Saturday, January 29, 2011
Stuff and Culture 2.0
Jude reaching for the stars at Swap Meet 2007, Pittsburgh
For the past 14 years I've been holding an annual swap meet in my home for my female friends. It's a simple and familiar event -- I invite a pile of ladies to come to my house with items they no longer want. They throw their clothes, shoes, scarves, fur bikinis, what-have-you into the pile and then take turns pulling from the loot. Generally, there's 10-15 people and what amounts to about 15-20, 40 gallon bags of clothing and accessories. After all is said and done, everyone walks away with something and I load up the remaining 40% of clothes and haul it off to one of my local second-hand stores.
Since starting in 1998 I've been wondering what this could look like and what effect a swap like this could have if it was organized on a larger, public scale. Fourteen years ago there wasn't yet a term for it, but today I'm asking myself, what could happen if this home spun swap meet evolved into a 2-3 day long, public pop-up clothing exchange.
The days of mass consumption certainly aren't coming to an end. The more interesting observation is that we are now asking the question, "To what end?" It's easy to see that we've entered into a stage where consumers are not solely passive recipients of the current day offering but more and more often, co-creators and full participants in the experience of exchange (book mobiles, DIY events, flea markets, buy/sell exchanges). For many, the focus of shopping is not so much about the acquisition of stuff as it is an act of participation--be it in a community or a philosophy or type of socio-sporting event. Stuff is is still desired but what seems to be trumping the stuff is the process and mindset that gets us into arena where the scoring can happen.
Following will be a little sleuthing to see what others are doing and saying; how they're doing it; and what's been on their minds as they've gone on their way.