What happens when you want to trace down which manufacturer is responsible for the lead on your kid’s Thomas the Tank Engine, and make sure you dispose of and don’t buy any other products associated with that maker? Or the melamine in your dog’s food? Or the antifreeze in your toothpaste? It can be hard to find out. Global supply chains are vast and sometimes impenetrable. For instance, your IKEA Sultan Alsarp bed is made in China (not Sweden) and contains parts from Africa, Germany, and Russia. Enter Sourcemap, a open-source MIT project that aims to find out “Where does all the stuff inside your stuff come from?”
Have you ever picked up something at a yard sale and wondered where the heck it came from? Like a disturbing clown painting that the owner has a hard time parting with, or a queer Hummel knockoff. The bloggers at Significant Objects seem to have.
Advertising critic James Twitchell has a saying: The problem with American culture is not that it’s too materialistic. The problem is that we are not materialistic enough. By that he means that Americans don’t truly care about things. What we care about is getting new things — constantly upgrading to the bigger and better and more fashionable.