Designing circular possessions: exploring human-object relationships in the circular economy

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Title: Designing circular possessions: exploring human-object relationships in the circular economy
Authors: Baxter, Weston L
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: This thesis argues the need for a fundamental shift from the design of products to the design of possessions in the circular economy. Possessions in the circular economy are characterised by interactions resulting in a user-object relationship rather than legalese and differ from the linear economy in terms of their length of use and number of users. Individual users are thus seen as critical actors to enable material circulation in that they take possession and dispossess of products. Two key topics—psychological ownership and contaminated interaction—are explored in detail to fill theoretical gaps in design research and practice. After discussing these topics, some directions and guidelines are suggested. Possession or ownership is taken as an innate human desire. A framework describes the method of developing ownership including the motives, routes, and paths that guide the development of that relationship. This framework is used to describe object attachment to inform product longevity and decisions around keeping and discarding. It is also useful to help explain why some access-based models are adopted while others are not. Maintaining perceived value in the circular economy entails mitigating contaminated interaction—tainted interaction due to prior use and prior users. Contaminated interaction is shown to affect new circular business opportunities, disposal decisions and downcycling. A typology is presented to characterise indicators of use with an emphasis on sensorial material properties. Aversion to used products is found to come from three drivers: hygiene, utility and territory. A theoretical framework for contaminated interaction is presented which is explored through positive and negative forms of contamination. Finally, a case study shows how alterations in product characteristics lead to improper disposal and act as an example of what it means to design of circular possessions.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Mar-2017
Date Awarded: Oct-2017
Supervisor: Childs, Peter
Aurisicchio, Marco
Department: Dyson School of Design Engineering
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Design Engineering PhD theses

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