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Thinglink and fair trade

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While at reboot8, I finally learned in detail of Ulla-Maaria Mutanen’s Thinglink. It’s an object-identification system that empowers craft makers with the ability to give unique labels to their creations. Thinglink’s open database then allows people to connect based on the story of the process and purpose of their creations.

Thinglink represents an alternative to classical economic theory. Ulla calls it Crafter Econonomics. In it, relationships are the currency, and participation is the principal use-value.

To understand the significance of Thinglink, it’s helpful to imagine a creation as the voice of the maker. Alone, a creation may evoke a feeling. But if the maker is not present, then the creation is deprived of the intimate voice that brought it into existence.

All around my house, I have creations that emerged from pieces of wood, masses of stone, and piles of straw. I know someone made these, and I’d like to know who it was and how they did it. Thinglink resolves this issue of anonymous origin by being a chronicle of the creation’s life. Objects then carry their human history.

I envision thinglink as the perfect complement to the fair trade movement. I was recently in a fair-trade store in Amsterdam and was amazed at the absence of information about the products on offer. At best, the objects had country of origin labels. The only indication that the store was in fact dealing in fair trade was a banner hanging behind the check-out counter.

I observed people seeking more information about products. Considering that supporters of fair trade want to ensure humane production, I believe that rich evidence of the humanity of their purchases would encourage more fair trade and bring makers and buyers together. Thinglink can make this happen.

One Comment

  1. Francesca wrote:

    The thing with the thinglink is that it coincides with the current infolust drive from the consumer end. We are so deluged with products that people need information and help ciphering through the glut. And “stories” and “unique tags” offer a solution and process by which we can sort through the mass to identify the unique elements that speak to us as inidividuals and not as a “mass” mainstream.

    Wednesday, June 28, 2006 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

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