Stuff – Objects and Materiality in Society

Second year Constellation Study group. A topic which has long fascinated me as I like to explore the relationship between people and objects. Nowadays material items are an integral part of people’s lives, although if we look realistically, people don’t really need any of what they have. We identify ourselves with objects, we attach emotionally and add value to products, considering them valuable assets.

What is this module going to be about?

  • How is it that we value some things over others?
  • How is it that we think that some things represent who we are?
  • What does cool mean in relation to objects?
  • What if some objects MAKE us who we are?
  • What is stuff? The study of objects in Material Culture.

Topics by weeks:

  1. Materiality
  2. Semiotics
  3. Consumerism
  4. Taste and Cool
  5. How do things “make” us?

Week One

Exercise

Find an object. Write a narrative account of this object considering the following:

  • What is the object?
  • How do you use it on a daily basis?
  • How conscious of it are you?
  • Has this object been specifically designed? Do you use it for the purpose it has been designed or or some other function/purpose (totem?) ?
  • In what way do you value the object
  • Do you feel that the object represents you, think about in that way (also, if it doesn’t represent you)

What I discovered in this session is that I am a real fan of transitional objects. All of my accessories that I wore that day were transitional objects, I took a look in my wallet and I found even more there. Personally I don’t value items because of their brand and the social status that they would reveal, but because I connect them with something else or somebody else. I love handmade jewelry created by people I know and value them because of the memory that they carry. Surprisingly I had not been clearly aware of that before that lecture and I hadn’t thought about it in such a clear way.

One of the sentimental objects that I carry everywhere with me is a one-dollar bill given to me as a present by one of my closest friends after she returned from her exchange in the USA. I do not use it on purpose, and I definitely do not value it because of the fact that it is a certain amount of money – I would never exchange it for goods. What makes it special to me is the memory related to the moment when she gave it to me and the fact that she left some hand-written scribbles on it, thus enabling me to carry a piece of her being with me. I am not conscious of its presence because I do not use it in my everyday life, but that increases this object’s significance as it surprises me each time i accidentally come across it in my wallet. It is not specially designed, but it has been specially modified and addressed exactly to me. It refers to my connection with that friend as well as the summer spent my home country (the scribbles have been written in Bulgarian language) . It is so impressive how much meaning such a common object as a note could carry for me – and not because of its exchange value!

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