(Re)making meaning: valorization in a wasteful world

Plymouth College of Art in association with the Community21 and The University of Brighton. Convened by Nick Gant, co-founder of Community21.org and Principal Lecturer, the School of Architecture and Design, University of Brighton.


This workshop will explore notions of meaning and making and (re)making meaning in the context of sustainable design-to-make practices.

Valorization is a term commonly used in the waste and recycling industry, describing a mechanized process of collecting, sorting and (re)processing waste to create value within more circular-material-economies. There is much science, engineering and technology being deployed and developed to support the technical, transformation of ‘stuff’ from waste to something more valued.

This workshop asks, what is that ‘something’, and how is it valued - by who and why?

'Sole Searching', Nick Gant and Tanya Dean.

We note how makers of all kinds are positively engaging with diverse and creative processes of material valorization and working-with-waste. Moreover, many of the approaches being deployed are not solely technical but are also critical and cultural and, within these broad terms, are seeking to be meaningful.

This workshop therefore holds that when we (re)make with waste we need to explore both the behaviour of matter, and matters of behaviour. Sustainability is a social as much as (if not more than) a material issue. As such, (re)making is not solely a technical process, but also a revealing of how and why we might value stuff – a recognition that waste is a result of what we think and feel as well as what we physically do.

We invite papers and practice-led case studies to, and participation in, a workshop that will explore sustainable design-to-make and (re)making practices through research theory and practice, discourse and evidence, by asking:

    • What can we, and the wider world, learn from the maker community when seeking more ‘virtuous-circular-economies’ in a time of finite material resources, ecological destruction and social and economic insecurity?
    • What are the means and (more systematically speaking) methods through which we might add value to society, culture and economy through (re)making based on reused or ‘waste’ materials?
    • What material ‘languages’ are being used to communicate, prod, push and even provoke consumer culture towards new values and new futures?
    • How do we capture and define this material and cultural messaging, and its lexicon, as it emerges? In short, how should we communicate and share the values we might create through [re]making intended to benefit society, economy and the environment?

In this workshop, we welcome novel contributions to the theory and practice of meaning-making in the context of sustainable design-to-make practices. We require abstracts that clearly define the processes by which you are ‘making-research’ in relation to the above themes. Papers might also propose activities and objects as part of their submission as long as these are intended to promote understanding and dissemination.

We plan to develop and expand an explicit framework for valorization through (re)making - collectively gathering new and novel examples as part of a creative space where contributors come together in the aim of literally ‘making a difference’ through the creation of value and meaning.

Note, this workshop will be complimented by an exhibition: ‘Sole-Searching the Valorisation Framework’ by the workshop conveners Nick Gant and Tanya Dean, (see Associated Exhibitions). This is intended to help map some of the material methods that add social, economic and cultural value to waste materials that have been gathered and (re)made over an 8-year period through industry workshops.