My Teaching Philosophy  |  Things.Photos   |  MathDL   |  Contacting Me





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:

What function is an image is expected to serve? Who will Things.Photos benefit?

  • Researchers, in particular social science researchers, can use the photos to examine the artefacts that have disappeared
  • 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 CD-ROM, etc.
  • Product designers can come the Things.Photos for inspiration
  • Consumers can use the information on Things.Photos to discover their choices.

I know of a similar project,, 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:

  1. An artefact is an ornament, tool, or other object that is made by a human being, especially one that is historically or culturally interesting.
  2. 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.
  3. An artefact a usually simple object (such as a tool or ornament) showing human workmanship or modification as distinguished from a natural object.