There are multiple benefits to be accrued by listening to Radio 4 during the day: Woman’s Hour, occasionally great Afternoon Plays, the beautifully understated newsreading, the fact that you’re not listening to Steve Wright… the list goes on.
But the main benefit is the feast of idiosyncratic little programmes lovingly crafted by people who want to communicate their passions to others. One such programme, Click-On, is broadcast every Monday afternoon from 4.30-5.00, and is ostensibly about new ideas in IT. However, the vast range of topics covered in thorough and accessible detail makes it so much more than this description would suggest.
A recent edition featured a project by CASA (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis) at University College, London, called Tales of Things. As with anything and everything in modern life, there’s an app for that – but don’t let that put you off, it’s actually a fascinating concept well-executed. It might be a gimmick, but I think it has a little more to it.
The idea is to ‘tag’ objects around you by attaching a written description of your experience of that object. Any iPhone can then pick up the tag (in the form of a barcode) from the object, and display the memories of everyone who has tagged that object.
A good example given in the programme is that during the Olympics in 2012, someone sitting in one of our shiny new stadiums can scan their seat while they wait for games to begin, and see what others have witnessed from that seat. So heady triumphs, near misses and edge-of-the-seat moments can all be gathered for inspection at our convenience, and a much more personal account of the Olympics will begin to emerge.
From a designers’ point of view, this is pure gold. A lot of our time is spent considering how to invest the objects we create with the emotional appeal that we think vital. As an environmentally-aware person, one very important issue to me is that reusing and recycling objects and materials should be as high a priority as, if not higher than, churning out more stuff.
One way to make the appeal of a secondhand object tangible is surely to make its background, and all that makes it unique, visible to its new owner. Previously this has been done by contextualising the period the object was created in, or by examining wear and tear to imagine its previous lives. Now, with tagging, the explanation of its background and all it has witnessed could be immediately available.
It’s a fascinating project, and it will be interesting to see how it develops. A concept like this lives or dies by its users, and how many people pick up on it. If thousands of enthusiastic taggers emerge, with articulate and lucid accounts of objects, it will open up possibilities for everyone interested in objects and how we use them, not just designers.