MFG 2.0

The Art of Conspicuous Overconsumption (8-11 House Edition)

Lost in the recent dustup over Senator John McCain's inability to remember how many houses he has is an essential point -- does anyone really need 8-11 houses, or is this a classic case of conspicuous overconsumption?

When your main argument for buying a multimillion-dollar condo is "the kids were using the other one too much" you obviously have no concept of the difference between needs and wants.

The rest of us, though, are becoming a lot better attuned to the difference. And those of us whose fortunes are tied to the manufacturing of goods might want to think about where your product fits in that essential want/need continuum. Do the consumers of your product want it, or need it? And do they want more than they need -- i.e., is it being overconsumed at present? And what might your new sales forecasts look like, if things continue to boil down to the basic needs baseline?

And that's just the straight consumer economics of the issue -- what about the still-evolving consumer consciousness concerning environmentally-unfriendly products?

Enter Chris Jordan, a conceptual visual artist who takes images of common manufactured goods -- plastic bottles and cups, cigarette cartons, cellphones, Vicodin pills, Barbie dolls, and creates incredible photo collages out of them that tell a bigger picture.

Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. , . Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

For instance, the below image is crafted from a collage of 106,000 individual aluminum cans -- the amount used in the US every 30 seconds.

(I'd have used the image he created from Barbie dolls, but it is the one that, shall we say, graphically illustrates a metric about breast augmentation surgery).

Maybe the McCains could buy one of his works to hang in one of their 11 homes as some sort of meta-ironic statement.

Easy political targets aside, this exhibit got me thinking so I thought I'd pass it along. Plus, I can tell you from recent experience with Stats class that anything that makes statistics interesting is worth a look.

TAGS: Innovation
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