Planned obsolescence

Hanba’s interests are many, but commerce has not been one of them. Perhaps this is why it has taken Hanba long to realize some simple, fundamental things that for marketers and entrepreneurs are considered quite self-evident.

One of these concepts is ‘planned obsolescence’. This involves producing a product that will be rendered useless after a certain time period. Take your music cassette collection, for instance. The technology came and went, never meant to last forever. Also consider the fast cycle movies have made from VCRs through DVDs to blu-ray, or your cheap cotton T-shirts. All designed to break down, necessitating a new purchase in the future. The concept was introduced by Bernard London 1932 as a method to counter the Great Depression. Since, it has not only refined and re-iterated, but also been made a fundamental rule of the market.

Take a moment to look around you. How many items of quality do you see around you? When were they made and where? How much did they cost?

Next time you make a purchase, try to see if you can guess when your product will become obsolete. Hanba thinks you will be able to make an accurate guess. Why – because this concept is so ingrained in the market, the products and the prices that we all understand it. Whether we know it or not, we are experts of planned obsolescence.

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Off to a fresh start

Hanba’s back! After more than a year of radio silence, Hanba’s airing again. All excited and full of new ideas, the spring will be very interesting. Some things are gonna be the same, but a few things will be quite different. Hanba will continue to enjoy posting existential thoughts and topics just as before. Nevertheless, there may be a new perspective to it all, since Hanba has become a parent for almost exactly two months ago! Don’t worry, it won’t be too much about the kid and what he has learned this week or such. There may just be a slight change in Hanba’s perspective.

Taking an unexpected break from blogging…

Sorry guys… The hanbablog is temporarily on hold.

Why be rational?

I just came across a market study made before deciding to build yet another mall. As some of you may know, I have a thing against malls. This study was like reading a love letter your partner sent to someone else. You’re disgusted but you still keep reading on, unable to stop and let it go.

This study was comprehensive, talking not only about the shopping habits of the people in the surrounding community. It also took into consideration the trends of the time, future scenarios and broad social factors. In the discussion, the paper stated that making rational choices and praising the intellect in decision-making is a relatively new phenomenon. According to the article, this behavior can be associated with The Enlightenment in the 18th century.

Hmm did people really not make rational decisions before the French Revolution? I wonder how humanity has managed to survive if all decisions supposedly were made based on whims, emotions or coercion until then? Of course, it all depends on how you define “rational”. Without going too deep into philosophical debates, we can for the sake of experimenting accept this statement: rational reasoning has been prioritized in decision-making from the French revolution up until recently.

According to this consumption study, the people now want to connect emotions to their decision making. Buying clothes is an act that has long since lost its rational grounds. I do not need any more sweaters. Even if the temperature suddenly would go down to -45, I still would have enough sweaters and coats to keep me warm. Why do I then eye yet another sweater? There are at least two reasons: 1) because buying gives me momentary happiness or pleasure and  2) wearing particular clothes makes me socially accepted in certain groups. Argument nr 1 is a strictly hedonistic, emotion and satisfaction-based argument, whereas nr 2 includes rational aspects as well.

Buying clothes has, besides giving us emotions and pleasure, also taken over some of the religious rites the Enlightenment, and the general rational trend that followed, took from us. If we are feeling down or guilty, we may buy a shirt to “purge the sins” and make us happy again. In a mall we feel like a part of a congregation, we are not alone and we are surrounded by the bright lights. The retail workers will serve our needs.

Of course, I am exaggerating. Still, I believe there is some truth to this market study. Another example of how we are abandoning rationalism is the newspaper industry. Instead of even attempting at writing stories that are relevant or objective, the newspapers focus on stories that give us emotions. Have we, for example, seen a rational report about the swine flu and the possible scenarios that are yet to come? We have either heard panic-ridden articles of a horrible fast-growing pandemic that will bring down doom to us – or other exaggerated or irrelevant articles.

The question is, will the financial crisis change any of this – or will we just go on buying sweaters and reading about Paris Hilton’s love affairs for the next little while? Also – why should I dislike this trend? If you can’t beat them, join them, huh? Am I brainwashed by the Enlightenment?? Hmm if you don’t mind I will continue disliking the malls.

ps. I tried to find the link to this retail study, but unfortunately I was unable to find it. It was in Finnish anyway…

Fear of emptiness

An object filling the space just outside the entrance to Kiasma (photo:hanba)

An object filling the space just outside the entrance to Kiasma (photo:hanba)

Horror vacui means literally fear of emptiness or dread of vacuum. Such is the title of an exhibition held in Kiasma museum of contemporary art in Helsinki, Finland this summer.

