Evocative Objects: Things We Think With

This is a collection of “writings by scientists, humanists, artists, and designers that trace the power of everyday things.” It is about objects as “emotional and intellectual companions that anchor memory, sustain relationships, and provoke new ideas.”

The book has six sections, each containing five or six essays, sequenced to follow “the arc of the life cycle”. Many of the essays are deeply personal and written by high-profile academics. It seems like quite a diverse and compelling lineup, of both contributors and the object-inspired stories they weave.

Each essay takes a specific intimate object as focal point and organizing principle, and uses it to reflect on larger themes: “the role of objects in design and play, discipline and desire, history and exchange, mourning and memory, transition and passage, meditation and new vision.”

It’s edited by Sherry Turkle, a renowned professor who studies how humans and technology interact; this book began as a seminar series at MIT, and it’s bookended by her own essays, which include an introduction to the many interesting ways of thinking about and relating to objects.

It’s about material culture, the power of objects, concrete ways of thinking, intimate connections with our histories and selves. A short sentence from the book seems to encapsulate it well: “Evocative objects bring philosophy down to earth.”

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