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Objects tell human stories — real things connect people to ideas


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The explosion of digital technology is creating an interesting human problem — more media overwhelms us with messages we have no time to think about. Our natural human response is to rely on our intuition.

We are becoming more intuitive in a logic-driven age.

Unlike digital media made of code and numbers, physical objects are just like us — their very nature as separate entities is familiar to us and we innately understand them.

Maybe it’s time to rediscover the language of physical objects and use their considerable power to make intuitive connections and tell stories we don’t need to think about.

Published in: Technology, Sports

Objects tell human stories — real things connect people to ideas

  1. 1. Objects tell human stories Why what we share with physical objects makes them ideal for telling stories in the digital age!
  2. 2. Objects are the original expression of culture and civilisation Objects are one of the basic forms of human communication (along with speech, words and pictures). ! For millennia, objects were used to document human achievement — hence our museums are full of them.!
  3. 3. 1439: Here come words and pictures The invention of printing revolutionised communications by replacing objects with text and imagery as the dominant method of articulating ideas, culture and information.!
  4. 4. Genius medieval invention Eye magazine! Printing was the (almost — good for 550 years) perfect way to distribute information — cheap, fast and accessible. Gutenberg knew Information wanted to be free — given different technology, he’d have invented the internet.! Printing’s only limitation: it tied information to physical objects (e.g. books), which aren’t free.!
  5. 5. A revolution in two halves Far from being revolutionary, the explosion of digital media is merely the ultimate expression of Gutenberg’s medieval vision – free dissemination of information as words and pictures!
  6. 6. Free at last Eye magazine without the words and pictures! Digital technology frees information from the limitations of physical objects … and frees objects from the relentless demand of information’s need to be free (or failing that, cheap)*! * Gutenberg’s invention was pretty much perfect as he created it. 550 years of printing development has been almost entirely focused on making the object cheaper.!
  7. 7. A glut of information Liberated from the object, information exploded in an absolute abundance. Like any commodity in sudden over-supply, its currency has crashed.!
  8. 8. More information doesn’t always lead to better understanding As humans, we need intuitive / emotional references as well as information to understand what we want and need.!
  9. 9. For all the information that now surrounds us, we still only have 24 hours in a day. The over-supply of information has created a paucity of attention. !
  10. 10. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. Herbert Simon
  11. 11. We’re all now thinking less The human response to fastmoving, complex situations is to rely on primitive systems to gain a quick understanding (Kahnemann System 1). Thinking (System 2) is slower and hard work. And humans are lazy.! Technology and the glut of information is making us more intuitive*.! * BrainJuicer Research!
  12. 12. Thinking isn’t feeling Objects provide the intuitive and emotional context to information — what we feel rather than what we think.! And because our intuitive process are faster than our cognitive processes, intuition always informs our thinking.!
  13. 13. Thinking isn’t feeling Knitted! Cute, soft, cuddly, friendly, toy-like! Chainsaw! Hard, dangerous, frightening, definitely not a toy!
  14. 14. Our relationship with objects is intuitive and emotional. An object tells how it feels and how we feel about it (Sartre).! We surround ourselves with man-made objects that tell us who we are and how we fit in the world – we call our possessions our belongings.!
  15. 15. We are like objects As infants, we discover that we are separate entities with distinct boundaries between ourselves and the world we live in. ! We learn this through objects as they are separate entities too.!
  16. 16. Objects inform our basic understanding of the world around us — separate entities.!
  17. 17. We use the word thing to describe any perceived separate entity: – 1. An unspecified inanimate physical entity – e.g. clothing (“I haven’t a thing to wear”), possessions (“my things”) – 2. Any other living structure: animals (“all the things in the sea”), people (“you lucky thing”) – 3. An action, event, thought, or utterance: matters (“things have changed”), characteristics (“they had one thing in common”), abstract patterns (“the latest thing in retail”) – 4. An acknowledgement or response to a need: (“I’ve got just the thing for you”) – 5. Personal interests: (“reading isn’t my thing”) – 6. Linguistic emphasis: (“the thing is”)
  18. 18. The value of objects is intrinsic Objects communicate their value through their physicality. Their value is intrinsic — it’s necessary for them to be expensive; the more they cost, the more they say.! Nobody knows this better than Apple.!
  19. 19. Ownership is everything Communicating with objects involves a transfer of ownership and an intuitive understanding of loss and acquisition.! The currency of this transaction is the intrinsic value of the object.! Just like a gift, the more valuable the object, the better the communication.!
  20. 20. All objects have origin stories All objects are made by someone (or something) somewhere at some time — all have a story to tell.! A meteorite is the most travelled object on Earth. It’s travelled billions of miles to be in your hand.!
  21. 21. Objects are authentic We are all intimately familiar with the language of objects. We can spot fakery because it doesn’t feel right.!
  22. 22. A universal language Every infant in the world learns about objects — a universal experience that doesn’t favour old vs young, rich vs poor, east vs west.! Objects don’t have a specific audience; objects talk to everybody. !
  23. 23. Our interaction with objects is tactile, intuitive and emotional.! It’s all about how they feel when we hold them in our hands.!
  24. 24. FEEL = emotion! = tactile sensation! This is no linguistic coincidence. In our minds emotion and tactile sensation are conflated to be one and the same. ! Subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) emotion can present as tangible, physical sensation. !
  25. 25. Humans are tactile, emotional animals The innate human tendency to conflate tactile and emotional sensation is a powerful mechanic.! This mechanism is intuitive and fast. So, it’s possible to prime slower cognitive processes — to inform and change how people think.!
  26. 26. Objects are heuristics for overcrowded minds Objects can short-circuit slower, distracted and overloaded cognitive processes. ! If you want to make people feel something, rather than give them words and pictures that might trigger their emotions — just give them something they can feel.!
  27. 27. An intuitive, emotional medium for the digital age People need to know how things feel — especially when they don’t have time to think.!
  28. 28. We don’t just want more information We need better understanding
  29. 29. MAKE OBJECTS Tell Stories
  30. 30. ARTOMATIC is a unique physical communications agency that helps organisations tell their stories through real things that people hold in their hands.
  31. 31. We take take the essence of a brand, idea or message and physicalise it — creating and manufacturing real things that speak directly and powerfully to people.
  32. 32. CONTAINER is a new publication — a collection of original and exclusive objects commissioned from ten artists around a common theme.! The first issue, CONTAINER #1:Hot&Cold features original objects by Daniel Eatock, James Bridle, Mother, Malcolm Garrett and others and is produced in a limited edition of 200. Each copy is numbered and signed by all the artists.! CONTAINER #1:Hot&Cold is available at:! for £300 + shipping!
  33. 33. This thinking is available as a personal presentation to inspire strategic, creative and marketing teams. For 2014, each presentation comes with a free copy of CONTAINER #1:Hot&Cold
  34. 34. For more information: Tim Milne ARTOMATIC 32-38 Saffron Hill, London EC1N 8FH +44 207 421 9369 @timARTOMATIC