I was impressed with how the artists dealt with the theme. The exhibition halls were filled with all sorts of visual and auditory stimuli which helped the viewers to focus attention on something all the time. In a very fine, peculiar way, the artworks guided us away from an unfocused, empty state. The exhibition hall was not primarily filled by interesting artwork, but by a lack of void. It was as if the objects were displayed due to a compulsion, panic, fear, dread over the thought of emptiness. The artwork was secondary to a primary need to be preoccupied with something.

The exhibition featured three male artists, Markus Copper, Kimmo Schroderus and Jari Haanperä. The artworks were undoubtedly masculine, featuring bolts and steel and the like, voluminous, loud constructions made of metal. I was especially impressed by a sculpture made of two cars interconnected to form an illusion of a single car turning 90 degrees at a high speed.

The exhibition inspired the Buddhist in me to do some meditating for couple of nights in a row. I wanted to “embrace emptiness”, or find a state of nothingness without fearing it. Still, it is interesting to watch how your mind keeps throwing past memories or other images just to keep you busy. Just to keep you from gliding out of focus. The dread of emptiness, horror vacui, I believe is a part of the human condition.  I am happy I was reminded of it through the exhibition.

PS. (I have to become a bit more up-to-date with my so called exhibition journalism.. This particular exhibition closed months ago now..)

PS2. Kiasma is designed by the American architect Steven Holl. In Beijing, Mr Holl’s mastodont housing project Linked hybrid has just opened for the public. I am really fascinated by this project and am interested to see how the inhabitants will use the semi-public spaces in the Hybrid. For more info, click here….

Everyday life

Having some morning coffee, getting ready to go. Making a lunchbox, thinking all these thoughts.

Hanbablog will be back in action soon. I have all these thoughts about art, architecture and life in general. The only problem right now is that I have to catch the 6:47 train.

Excuses excuses. Everyday life is such a good excuse for not making efforts. Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making lunchboxes.

Doer vs critic

Do you know the story about Socrates and a sports event? According to this story, Socrates divides the people in an (ancient) sports event into four categories: (1) the athletes who want to push their limits and win, (2) the audience watching strangers sweat and enjoying the day with friends, (3) the vendors profiting from the event and finally, (4) the philosophers, who observe everyone and everybody and analyze what’s going on.

In today’s world with advanced technology, we can add another category to the story, (5) the sports commentator. He knows all the stats, he remembers how the athletes performed last year. He stands right next to the action but does not participate himself. He is good at criticizing how a ball is being kicked but cannot kick the ball himself.

In the agrarian society of yesteryear, the people were doers. The fields needed trimming, the sheep herding and the harvest collecting. If somebody stood next to a man ploughing a field, himself not doing anything yet busy letting everybody know how the job could be done better, I don’t believe he would have been much appreciated. The doer to critic ratio was healthier.

In today’s world, however, more and more people have gone over from being a doer to being a commentator. How much easier is it not to be a critic instead of producing something yourself? Also, in many ways, the critics are more appreciated than the doers. Just look at how much money an artist makes a month and compare that with your local newspaper’s art critic salary.

The net is filled with all sorts of critics. Just look at hanba, in my posts I have criticized the contemporary designer for copying the 50’s, postmodern artists for still being critical of the modern project, neoclassical architects for copying the ancient Greeks. Have I tried to design a contemporary chair or give suggestions to tomorrow’s architectural trends? -No.

Yet, I believe more detrimental than all the hobby bloggers combined is the output of the contemporary media business. I don’t even need to give an example. The media loves to tell how a country could be run better, how a military operation could have been run more successfully, what the policemen should have done in a given incident. A doctor should never have given his patient this or that  medicine, the actress should never have dyed her hair a particular color etc.

It has always, since the ancient times, been easier to sit next to a doer and whine than to actually do something yourself. What is new is the skewed doer to critic ratio.

ps1:  If anybody remembers how this story with socrates and the sports events actually goes, I’d love  a recap… 🙂

ps2:  This post is dedicated to my uncle who encourages me to keep writing this blog. 🙂

ps3: In my next post, I promise to do something, not just whine.