A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay!
- The project’s curators purchase objects — for no more than a few dollars — from thrift stores and garage sales.
- A participating writer is paired with an object. He or she then writes a fictional story, in any style or voice, about the object. Voila! An unremarkable, castoff thingamajig has suddenly become a “significant” object!
- Each significant object is listed for sale on eBay. The s.o. is pictured, but instead of a factual description the s.o.’s newly written fictional story is used. However, care is taken to avoid the impression that the story is a true one; the intent of the project is not to hoax eBay customers. (Doing so would void our test.) The author’s byline will appear with his or her story.
- The winning bidder is mailed the significant object, along with a printout of the object’s fictional story. Net proceeds from the sale are given to the respective author. Authors retain all rights to their stories.
- The test’s results — photos, original prices and final sale prices, stories — are cataloged on this website. The project’s curators retain the right to use these materials in other venues and media. For example: Maybe we’ll publish a book.
Rob Walker’s 2008 book, Buying In, and Joshua Glenn’s 2007 book, Taking Things Seriously, examined — using very different approaches — the manifold ways in which all of us, whether we realize it or not, invest inanimate objects with significance. But “significance” is such a hazy concept… so they agreed that it would be both interesting and fun to set up an experiment in which significance was artificially cooked up under controlled conditions and applied to insignificant objects.
KEEP TABS ON THE PROJECT