Curating Consumption #1

Welcome to the first post in a new series called ‘Curating Consumption.’ In this series we’ll be sharing some curious, provocative, amusing, and frightening observations that come from our daily experiences as researchers and as consumers.

Related posts:

In our work, we’re always looking a bit closer at what’s around us, and always trying to make sense of what we see. Of course, we won’t always have the answers, but we find a lot of value in at least asking the question. We hope you will as well.

This is not a door

When is a door not a door? When the sign on it clearly states “Do not Touch, Pull, or Use This Door. Thank You!” I came across this (not a) door during a recent fieldwork trip to New York City, where I found myself invariably studying every door I walked by because they all seemed to have great stories to tell. Sadly, this story is one of inability to fulfill one’s useful purpose. What is a door if it is not a portal to some other place; a threshold to cross? Now it is a wall, and a window. I wonder if it will be repaired or replaced or reframed as an aesthetic relic that will remain in its present location and state of dysfunction.

I wish I was flat

This television was hanging out on the sidewalk in the Mission, right here in San Francisco. I am curious who labeled this anthropomorphized electronic with feelings of inadequacy. It could have been added by a passerby; a reflective commentary on the choice by the TV’s previous owner to upgrade and abandon. In fact, a man passing me as I shot this picture told me “I love rich people, man! They throw away the greatest stuff. I got a vacuum cleaner last week that works perfect.” Or maybe the words were put there by the person who left that unsatisfying TV on the street. A “Dear John” letter from consumer to consumed: It’s not me, it’s you.

Irish fuel tanker

When visiting Dublin, I was prepared for (and delighted to experience) all Guinness, all the time. What I didn’t realize was the supporting infrastructure required to make that happen. They’ve got tanker trucks of the stuff rolling down the street to meet the demand.

Kony on the street

Just days after the Kony 2012 video went viral, hitting the national media, images of the dictator appeared as stencil art on the streets of Austin. From Facebook and YouTube, the story touched the activism (or some say slacktivism) nerve. But what meaning is implied or inferred when the medium changes? Stencil art is hip, ironic, anti-mainstream. The street art form has none of the outrage of the previous forms. Is the previously unknown Kony now accorded folk hero status?

Steve Portigal

Steve Portigal is the founder of Portigal Consulting, a bite-sized firm that helps clients to discover and act on new insights about themselves and their customers. He writes regularly for interactions magazine, Core77 and the Portigal Consulting blog, All This ChittahChattah.

Tamara Christensen

Tamara is the founder of Tamara Christensen Consulting. She loves to talk to strangers and is intrigued by how people narrate their lives and what their stories reveal about how they make meaning. She is driven by a desire to uncover everyday creativity in the way people establish rituals and relationships.

4 comments on this article

  1. Fer O'Neil on

    I like the idea of when a door is not a door. I looked at it through the lens of usability–if a designed feature X does not fulfill its purpose, it is not X.

  2. Tamara Christensen on

    And if it is not X, what do we call it? I don’t know what’s more troubling: the lack of X-ness or the lack of an alternative label.

  3. Pingback: All This ChittahChattah | Curating Consumption now playing at Johnny Holland

  4. Candace on

    The statement written on the TV portrays that “flat” is the new sexy in the TV realm. This punctures the traditional feminine belief that curves are sexier and elevates inhuman objects to cognizant and sensing elements. It seems as if electronic products strive to be as flat, thin, or practically non-existent as possible.