The flexibility of the artefact shouldn’t lead an arbitrary use anymore than the flexibility oflanguages.
    30. 30. Extracts From Material Culture And Mass Consumption D. Miller Thank you. Nagihan Tuna ID 501 Advanced Product Development