Developing scenarios for product longevity and sufficiency

This paper explores the narrative of peoples’ relationships with products as a window on understanding the types of innovation that may inform a culture of sufficiency. The work forms part of the ‘Business as Unusual: Designing Products with Consumers in the Loop’ [BaU] project, funded as part of the UK EPSRC-ESRC RECODE network (RECODE, 2016) that aims to explore the potential of re-distributed manufacturing (RdM) in a context of sustainability. This element of the project employed interviews, mapping and workshops as methods to investigate the relationship between people and products across the product lifecycle. A focus on product longevity and specifically the people-product interactions is captured in conversations around product maintenance and repair. In exploring ideas of ‘broken’ we found different characteristics of, and motivations for, repair. Mapping these and other product-people interactions across the product lifecycle indicated where current activity is, who owns such activity (i.e. organisation or individual) and where gaps in interactions occur. These issues were explored further in a workshop which grouped participants to look at products from the perspective of one of four scenarios; each scenario represented either short or long product lifespans and different types of people engagement in the design process. The findings help give shape to new scenarios for designing sufficiency-based social models of material flows.