Anthropologists from UCL's Materials, Society and Design group present new ways they have developed of engaging with the world through materials, to address such issues of wide societal impact as energy, sustainability, biomedicine, nanotechnology and intellectual property.
Materials are emerging as one of the most important, exciting research fields globally, opening up new opportunities for anthropologists. The material world we live in is not a natural one. Whether or not they are man-made, all materials only come into use through social intervention - through invention, innovation, flow, choice, discovery, design, application and use. To date, most work on materials has been scientific leading to an incomplete understanding of the processes and products of everyday life. In response, the Materials, Society and Design group in the anthropology department at UCL is developing new ways in which anthropology can engage with the world through materials, collaborating with scientists and designers to address issues of wide societal impact working. This proposal is for a constituted panel of speakers from UCL, beginning with an overview of anthropology and materials, and continuing with case studies drawn from the core agenda of the group, as follows: 1. Material Creations, Transformations, Transfigurations, Technologies: Biographies and social lives of materials, recycling, disposal innovation, energy, the movement and history of materials, nanotechnology. 2. The Macro-Politics of Materials: Sustainability and the environment, the role of the corporation, materials policy, agendas and manifestos. 3. Value and Values: intellectual property and ownership of materials , 'success' and 'failure' of materials, ethical and biomedical issues 4. Imagining Materials: Consumption of physical and virtual materials, display, marketing, heritage 5. Materials and Making: Making in anthropology, design and engineering; technology vs craft, materials libraries