“Downcycling” and “pragmatic reuse”?

We need categories in order to think clearly about problems, but we do not want categories which block our thinking, nor artificial ones. And this applies all the more to an almost new field, like that of reuse.

I received some interesting comments, both personally and on the blog, on my last post on the categorization of reuse.
Starting from the most basic type of re-use, Vitus convinced me to adopt “downcycling” for a destructive type of recycling, which brings a substance back to its raw materials.

Next would come what Philipp Maas and I had called “simple re-use”, i.e., re-use only governed by pragmatic and economic reasons (the old material is cheaper and closer). Now, Cristina Bignami suggested to me that “simple” in “simple re-use” seems to imply a judgemental value. She and EM suggested, instead “linear re-use”. I am not completely convinced by that, since I generally dislike “linear” as a description of historical processes (which tend to be more complicated than linear), but could go back to my initial suggestion (see this presentation), i.e., “pragmatic re-use“.

Next there is the adaptive reuse. Cristina suggested to read Julia Hegewald’s new life re-use as a subscategory of adaptive reuse, in case the adaption leads to a real new life of the object. The terminology seems to imply a radical change (i.e., “new-life” is not part of a continuous grey scale, like “adaptive reuse”).

A further point raised by Cristina regards the point of view from which we speak of reuse. She fears we are too much focused on the artist and not on the audience. I would say that I tried to speak of awareness of the audience while defining adaptive reuse, but perhaps this is not enough?

What do you think of this new terminology? Please note that “conventional re-use” would in this way be left out (and would be either a case of pragmatic re-use or of weak adaptive reuse —don’t forget that the two terms only delineate the two extremes of a continous grey scale).

For more on simple re-use vs. adaptive reuse you can read my Introduction to a panel I co-hosted together with Philipp Maas, here, or click “reuse” in the category list on this blog.

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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