K. Krippendorff. Meanings in the lives of artifacts. Chapter five of The Semantic Turn: A New Foundation for Design. Taylor & Francis Group. 2006. pp. 177-191.

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In chapter five, Krippendorff analyses how the meaning of artifacts change during their life cycles. For Krippendorff, the traditional life cycle of an artifact (design, production, use, retirement) is however almost an illusion. The chapter starts with a thought provoking statement “…artifacts of not have a clear beginning and and.” and few sentences later “There is also no beginning and no end to design”. The idea of no beginning and no end is related to a viewpoint that recognizes multiple stakeholders and sees an artifact existing as soon as and as long as there are stakeholders who keep them in some kind of form (draft, prototype, tool, historical relic). During its life cycle, artifact goes through many transformations, e.g. from design to prototype, from one use to another use. In order to stay ‘alive’ through the transformations, the artifact needs to be meaningful to those who are moving it from one definition to another.

The chapter provides also an interesting critique towards Norman’s conception of meaning (of an artifact). According to Krippendorff, meaning of an artifact is not restricted to just psychological aspects, but expands to social. In addition, Krippendorff does not agree with Norman’s generalizations of what e.g. emotions are better in relation to products. And thirdly, Norman’s conception of meaning is restricted to its use. If the life cycle of an artifact is seen as transformations in the hands of different stakeholders, for example efficiency measures are not generalizable.

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