Reboot and Reset with Bruce Sterling

I love Bruce Sterling’s closing talk for Reboot “action” edition conference that took place in Copenhagen on June 26. Bruce lays out his vision for the next ten years of dark euphoria, favela-chic, gothic high tech and stuffed animal frontiers. (His talk references a photoset, studies in atemporality, (featuring examples from Wellington when he was here speaking at Webstock on What comes after Web 2.0). Here’s what really resonated:

Objects are printouts – not treasures, not things to stocpkpile.

Our posessions are frozen social relationships. Think of them as hours of time and volumes of space.

Reassess the objects in your space and time. What is most important?

  1. What you use all the time. Get the best possible common everyday objects. Your bed! You’re spending a third of your life in the thing – you should go out and buy the best bed you can get. The sheets, the pillows, they’re pretty high up there too. And a chair.
  2. Things that are beautiful
    • Is it so beautiful you’re going to show it to your friends?
    • Is it on display?

  3. Things that have emotional meaning
    • Are you going to tell anybody else about it?
    • Does it have a narrative?
    • Or are you its slave?

  4. Tools
    • Have high technical standards
    • Be very demanding
    • Don’t make do with broken stuff

And everything else? (probably 80% of your stuff)?

  1. Virtualize it.
  2. Store the data.
  3. Get rid of it.

I did a big reset one year ago moving from New York to New Zealand, and was surprised by the euphoria of liberation from so much stuff I thought I loved. Below are a few tools and resources that were awesome for virtualizing, storing data and getting rid of my stuff – perhaps they may help when it’s your turn.

For virtualizing books and almost anything with a barcode then managing and visualizing the data, Delicious Library makes it easy and fun. You hold the item’s bar code up to your camera, then see all the data about it. You can even see what the item resells for on Amazon and post it for sale there in a couple of clicks. It’s amazing to see my old library visually on the screen as I once knew it physically and to often be able to access the sections I want to reference through either Google or Amazon book search even though I no longer have the book physically before me.

If you’re in NYC and don’t have time or desire for selling on Amazon, The Strand pays fairly for used books, and Housing Works accepts donations that are tax deductible and for a great cause.

For furniture, electronics, etc, I took photos and made a catalog document linked to a live Google Docs spreadsheet that had up-to-date pricing and availability. Cocktail evenings (needed to empty my liquor cabinet) helped move the goods. Most items sold to friends, friends of friends and then lovely random people through Craigslist who would likely have become dear friends had I stayed. (We have the same taste!)

Purchasers arranged their own pickup/delivery, often after getting quotes from multiple providers through CityMove.

For the bulk of the other stuff that’s not exactly marketable yet still usable, Freecycle connected the stuff with the people who want it. As a safety for moving day, I selected a couple of large furniture items to donate to Housing Works in advance and scheduled a free pickup through them so any last items that didn’t sell could be donated and removed at the same time.

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