Closing Keynote: Tradition and Innovation in Design – An archaeologist offers an anthropological view



Ethnography promises a deeper understanding of our relationship with things, with making and consuming, the distribution and exchange of goods, their eventual discard. Ethnography offers significant enhancement of human-centered design. Archaeology, Anthropology's time dimension, has developed a set of ethnographic practices of close documentation of the materiality (and indeed immateriality) of human experience, as well as an understanding of cultural change and innovation over the long term. Archaeology offers unique insights into the pattern and logic of human making, as well as into the genealogy of human being. All these are crucial to truly human-centered design practice. The theme of EPIC2010 – Dô and Do – offers a great opportunity to explore some of these archaeological insights. In particular I will explore intimate associations of tradition and innovation through the archaeological concept of “assemblage”– a shorthand term for the distributed, ontologically heterogeneous character of human making. I will show how lasting innovation is often built on a profound reception and engagement with tradition. Examples will be drawn from my expertise in European prehistory and Graeco-Roman antiquity, chosen to compliment the contributions to the conference.