Melany Bates, Senior in Design Studies

“It is the very aura of the disinterested, the noncommercial, bordering on the “otherworldly” that makes culture so attractive to corporations or the promotion of a political agenda. The cloak of culture protects them against public scrutiny of labor practices, health and safety of plants/products, environmental record, as well as attempts to influence public policy on taxes, trade, regulations, etc. We must fend off the takeover of culture, our turf, and its subjection to the business rationale-with its inevitable consequences of censorship and self-censorship. We have to fight against being made stooges in corporate and political strategies.” -Hans Haacke

I tread down a steep slope while try to find a stable position on the idea of truth behind design. I am coaxed into believing only one side of local or global issues and trusting in the legitimacy of dynamic creations. Public opinion is shaped by the media, but then that public opinion affects what corporations and politicians do. This makes me question who is in control. Who is controlling who? How is public opinion shaped? Through ideas and social interaction conveyed by designers. It was a filmmaker and activist, Edward Burtynsky, who initially provoked these thoughts in me. Through his films on waste and pollution, he seeks to reveal the ‘truth’ behind what is really going on. Edward Burtynsky, who challenges what he believes to be false information put into a reality that shapes society’s beliefs on environmental sustainability.

Edward Burtynsky isn’t so much talking about it, as he is revealing it. Through photography, exhibitions, and visual lectures, Burtynsky unveils his reality of society’s destruction of the environment. His truths contradict what certain media releases as the supposed truth. Mind you I have repeated that these are his beliefs; therefore, show his bias on what he believes to be distorted information. While Burtynsky travels to known manufacturing cities, capturing destruction of natural landscapes through a lens, high-powered influences of those manufacturing cities convey a vastly different display. Supporters of industry without knowledge of how mass-production affects the environment, or know and choose to ignore the facts so long as commerce is profiting, object Burtynsky’s ideal truths. What is the actual story? How can an audience be certain they are acquiring the right knowledge? Is reality being distorted? Demonstrations of media contributors shape what they want society to believe is the truth.

Whatever beliefs floating around, there are always bias created, yet need to be cautioned. Everyone has different beliefs and various biases that are stored in their designs. My position is not to convince you that Burtynsky is right and the big corporation is wrong. Rather, I take the position as a designer to caution other designers and followers of media to distinguish between harsh reality and false truths. We should not, rather, we cannot settle for what the media disseminates as reality. It is the responsibility of the designer to create products of sustain and truths, and contest what is spoon-fed to the rest of society.  All in all, the big idea is that we need to be critical and diligent to make sure that we fully understand what it is being promoted. We might think we know, but if we don’t take the time to understand all sides of the issue then we aren’t doing our job as a designer.

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