Thinking out of Sync: A Theory of Obsolescence
  • Babette B. Tischleder
  • Sarah Wasserman


In a 2002 Ikea commercial, a woman unplugs a red desk lamp and carries it out of her home, depositing it with a bag of garbage on the sidewalk.1 The weather turns windy and wintry, and the camera lingers on the lamp standing in the rain, its shade and bulb turned toward the window of the house, where the woman sits dry and cozy in the warm glow of a new lamp. A spare piano score emphasizes the sad fate of the unloved red lamp until, suddenly, a man appears out of the darkness. He addresses the camera in an exaggerated Nordic accent. “Many of you feel bad for this lamp,” he says, as the rain drenches him. “That is because you’re crazy. It has no feelings! And the new one is much better.” The man departs and the ad concludes with the Ikea logo. Although the commercial suggests that we are “crazy” to feel sympathy for the old lamp and should instead embrace what is “new” and “better,” the ad in fact highlights the ambiguous dynamics of obsolescence that are the subject of this book. The lamp abandoned in the rain seems so charged with meaning, but the new nonetheless has a much stronger appeal. Obsolescence is fundamental to our consumer practices, our relationship to objects, and our everyday lives, and yet we reflect on it so infrequently.


Digital Technology Digital Device Creative Destruction Industrial Mutation Warm Glow 
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© Babette B. Tischleder and Sarah Wasserman 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Babette B. Tischleder
  • Sarah Wasserman

There are no affiliations available

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