‘Tales of Things’ is an experimental project brought to us as a collaboration from universities including UCL and Brunel. In its own words the site “explores social memory in the emerging culture of the Internet of things”. Using QR codes, the website allows you to tag any object you desire with a ‘tale’. The concept explores the fact that everything we use has memories associated with it, so you can see who sat on an old piano stool, or when you visit a prominent London landmark you can leave a ‘tale’ about your visit or special memory there. Warm and fuzzy feelings all round. Everyone likes a good story.
'Facebook Of Things'
The website is still in beta and the quality of curation definitely isn’t where it needs to be yet. However, there is plenty here for the history lovers amongst us, ranging from the genuinely fascinating to the enjoyably random, such as the Guard Ring Diode (not sure where you’d find one of these). One expects that interesting historical profiles of objects like this will develop with time. In contrast some of the location submissions contain totally irrelevant tales such as Southbank’s Crystal Palace with “Is this a tall tower?”
‘Tales of Things’ isn’t that new - it launched in April 2010 - but a recent twist on the concept, courtesy of Oxfam, introduces two key new things - personality and a social layer. The organisation (which has 15,000 shops globally, including 750 in the UK) is working on an accessible-to-all, local level project (they previously did some high profile pop up work with Annie Lennox), that will see 20 of their stores add QR codes to clothing items. Users will be able to scan items to see previous stories, and add their own via the accompanying mobile app. The ultimate goal would be that all second hand items include some kind of attached memory or tale, allowing people to buy a piece of history, and to participate in an ongoing narrative.
Oxfam found in a week-long test in an outlet in Manchester sales increased by 41%. The campaign appears highly successful in changing people’s perceptions of the origins of second hand items; adding a perceived value to the goods people are buying. It’s also a step forward from an environmental point of view, as we all know we need to move away from our extreme ‘throwaway’ culture; especially when it comes to fashion.
Browsing has always been a key element of the charity shop experience and turning each outlet into a highly personal, highly engaging museum will increase both footfall and dwell-time. Anecdotally it seems that people -including myself - would be far more interested in charity shops and their contents if this was implemented on a larger scale.
If more charities and purveyors of reusable goods recognise the value of ‘Tales of Things’, this could be a great way to make many happy memories together.