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Necessary Objects

I’m a frustrated academic at heart.  Two of the happiest times in my life: senior year in college while completely immersed in writing my thesis on Henri Matisse, and two years of M.A.-level study in art history and criticism at SUNY Stony Brook.  From where I sit now, a creaky working gal toiling in the real world of clients and profit margins, those student days seem like a carefree nirvana where the only real worries I had were whether my housemate would let me borrow her Mac Classic, and how to keep straight the definitions of structuralist and semiotic.  So imagine my bliss to discover the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.  Just the sound of it sets my inner grad student all a-quiver. The focus, from their website:  

“Beyond catalyzing changes in what we do, technology affects how we think. The Internet has emerged as a new context for self-exploration and social encounter; psychopharmacology, robotics, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence — all are technologies that raise fundamental questions about selfhood, identity, community, and what it means to be human. “

Professor Sherry Turkle, founder and current director of the Initiative, has edited a collection of essays entitled “Evocative Objects: Things we Think With.”  It’s got prime position on the top of my nightstand pile and is a fascinating look at how we imbue the everyday objects in our lives with great meaning, memory, affection…any PR practitioner in the business of helping clients sell stuff would be well-served to read it. 

Back to art history, taking a cue from Rene Magritte:  when is a Tupperware* cannister not a Tupperware cannister? Oh, say, when it’s a receptacle for every positive childhood memory you ever had of making (and storing) holiday cookies with your mom every Christmas.  Keep going with that train of thought, and the plastic container becomes a symbol of the very essence of your relationship with your mom, and all the baggage that comes with that…you get the idea.  

The more we understand about how we interact with the everyday things surrounding us, the better we can tap into the emotional wellsprings from which meaningful product stories emerge. 

*DeVries Client Alert

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  1. July 9, 2008 at 12:09 am

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