Understanding the caring practices of users

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Gwilt, Alison ; Leaver, Jackie ; Fisher, Mark ; Young, Gordon (2017)
  • Publisher: Nottingham Trent University

This paper explores how people extend and preserve the life of specific objects and domestic spaces through ‘caring’, drawing on early findings from an empirical study conducted by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Sheffield Hallam University. Researchers from across the design disciplines of fashion, product and interiors explore the attitudes of users towards care routines by profiling and comparing the specific practices, customs and rituals that are adopted in the care and maintenance of products and domestic spaces in regular use.\ud \ud During the 20th century the cultural and economic value of products dramatically changed as the availability and affordability of mass-produced, low cost goods increased in the marketplace (Walker 2006). As a consequence, the emphasis on product care and maintenance has become less important, and is fostering a “careless” society in which a growing lack of skill, knowledge, and motivation means that users do not routinely engage in the appropriate care practices that are known to help extend the life or use of particular objects and spaces. Although in general terms consumer products have come to be considered disposable, it is argued that through ‘good’ design there is an opportunity to establish an emotional bond or attachment between user and product that together with associated practices of care can help sustain and extend product lifetimes (Chapman, 2005; Walker, 2006; Schifferstein & Zwartkruis-Pelgrim, 2008). However, while the designer may be able to enhance the relationship between user and product, this paper highlights a range of unpredictable care practices that exist amongst consumers, which can affect these intentions. Motivated by a desire and the perceived need to encourage users to engage more with care and maintenance routines as a means to preserving the life of products and environments, this research reveals user-centred insights that may help designers to support and encourage better maintenance and ‘care’ practices.
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