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A journey into the material culture of neighbourhoods

What do the things that we possess and hold dear say about us? Do they reveal our character? And if yes, how and with how much detail? We are inviting local residents to share the things that they live with in their lives. I suggest ways that could shed some light on what possession of these things could mean. Which clusters and families of meanings do things belong to?

I will make acrylic display boxes and persuade local shops to keep them. Then local community members will use the displays to share the things they live with. The collections of objects that emerge will be studied and interpreted for meaning. The interpreted meaning will stand for community which has shared its things.

I am interested in working with children — disenfranchised children — because these project ideas have the potential to make them see themselves as being on the inside and dream new dreams, at least for sometime. I am thinking of inviting such children to curate the display boxes for the neighbourhood they belong to. This will somehow invert the power of the representational roles and give the children a say in shaping how their neighbourhood seems to them.

Today virtual worlds say with authority what the character of a given crowd is. But in real life communities are only anonymous masses. They don’t mean anything. I want to give an ethical mechanism to people in real life to also discern what communities stand for. This is not another attack on the few layers of privacy that still exist. Things are not tagged with identifiers of people in any way. When I talk about knowing what communities stand for, I am not referring to a parameter that can be traced back to a particular agent in the community. I let anonymous masses be anonymous masses.

This might also be a subtle charade that spells out an obvious hierarchy between virtual and real worlds. The demographic which inhabits virtual worlds is worth knowing, it is worth being interpreted. But the demographic inhabiting the real world is not? This hierarchy is imposed because markets, means of payment, modes of distribution and a certain kind of sociality all exist on the Internet. Anything that exists outside this ecosystem is not relevant. But this kind of hierarchy is imposed by the market.

Humanistically every demographic that exists is of interest to us. Every group of human beings that can be studied can embody a sentiment and narrative that can be worth knowing.

To the market, knowledge of the flavour of the current moment is privileged and gained after taking a lot of pains. The accuracy of the knowledge makes or breaks a company. So it is guarded and not shared openly.

We will not be interpreting information from the emerging collections of things that the market is interested in. We are more interested in how people lead their lives. Which kind of hopes, desires and dreams — embodied in which things and why? These interests are not of interest for the market. The market is interested in consumers not human beings.

Materialities are multi-layered entities that offer insights into the minds of people. Why do we want to know what people and communities stand for? So that we may be sensitive to sentiments held deeply by them. We do not need to agree with the beliefs held by the groups and agents we deal with. Knowing the flavour is enough.

The boundless.exchange project intends to craft records about the current moment. The current moment that is so fleeting and fragile that it only is usually known only when its past. This experiment is to know its flavour while it still lasts, holding what cannot be held.

The mechanisms used to study the past do not translate well to studying the current moment. As if the current moment does not have enough depth. Authority can be feigned about something definitive, not something ongoing. The market is interested in authoritative figures because authority represents value and value is usually charged in the form of money. The boundless.exchange project does not aspire to establish authority of this kind. At best, there will be some dialogue around the interpretations which are presented.

This means that some threads of interpretation will possibly appeal to a wide set of people. Appeal can mean a lot of different things to different people. To some it can mean something worthwhile to chew on, to some it can feel like something socially worthwhile to showcase in order to add two their reputational value, to some it can just be a source of something to talk about.

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