As a student in the MS_DR (Master of Science in Design Research) I have been able to guide my own research. Through a series of developments my project has transformed from the exploration of the computer Hacker to the Decommissioning of the Lifestyle Center; open-air developments consisting of mixed-use commercial and retail space. They include leisure amenities and are designed with the aesthetic quality of main street meets strip mall. My project is a contribution to the discipline of architecture as a representation of the materiality of consumption and an exploration of the abundant inefficiency in the material ornamentation in architecture. It is a result in the discontent with corporate culture to expressively define the architecture movement. Decommissioning the Lifestyle Center is a pedagogical process to explain the materiality of our consumption culture, to create a material and spatial index. This project is questioning the overwhelming desire for consumption in American Society. This is a proposal for developing an understanding of American consumption culture. This exploration will result in the elegant exposition of the material research such that people from all walks of life realize the devastation of our existence. Through this work, I hope to develop my understanding of consumerism through the various lenses of history, philosophy, and sociology.
As of late, my focus has been on developing the notion of capital. This research has shown that Society has been struggling to understand the idea of capital since the dawn of civilization. Because human beings require certain items for survival, comfort, and pleasure we are creatures of consumption. As consumers have coupled with the advancements of technology our desire for personal gain and the notion that we can predict and change the future has increased exponentially. The multiple theories on the workings of capital outlined in Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler’s, Capital Accumulation: Breaking the dualism of ‘economics’ and ‘politics’, can be seen as an attempt to develop the crystal ball that allows us to complete the task of prediction. Although these theories each have a different definition of capital, the desire for humans to consume remains constant. This desire is directly linked to the human craving for capital wealth and power. The understanding of the intrinsic role capital plays in society is complicated and the attempts to develop theories that explain the relationships of the wealth-swing involve many oscillating dynamics and are largely unverifiable, which make the solidifying of a true theory nearly impossible.
The common string in the numerous theorizations of capital is the relationship it shares with monetary wealth. It is agreed that these are one in the same. The initial findings in the development of the many theories that comprise the idea of capital were directly connected though they differed on their perspective of institution, authority, power, production, labor, distribution, ownership, society, consumption, accumulation, competition, and profit. The early exploration of the theories was an attempt to explain monetary flow and human advancement. This was possibly an attempt to understand the initial consumption of goods not necessary for survival. As time went on, the theories began to examine the ideas of work and its relationship to power and authority; particularly regarding the development of an increased amount of goods through the factory of mass quantity production. The more recent endeavors of capital theorization appear to be an attempt to explain the profit margin as it relates to the institution and the corruption of business. As Deleuze describes in The Postscript on Society, we have shifted from the idea of the production of the factory, disciplinary society, to a society where the desire is to maintain relevancy in an advanced society is emanate, the society of control. This maintenance is rooted in greed and corruption and the fear of becoming irrelevant is the fuel to the fire.
The effort of the agencies’ desire to maintain relevancy is completed through “necessary reforms.”1 The outcome is influenced by unrelenting forces that will ‘duke it out’ so that only the fittest survive. An example of this is a company on the brink of bankruptcy. “Everyone¬ knows that these agencies are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It's only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door.”1 This trying moment is one that American’s in contemporary society have grown familiar with, but Deleuze advises that “there is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.” Often, we have no control over what happens, we simply must submit to our fate whether it moves us forward, backward, or downward.
The most significant of all the changes involved in the shift from the disciplinary society, eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, to the control society, 1990, is the replacement of the factory with the corporation. According to Deleuze, the corporation is not considered a tangible item because of the lack of the production of goods. This scenario creates an unusual situation in which the decisions of socio-economic derivatives such as salary are influenced by a senseless game of “challenges, contests, and highly comic group sessions.” This concept is one that grows more complicated as capitalism challenges the corporate systems.
Today, with the double-digit numbers of people out of work, there is a realization that many of the blue-collar workers who grew up in the disciplinary system were not compelled to participate in the agency of education are now struggling to compete in the control system. This has spurred the shift in agency occupation that allows one to occupy multiple agencies simultaneously and move in and out of them as needed or desired. Previously one could occupy only one agency at a time, creating a situation in which “one is never finished with anything.” Having the ability to subsist in multiple agencies concurrently does not incentivize one to cross the threshold of commitment to any one agency, but having the pressure of a capitalist society does. Much of this cohabitation of multiple agencies is directly related to the desire to be an active participant in the evolution of technology.
Society continues to grow increasingly more complicated through its numerous technological and intellectual advancements, and as such is more difficult to successfully analyze and understand. There are a few aspects of capital that are straightforward and thus are the bottom-line items in this continuous argument of the theory of capital. One, capital is monetary wealth. Two, human consumption fuels the flow of capital. Three, government and big business are the majority holders and influencers of capital. Four, corruption and deceit comprise an inevitable under-layer of the capital current. Capital itself maintains fluid momentum in social exchange. The understanding of this momentum is largely the cause of the difficulty in the solidification of any theory that aids in its definition. With the advancement of technology and the ever-changing trends of consumption we are left with the notion that we will never fully understand this driving force, we simply must accept that what it does is move us forward and that the future is an unknown entity of excitement and wonder where capital will always maintain relevancy and the consumer holds all the power.
I imagine the this work would perform as an intense narrative regarding the consumption of contemporary society, luxury goods, and lifestyle center capital exchange. I am hopeful that the project will lead to a greater understanding of the role of the spatial index and material organization regarding the activity of consuming. This would prove beneficial as I conclude my thesis on the materiality of American consumerism.