The Societal Shift Into Post-Modernism

BDES 1201 — Week 9

This week’s readings are encapsulating the Postmodernist era. This era departed from the values of Modernism. Taking place in the mid to late Twentieth Century, Post-Modernism brought forth rejection and skepticism of the ideologies of Modernism. This new era had become a powerful driving force in the world of art, literature, architecture, and history. It presented its nihilistic views and questioned the narratives of our society and cultures.

We will be taking a look at “The Post-Modern Information World and the Rise of the Cognitariat” written by Charles Jencks from “The Industrial Design Reader’’ (2003) as well as a look through Woodham’s chapter 3 on postmodernism in “Twentieth Century Design.” Both authors keep neutrality on the topic of postmodernism, presenting both the advantages and disadvantages of the movement, allowing us to understand the era in its entirety.

The first reading up for review is “The Post-Modern Information World and the Rise of the Cognitariat’’. Jencks helped popularize the term “postmodernism” in the design fields. His writing focuses on the changes that occurred on a societal and cultural level, as well as the socio-economical effects Postmodernism created. Jencks calls attention to changes that were brought forth because of this new movement, for example the cultural eclecticism, Pluralism, the increasing gap in the population between the poor and wealthy statuses ( the Cognitariat and The Proletariat), and the configuration of virtual communities (Global Village) due to the preference of the digital at the cost of what’s real. In Contrast to the high production of manufactured goods during the Modernism movement to segmented production (Jencks, 143), Post-Modernism focused more on the production of knowledge and ideas, they broke away from the traditional values of Fordism.

Woodham’s chapter 3 labeled “Pop to Post-Modernism Changing Values” talks about how Postmodernism was to become “the Second Machine Age, a means of mass-communication dispensing popular entertainment. The Second Age was to distribute electronics and synthetic chemicals over a large part of society.” (Woodham, 148) Television became a symbol for the age as it became a popularized commodity within households of the upper middle classes, this influenced popular culture and individual thinking. Due to the influence of the technology during the Postmodernism era, the style in these times was described to be very chaotic. The Memphis group, an Italian design and architecture group, was an excellent representation of the movement. They broke away from the values of modernism; their work is bright, and full of colours, oddly shaped, its intentions were to be industrially produced through the use of plastics and metals.

OCAD U’s Sharp Center for Design —

In last week’s article we concluded with the overlook of Modernism being quite prevalent in today’s modern age, although we see a lot of minimalistic designs within architecture and art, Post-Modernism highly resonates within our technology driven and multicultural society. There are still many prevalent and famous landmarks within our own City of Toronto such as the OCADU building. This building showcases the element of gravity which was popular amongst postmodernist architects that enjoyed experimenting with it. You can see the transition of simplicity from modernism to postmodernism is more decorative and chaotic and eye-catching due to the exposure of technological aspects.

Questions to Ponder:

What symbol would you think is best suited to represent our Modern Era?

What are the main differences that can be observed between Modernism and Post-Modernism?

Do you believe that the shift from Fordism based work traditions that occurred in the Post-Modern Era benefitted us as a society? Why or why not?

Works Cited:

Woodham, Jonathan M. “Twentieth-Century Design”, 1997. Chapter 8.

Jencks Charles. “The Post-Modern Information World and the Rise of the Cognitariat.” The Industrial Design Reader. Ed. Carma Gorman. New York: Allworth Press, 2003. 223–227.

Word Count: 513




Student of the DXD program at George Brown.

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Maya Sonya Sowinski

Maya Sonya Sowinski

Student of the DXD program at George Brown.

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