Here’s an interesting blog post from a UK-based company “The Album People” that talks about why humans keep things. It makes reference to a study done by Microsoft in the UK about a common practice it called the “home archiving of cherished objects.” (although I prefer to just call it keeping things.) It struck me as a bit odd that a high-tech company would spend money to research a subject as quaint as home archiving. But then I thought about just how much all the data that’s being uploaded and forever archived on the internet has the potential to fundamentally change how future generations will store and recall their own digitized pasts. Some people have even gone as far as to attach wearable video cameras to themselves and record every minute of their lives (they’re called “lifeloggers“). But even if computers will one day have the power to store everything we’ve ever had contact with and do much of the hard work of remembering for us, it will never replace the need for human brains to interpret and give meaning to all that massive amount of data.
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As an outside observer it’s hard to imagine how a short fictitious story could prompt a rational person to pay $54 for this beat-up diving mask. But it happened, and The Significant Objects Project proved that it can be done repeatedly, legally, and entirely ethically (since the buyer had full knowledge of the concept and knew that the item had little monetary value.) Although I’m sure there were plenty of examples of buyer’s remorse, a good story can be used to add meaning and emotional connection, and therefore value, to otherwise worthless objects.
This may seem trivial on the surface, but the implications are wider-ranging than you might think. Good marketers do this sort of thing all the time…
Here’s an intriguing article about something called the “significant objects project”. The brainchild of author Joshua Glenn, the project showed how fictional stories written about “nearly worthless thingamajigs” could increase their resale value (via eBay) by as much as 2,700 percent. But the idea was no scam, in fact, the concept was completely transparent to the buyers, as no attempt was made to pass off the fictional stories as real.
Makes me wonder how much value could be added by a true story?
Mr. Glenn’s website and accompanying book Taking Things Seriously bring up a number of interesting theories about the nature of the things we keep, which I’ll be exploring in later posts.