The Tales of Things Project: Attaching Social Memories to Everyday Things

A very simple deployment of the Internet of Things has been developed by researchers from several universities in the UK. Their project is called Tales of Things and Electronic Memory which is about linking everyday objects to their corresponding social memories and social stories.

Chris Speed, Reader in Digital Spaces at the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, says “a thing is a thing but it’s also an instance in a database somewhere. Databases are often really dull, but then YouTube is a really fascinating database full of social memory. So couldn’t you just link barcodes to social memories and social stories?”, and this is exactly what they are trying to do (see the full interview embedded below or click here for the link).

The researchers collaborated with Oxfam and realized that when people give away their things to Oxfam shops, they could ask these people to tell the story of the object. Each object then got a QR code which when scanned links to the social memory stored online. People could also tap the object with an “RFID wand” and if they did, the story of the object was broadcasted in the PA system of the shop. Speed says that “stories might very well increase the value of second hand goods”.

Maybe this is a practice that could be used at the “Bicycle Kitchen” at our prototyping lab Fabriken? Imagine assembling a new bicycle of second-hand bicycle parts and all those parts have the story of the previous owners!

– Project website Tales of Things and Electronic Memory
– Beta version of Tales of Things
– Also read the research paper: Tales of Things: The Internet of “Old” Things: Collecting Stories of Objects, Places, and Spaces (pdf)

Image credit: yksin CC:BY-NC-ND

Thanks to @lynnmarentette for tweeting (and probably writing) the original story.

2 thoughts on “The Tales of Things Project: Attaching Social Memories to Everyday Things”

  1. I wanted to write more about the Tales of Things project this morning, but decided to think more about the topic and write another post about it in the future.  

    I am on break from work for the summer and plan to organize the things in my attic.   All have a story to tell!  I 

    I have a huge attic, and for this reason, I am the “curator” of the family archives.    Some of the things in my attic belong to my 80-year old mother, and some things were handed down to me from my grandmother, who was born in 1898. 

    I also have several boxes of sentimental items that I’m keeping for my two daughters, who are in their 20’s.   And then there are a few boxes of Christmas decorations- all with a story of one kind or another…

    I imagine that in the future, families could arrange to have reunions with a focus on story-telling.   Everyone could select 10 items to tag and talk about,  and if families did this once each year, there would be a wonderful treasure trove for the following generation.

    I’m the grandmother of a 7 month old baby boy,  so  “Tales of Things” project tugged at my heart in more ways than I had imagined.

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