Design as Regulation

Opportunities and Limitations for Sustainable Mobile Phone Design
  • Maja van der Velden
Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 490)


Mobile phones have become one of the most unsustainable consumer goods. Social and environmental risks are found throughout the whole lifecycle of mobile phones. This chapter introduces the notion of lifecycle thinking to take sustainability beyond the product towards the larger product-system. Design can play a central role creating sustainable product lifecycles, but is constraint by other modes of regulation, such as law, social norms, and market. This paper explores the opportunities and limitations of design as regulation. The relational concepts of script and affordance help to provide a non-deterministic account of design as regulation. The particular case of the Fairphone 2, a smartphone designed with social and environmental values, will be discussed to investigate design as regulation. The notions of regulatory ecology and regulatory patching are introduced as tools to explore opportunities for constructing a more desirable regulatory regime.


Architectural regulation Circular products Fairphone Lifecycle Planetary boundaries Rebound effect Regulatory ecology 



This chapter is written as part of SMART, a HORIZON2020-financed research project (grant agreement No. 693642). I thank my SMART colleagues for valuable discussions and comments.


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OsloOsloNorway

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