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Rob Walker
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Projects


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.”
— Core77

Significant Objects, 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.”  
— Consumerist

On Twitter: @Unconsumption

MLK BLVD: 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:
http://mlkblvd.wordpress.com/coverage/ 
Rob Walker is a technology/culture columnist for Yahoo News. He is the former Consumed columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and has contributed to many publications. He is co-editor (with Joshua Glenn) of the book Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things, and author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are


Recent Book



Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things
Edited by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn
Fantagraphics, 2012
More Books >>


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Other Essays: 2010-2012


Etsy Goes Pro
Wired, October 2012

Tumblr Follows Its ♥
The New York Times Magazine, July 12, 2012

What It Takes To Be A 'Tuber
The New York Times Magazine, June 28, 2012

A Product of Creative Friction
The New York Times Magazine, June 3, 2012

This Brand Is Your Brand
OnEarth Magazine, May 31, 2012

MakerBot's Meta-Tools
Fast Company, January 2012

Politics As Entertainment
The New York Times Magazine, January 4, 2012

The Dog Ate My Paycheck
Marketplace, December 16, 2011

Recognizably Anonymous
December 8, 2011: Slate

A Visual Object for the Digital Era
December 2011: The Atlantic

What Percent Are You, Really? 
November 29, 2011: Marketplace

The Machine That Makes You Musical
October 23, 2011: The New York Times

The Cult of Bang & Olufsen
October 2011: Wired

4CP Friday: Effacement
September 2011: HiLobrow

Replacement Therapy
September 2011: The Atlantic

Not All Consumers Are Equal
August 18, 2011: Marketplace

The Trivialities and Transcendence of Kickstarter 
August 5, 2011: The New York Times Magazine

The Swan Song of the Top 40
July 15, 2011: The New York Times Magazine

Foursquare's Branding With Badges
July 5, 2011: Slate

Failure Chic
June 16, 2011: Marketplace

Hiring "the crowd" for a design job
May 31, 2011: Slate

Advertising that's "relevant" — but to whom?
May 23, 2011: Marketplace

Disliking "Dislike"
March 31, 2011: Marketplace

The Propaganda of Concern
March 22, 2011: Slate

The Sound of Radiolab
The New York Times Magazine, April 7, 2011

Disliking "Dislike" 
Marketplace, March 31, 2011

Fun Stuff (Digital Collections)
The New York Times Magazine, February 11, 2011

Go Figure (Scalies)
The New York Times Magazine, February 4, 2011

Ghosts In The Machine
The New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2011

Collecting: Bicentennial Quarters
DesignObserver.com December 9, 2010

Go Figure (Scalies)
The New York Times Magazine, February 4, 2011

The Hidden: Filtering "Friends" On Facebook
TheAtlatntic.com, October 4, 2010

Hearing Things (Music Objects) 
The New York Times Magazine, September 10, 2010

Taking Lulz (Sort of) Seriously 
The New York Times Magazine, July 16, 2010

Brilliant Mistakes (Digital Antiquing) 
The New York Times Magazine, July 25, 2010

Valuing $0 (Gifts) 
The New York Times Magazine, May 13, 2010

Rewind (The Cassette) 
The New York Times Magazine, April 23, 2010

Slightly Used (Best Made Ax) 
The New York Times Magazine, April 3, 2010

Clutter, Objects, Joy
Murketing.com, March 4, 2010

Shopping Our Way To Safety (Review) 
The Journal of Industrial Ecology, February 2010

The Unlikely Success of Boing Boing 
Fast Company, December 2010/January 2010

Site and Sound: One Home, Sixteen Objects and the Things We Listen to Now
Essay for Rewind, Remix, Replay exhibition at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, January 20, 2010

Complete List >>




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