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  • Writer's picturePete Ward

Design Anthropology

Design anthropology is a form of applied anthropology that makes use of ethnographic methods to develop new products, services, practices, and forms of sociality. Building on a long lineage of thought from the social sciences, design anthropology can trace its roots back to the interdisciplinary field of material culture which brought together history, sociology, psychology, archaeology, and anthropology to understand the creation and consumption of objects, as well as the meaning ascribed to objects.

Sustainable design requires a multi-discipline evaluation of the true human need of the product and consequential environmental affects of mineral extraction and manufacturing. Material culture studies are relevant to design anthropology because physical objects, and increasingly intangible objects, play a role in mediating relationships between humans through time and space. In fact, within material culture studies as well as design anthropology, researchers are more interested in the sociality that surrounds the object such as the behaviors and rituals that the objects create or take part in. 

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