I use the idea of anti-ergonomy
to pierce the veil of objects imbued with charismatic authority (holy water, iPhone, etc) and
expose the often contradictory value systems of the stakeholders.
A quick illustration:l Let's look at the french baguette. It has a number of
features of value to the baker that are not ergonomic to the buyer. It is made of white
bread and of less cost and nutritional value than whole wheat. It goes stale fast so you have
to go back to the baker several times a day and it is too long to fit in bags so it sticks out
advertising itself. At first glance we see two value system with some mutually beneficial aspects and some antagonistic elements. It turns out to be more subtle though. Baguettes used to
be expensive (and in fact deliberately shaped to evade a law controlling bread prices) so
advertising them was a benefit to purchaser (as declaration of social status) and to the
baker to attract more customers.
Notice that many of these value systems would not emerge when looking at the baguette
functionally as an engineer might or nutritionally. This is a common situation
and can be seen in its extreme form with holy water, the value of which stems from
social agreement to its value established by ritual not by engineering in the usual sense.
Stanford Gates B01 Auditorium