Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (2) Posted 07.07.11 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Would You Like Words With That?



Svpply

Way back at Christmastime I assigned myself a blog post about all the social shopping sites: Polyvore, Thingd, Svpply, and so on, that let you share your taste in whatever with whomever in easily clickable form. I even went so far as to put together my own private good design for toys assortment as a form of positive criticism after I dissed the market for the wooden, the simple and the primary colored as being for parents rather than kids. (Since that story ran, my son has found a use for the Automoblox. He's popped off all the wheels and arranges them as floor sculpture.)

But then I lost interest. I love stuff, not shopping, and these sites seemed to push sharing into the almost purely commercial realm. (Of course, you say, since they will only survive on advertising.) But I couldn't help but think that there was something missing in all that white space. We are what we buy, but some of us still need a narrative.


The Mavenist

The connection of stories and stuff is a perennial theme of my newish colleague Rob Walker's, from his Significant Objects project to his essays on Things Organized Neatly and, last week, The Burning House and Everyday Carry. These Tumblrs, which are almost entirely visual, have their story in the title. The people who submit things simply illustrate that story, over and over again, their pocket hauls revealing patterns (knives, iPhones), their must-saves revealing penchants for brand names. I can't think of a thing I would save except my kids.

But even so, I wanted more. When Frank Chimero announced his new blog The Mavenist (and please, please, stop with the -ists) it was with a long post about the difference between a gift and a collection, and included this description:
I’ve always wanted to have a blog where I could share the things I like: items of timely interest and the different curiosities I’ve amassed in my personal files the past few years. These things really should be shared (in the true sense) because they are gifts. Many of them were given to me, and if there is a benefit to the idea of giving a digital gift, it is that each time it changes hands, a copy is made. I do not lose my gift by giving it to you. Gifts may spread further and travel farther.
I took this to be literally true, that he was creating a site through which he and friends could share stories about stuff. But it was only a metaphor. His site is about conversation, not things and not, as I desire, both.


Everything Must Go

The site I have in mind has only been approximated, ironically, by Chappell Ellison as she tries to get rid of everything. She has the storytelling element, and a template that involves words as well as pictures. Getting rid of things is a mini-meme, and I agree we over-consume. But couldn't there be a web forum for thoughtful consumption? What's still missing is history. Why can't all these shopping sites have room for talk? To mention a designer, a date, a significance that isn't made up or personal? 

Could there be a Syms of stuff blogs, for the educated consumer?
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Lunch With The Critics: Third-Annual Year-End Awards


Crowdcrit vs. Apple Maps


3rd Annual Holiday Card Review


Against Kickstarter Urbanism


Criticism Kerfuffle 2010



RSS Subscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (2)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Enjoyable post, Alexandra. I've yet to try any of those social shopping sites you mention, but the ones I've signed up for tend to bore me pretty quickly, for reasons similar to yours.

This is not a shopping site, nor is it quite what you're looking for, I don't think, but another variation that may be of interest is Itizen, have you seen that?
http://itizen.com/

You're supposed to tag stuff and tell its story, etc., similar to the personal-story form favored by the "giving things away" crowd. But sometimes it's being used by object-creators. Maybe similar to the way that people in the craft world, and indie brands, and to some extent luxury brands, tell (selective) object backstories about how a thing was made/designed and by whom. There is just slightly more here if of interest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/magazine/05FOB-Consumed-t.html
Rob Walker
07.10.11 at 04:18

Thanks, missed this the first time around.

Itizen is not quite what I had in mind, but it seems like it would be a perfect merge with some of the stuff-sharing sites for parents. That's clearly not their target demographic (it never is for techy things, but that's another post), but what needs a tag with tips more than a bouncy chair or stroller? "Terrible at the beach," or "Only useful between weeks 10 and 25."

I guess what I want is a way to tell real, rather than manufactured or cravenly branded history of objects. I'm not sure how many would be interested besides me, but it seems like the existing templates could easily be tweaked to include more information. It would be like a bite-sized version of the longform sites, archiving information in a new way for new audiences.

07.10.11 at 08:37



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




|
Share This Story



Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>