The Hypothetical Development Organization
, founded in 2010, by G.K. Darby, Ellen Susan and Rob Walker, is dedicated to the recognition and extension of a new form of urban storytelling. Members of this organization begin the narrative process by examining city neighborhoods and commercial districts for compelling structures that appear to have fallen into disuse — “hidden gems” of the built environment. In varying states of repair, these buildings suggest only stories about the past, not the future. As a public service, H.D.O. invents a hypothetical future for each selected structure. Unlike a traditional, reality-based developer, however, our organization is not bound by rules relating to commercial potential, practical materials, or physics. In our view, plausibility is a creative dead end. That is to say: We are not trying to fool anybody. H.D.O. creates convincing renderings of these imagined future uses. These renderings are, in the tradition of the form, printed onto large signs, and shared with the public in general. Each structure selected by H.D.O. will, for a time, present to the world the fascinating potential future we have invented. Members of the Hypothetical Development Organization come from a variety of fields, such as photography, architecture, journalism, publishing and design. However, this project is a labor of love. It is a new form of fiction. But also, it’s real.
The Hypothetical Development Organization: New Orleans Edition, made its debut in December 2010. Visit HypotheticalDevelopment.com
(and our Facebook page
) for more information about and documentation of the project — or see the monograph Implausible Futures For Unpopular Places
“A full-fledged conversation around urban storytelling, the heights of public imagination and reclaiming unused space.”
, founded in 2009 by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, is an experiment in the relationship between narrative and value. The hypothesis: Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively. This notion was tested by recruiting top-notch creative writers to invent stories about bottom-rung secondhand objects — and selling those objects on eBay with the invented narrative as the product description. The initial experiment sold $128.74 worth of thrift-store flotsam for $3,612.51; a sequel was even more successful. Full results can be explored at SignificantObjects.com
, and in a forthcoming book from Fantagraphics.
“If this is a cynical marketeer’s scam, rather than a mildly romantic social experiment, then consider me conned. Significant Objects combines one of the oldest of all media — the near-improvised short story — with the reinvigorated writer-reader relationship afforded by Web 2.0. What a thrill to be the nominal owner of a tale told by a favourite author, and to possess the very thing that inspired them — even if that significant object is too darned ugly for any sensible person’s mantelpiece.”
— Couch Surfer, The Independent of London
On Twitter: @SignificObs
The Unconsumption Project
, is dedicated to mindful consumer behavior and creative reuse. Its flagship manifestation is the popular Unconsumption Tumblr
and Twitter feed. The project also includes a wiki-in-progress. A collaborative effort, Unconsumption was founded and is overseen by Rob Walker, the Editorial & Community Manager is Molly Block and current contributors are Clifton Burt, Steve Chaney, Brian W. Jones, Deirdre Nelson, Lee Sachs and Shanna Trenholm.
“Americans don't truly care about things. What we care about is getting new things — constantly upgrading to the bigger and better and more fashionable. Unconsumption sets itself out against this tide, looking at products beyond that pivotal moment of purchase to how things are actually used, reused, and repurposed. If this sounds awfully theoretical, it shouldn't.”
On Twitter: @Unconsumption
: This open-source, open-ended photojournalism project began in 2005, with the creation of a Flickr pool
welcoming images of Blvds., Drives, Avenues, Streets, Ways, etc., named after Martin Luther King, Jr., from all around the United States. With hundreds of contributions, it led to the creation, in 2007, of MLKBLVD.wordpress.com
, which highlights particularly interesting images, and includes occasional links to relevant articles, essays, and other material. Prior examinations of MLKs have, by necessity, been filtered through perspective of an individual or small group; this project aims to open up the subject to many interpretations, neither embracing nor rejecting any particular point of view, or pre-existing assumption. With contributions from more than 50 cities and towns, MLK BLVD welcomes you to join in with your own.
Prior coverage of this project: