Things that tell you things, and what they tell you: Roundup post

The general subject of things that communicate about themselves, as well as the (in my view) related idea of “transparency” in the material marketplace, keeps coming up. I’ve written and linked about it several times in the last two or three months, but all that material is scattered around, so even though I’ll be repeating myself I want to try to gather it all in one post that I can add to as new developments or resources emerge.

As you’ll see, if you have the fortitude to wade through this, I have mixed feelings about the supposed “transparency” trend, and about the usefulness of what things are telling us, and are going to tell us. But my real point here isn’t to convince anybody of anything — I’m gathering material. So, if you know of other interesting examples I should be aware of, I welcome them and I thank you in advance.

First I’ll note something that might seem off point: I was interviewed not long ago by Paola Antonelli for the blog for her upcoming Talk To Me show at MoMA. Here’s the first question and answer:

PA – Do things actually talk to you, or do you rather kind of read them?

RW – I guess some combination — things call out for my attention sometimes. But you can’t necessarily trust what an object says about itself, can you? Many objects don’t really want you to know their material or labor back story, or the potential unpleasant consequences of their use. They just want you to know their features and their beauty, the usefulness and their appeal. So once some interesting thing has my attention, it’s more like trying to read it. The interesting objects are usually the ones open several readings.

So that’s what I’m interested in — yes, things are talking to us more, as it were. But are they telling us what we (should) want to know? Read more