Sustainable Materialism:
Collaborative Consumption

September 2011

The “Sustainable Materialism” research (completed June 2010) was an exploration into understanding the social influences that drive an individual’s materialistic behaviour, and then using that understanding to develop interaction design solutions that reflect on materialism and promote sustainable behaviour, and lifestyles, through services. It drew heavily on the elements of materialism (being materialistic), and how these elements, embedded into our social structures and surroundings, help feed a perception of one-self through identity management. I hypothesised that service designs require methods to: (A) not only create reflection on elements attached to being materialistic; (B) but also use the attractiveness and strengths of these elements to promote positives in the use of sustainable driven services.

You can download the report from here

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The abstract from the research report:

To have sustainable lifestyles, individuals need to have support from physical and social infrastructures, as well as institutions, however the major decisions about a sustainable lifestyle are being made at individ- ual and social levels. This research is an exploration into understanding the social influences that drive an individual’s materialistic behaviour, and using that understanding to develop interaction design solutions that reflect on materialism and promote sustainable behaviour and life- styles.

An extensive literature review is conducted on various aspects of mate- rialism from the product design, interaction design - that have focused on the material and performative nature of artefacts - and social innova- tion perspectives. Here, existing work, such as simplicity movements, have promoted the idea that an individual’s life can be more fulfilling if they engage in activities that are purposive and materially light. How- ever, since it has been difficult to convince large populations of the soci- ety about the benefits of sustainable living, sociology research provides a platform to understand how our perception of self and social sur- roundings impacts our lifestyles in materialistic ways. From this un- derstanding , two stages of empirical studies were conducted for design material, firstly exploring the concept of materialism from a sharing and ownership perspective, and then, intervention based studies that gathered insight on the use of techniques that promote reflection on these behaviours. A set of rich insights were identified on methods for design that promote the reflection on materialistic behaviour; focusing predominantly on experiences and identity management. These in- sights are applied and presented in three service design concepts that were explored in a participatory workshop.

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