We are surrounded by artefacts (or more simply, things),
and they play an important role in our lives. We wake up to the
ring of an alarm clock, brush our teeth with our electric
toothbrush, put on our clothes, wear our spectacles, have corn
flakes in a bowl for breakfast, check our text messages using
our smartphones, etc. Artefacts also have an associative
function, i.e., they help us to remember the past (a bottle of
Ribena remind me of my primary school days, when my mother
prepared a Tupperware of Ribena every day for me), specific
events that happened (a thumbdrive may remind us of the time we
lost some daya due to a faulty thumb drive), and our
experiences (a car may remind us of an accident we were part
of, or a road trip we took).
Although there are catalogues of living things (the most
famous being the Catalogue of Life)
and even photograph libraries of animals (e.g.Joel Sartore's PhotoArk), except for books
(e.g., see OCLC
WorldCat), I know of no catalogues of artefacts. This is
lamentable, given the important role they play in our lives.
The world of images is an extremely asymmetric one. There
are literally millions of photos of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
and of the Merlion in Singapore, but there are not many of the
day-to-day things we encounter (how many of us have a photo of
the Axe Brand oil (hong eu)?, or of the mosquito coil?
Things.Photos is an attempt to correct this situation. The
objective of Things.Photos is to pictorially document and
celebrate the everyday items of our lives. The more
insignificant the artefact, the more we want to celebrate it.
In putting together this project, the question I have asked
myself is this:
function is an image is expected to serve? Who will
- Researchers, in particular social science researchers,
can use the photos to examine the artefacts that have
- Educators can use the photos here to teach the evolution
of a product (e.g., computer storage from 5.25" floppy
disks, to 3.5" non-so floppy drives, to zip drives, to
- Product designers can come the Things.Photos for
- Consumers can use the information on Things.Photos to
discover their choices.
I know of a similar project, Thngs.co, based in Russia. A
project by the Japanese Ministry of Economy focusing on daily
Japanese necessities is entitled 365 Charming Everyday Things.
This project features artifacts from museums. Things dot Photos
will feature photos of everything.
I like taking photos, and so I combined information science
and photography to come up with “informational
photographs”, as opposed to artistic ones (there are
enough of these out there, e.g., in Flickr). Photographs have
the potential to convey so much information in a wordless way,
information that may be critical to some people. In this way,
Things.Photos is part of an experiment to understand the role
of images in our lives.
To cap this off, I'll provide a list of three definitions of
the word "artefact", all of them underscoring the importance of
the man in the creation the creation of an artefact.
Definitions of artefact:
- An artefact is an ornament, tool, or other object that is
made by a human being,
especially one that is historically or culturally
- An artefact is something made
or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of
art, esp an object of archaeological interest.
- An artefact a usually simple object (such as a tool or
ornament) showing human
workmanship or modification as distinguished from a