LUNAR Vending Machine Project
In this project, I am inquisitive about the future of traditional festivals in China. The Spring Festival is used as an example of a traditional festival removed from Chinese public holidays in the future. The discourse includes various social, environmental and political reasons that have led to the decreasing popularity of traditional festival today and possible new ways of celebrating it in the future. There are few layers of messages that I intend to convey through this project. The first message discusses how changes in people’s lifestyles impact the way they celebrate traditional festivals. There seem to be inevitable conflicts between some traditional practices and the technological development of modern China and the values of the young generations. If traditional festivals have to go through changes just as how it went through in the past thousands of years, what those changes might be in the near future? In China where digital payments, virtual products, and personal entertainments are trendy, would such as a vending machine that delivers nostalgic experiences be desirable in the future? There is also an implicit critique of the Chinese government for making regulations disregarding the public’s different voices on traditional festival celebrations. Because of the controversies, this projects provides a specific future scenario, and the artifact can be used as a tool for more open and diverse discussions encompassing the discourse.
The LUNAR Vending Machine quests the role of traditional festivals in China, both today and in the future. To provoke more responses from potential audiences, it is placed in an extreme future setting in mainland China where traditional festivals are removed from national public holidays. It will be a society with prevalent digital products, autonomous services, and emphasis on individual entertainments. There are already many debates about traditional festivals in today’s China, and through a future artifact and scenario, audiences will have a very specific entry point for further discussion.
The Spring festival has a long history. It is celebrated in most Chinese-speaking countries and regions and is also gaining popularity overseas. In China’s society today, the Spring Festival is getting less popular among the young generations as many of them reject the propaganda messages and old traditions. The family reunion was once the most important traditions, but now people can easily video chat with families, send holiday wishes and the “lucky money” digitally. Many people chose not to return homes during the Spring festival break to avoid high traveling costs. The Chinese government also banned firecrackers and fireworks entirely in recent years under the threat of smog, but firecracker and fireworks were important parts of the traditional festival celebration. Surveys show that many people think traditional festivals no longer have the festival atmosphere without those components, and some others question the purpose of still celebrating traditional festivals if the only attractive activity was shopping for festival discounts. Another group asks for more democracy in the decision making. The Chinese central government makes regulations and policies that have big impacts on people’s lifestyles, and many people think their voices are underrepresented.
In the social imaginary of this future Chinese society, there is not only high desire for autonomy and technology but also stronger demand for individualization. For a long time in China, there was no clear pursuit of one’s “self”; a person is a part of the family and the community. Unlike the previous generations who would sacrifice individual feelings for families and communities, the young generation in China, especially the “single child” generations have a strong demand for individual lives. In the future setting of this project, this group becomes the major components of the Chinese society. The LUNAR Vending Machine provides a mode of consumption and festival celebration that would never be expected in an old Chinese society as the Spring Festival was supposed to be the biggest collective and national event. For the young generations, traditional festivals no longer mean family reunion or public celebration, but occasions for them to reward themselves with buying new things or traveling during the holiday break. Many of them may still have nostalgic feelings of traditional festivals, and if the Spring Festival do disappear from national holidays in the future, people would embrace new ways of satisfying their personal need for nostalgic experiences. The vending machine is an example of a possible future transition in festival celebration: from collective events to individualized choices.
Additionally, the project makes a critique of the Chinese government. The Chinese government’s ban on fireworks and firecrackers is an important background information about this project, and its consequential debates led to discussions beyond the conflicts of environmental regulations and traditional cultures. In China, despite the dramatic changes in the economy, technology, people’s values and lifestyles, different voices are still being neglected. In the project, therefore, the Spring Festival in China disappears because of a new governmental decision. Under such circumstances, people would find new ways of celebrating the festivals and discussing the topic.
With an inquisitive mindset, I am not proposing any advice or warnings in this project. My goal is to design a world and an object that can be used as tools for more discussion. Therefore, feedback from actual audiences on this project becomes crucial. There are two types or stages of the disseminating this project. The first and the more achievable one would be creating a fake news report about this project that draws people’s attention. After seeing this project within the scenario itself, people are directed to a more explanatory project description and can leave their comments. For more valuable feedback, it is also possible to make the vending machine real. It is within the capacities of current technology and fabrication methods. More people and resources are needed for launching this project in China. The vending machine will be left in a crowded shopping district during the Spring Festival, and the audiences become the actual users who have direct user experiences. The design team will stay nearby, and the users can ask questions about the artifact or give thoughts on the project in general.