This conference encouraged an interdisciplinary approach that addressed the interface between the industrial and developing worlds and encompass a long historical period. Material culture is an essential aspect of creating distinction and identity and has become an antidote to the homogenising effects of globalisation. How does this compare with times past?. Central to many of the papers are themes of cultural borrowing, global communication and considerations of material culture and design used strategically to create distinction and identity in the past and in the present. The conference was convened by Moira Vincentelli.