Thesis Project

Ownership embodies the essence of the human experience, fueling fundamental human motivations of efficacy, self-identity, and belonging. While mass consumption and materialism are often viewed in a negative light in the age of credit card debt and sustainability advocacy, objects can be more than mere tools and luxury. From the age of two, we are aware of the idea of ownership; at the age of six, we exhibit the “endowment effect,” in which we place more value on items that are or have been in our possession. Our possessions often become an extension of ourselves, and a tie to a person, time, or place we hold dear.

Stories old and new narrate the relationship between people and objects, from Cinderella, a story characterized by a significant object (her slipper), to Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, a career built upon the belief that people are interested in how others relate to their possessions. Growing up as a global nomad, my relationship with objects was one characterized by practicality, yet valued by sentimentality. However, this relationship is ever-changing in the digital age, and sentimentality as value may be headed toward becoming a relic of the past.

Rapid technological advancements have pushed retail therapy into the norm, resulting in a $145 billion increase in e-commerce alone in the past two years (U.S.). Services such as one-day shipping, contactless payment, and free returns are created to meet customer expectations for an increasingly seamless shopping experience. As a result, the act of purchasing stopped carrying as much weight and the pace of exchange is growing at an unsustainable rate. This phenomenon is driving us into a progressively materialistic world of instant gratification and psychological displacement.

What is pushing this desire for ownership? How has technology and mass consumption redefined the way we assign value to objects? RE:VALUE is a digital archive of the human condition, selling stories through color. The store explores ownership through a multidimensional value system on a gradient map, curates items as repositories of meaning, and visualizes the correlation between age and type of value. Viewers are invited to explore items on display and purchase a story by trading in their own. Through an unconventional shopping experience, I hope to recontextualize ownership and break the vicious cycle of mindless retail therapy.

The Psychology of Things, 2020, editorial

spread from the Psychology of Things, 2020, editorial

RE:VALUE 3D Model, 2020, digital

RE:VALUE Product Page, 2020, digital