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Assigning Cultural Values

Edited By Kjerstin Aukrust

Assigning Cultural Values is a collection of thirteen essays focusing on the analysis of cultural value in light of aestheticization or aesthetic practices. Reflecting the fruits of the Research Council of Norway’s comprehensive programme for cultural research (KULVER), this anthology studies cultural phenomena not as static dimensions, but rather as factors involved in negotiations and exchanges. By examining the processes in which aestheticization is prominent, the contributors show how the experience-based, relational, and perceptual aspects of assigning cultural values come into focus. Each of the essays offers unique perspectives on the value given to different cultural phenomena, by focusing on their historically changeable aspects, their reciprocal relationships, and their connection to social contexts and power. Drawing on case studies from the fields of cultural history, aesthetics, literature, film, gender studies, art history and theory, design history, and museology, the collection provides a wide-ranging and multifaceted analysis of how the assignment of cultural values is changed, displaced, transferred, and acquired, and will therefore interest all researchers and students within the field of humanities.


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Part 3:Constructing Aesthetic Value


Part 3: Constructing Aesthetic Value 135 Culture by Design: Co-Constructing Material and Meaning Kjetil Fallan Aluminium is one of the twentieth century’s preeminent materials, and how it has been transformed into meaningful objects by way of design speaks volumes about the modern era’s material culture. The co-construction of material and meaning that characterises everyday objects can be described, thus, as a culture by design. Kitchenware is not only an excellent example of such everyday ob- jects, but also a particularly prominent product category for the aluminium con- sumer goods industry. It is therefore well suited as a focal point when exploring how aluminium products have been mediated and assigned cultural value through negotiations between technology, design, and market. By focusing on a common and ‘ordinary’ material, new insights can be gained on our relationship to things, technology, and consumption. We find aluminium in everything from cheap cooking utensils to sophisticated spacecraft and exclusive handicraft. In all instances, design is paramount in the cultural valuation of alu- minium. It is through the production, mediation, and consumption of design that industrial products achieve meaning and are woven into society and culture. Focusing on one particular material is a road less travelled in cultural history. Whereas the other preeminent material of modern design – plastic – has been the subject of some such studies,1 aluminium remains only sporadically explored from a cultural history perspective.2 Elizabeth Shove et al. have argued that 1 Jeffrey L. Meikle, American Plastic: A Cultural History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University...

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