When does a ‘thing’ become elevated beyond its original purpose?
“There’s a What3Words haiku bot on Twitter that basks in the nonsense of name strings such as ‘beep.precise.diet’,” writes the FT. “For National Poetry Day last year the owners of a copse in Devon asked community members to write poems based on words generated by the mapping app. The poems were then posted up in the woods.”
I happen to like both those ideas.
However, it is less about these specific outcomes than the notion they expand beyond goals envisioned by What3Words’ creators. They describe a rare moment when people’s relationship with a product or service evolves to take on new meaning. The orbit of their behaviour becomes eccentric, no longer solely derived from the purpose of the original creation, but rather possessing gravitational force of their own.
That’s a special type of experience. By definition it happens more often by accident than design. Designers who aspire to similar outcomes may be able to anticipate and encourage it by recognising the characteristics common to services like What3Words which enable such whimsy to flourish:
- They tend to be focused in original intent, thus leaving room for others to expand upon them.
- Furthermore, they are open in their technical design and in the attitude of their makers, adopting a natively neighbourly architecture and culture.
If commercial success is the necessity which drives company founders, these kind of spontaneous creative sparks are perhaps the gifts which surprise and delight as the journey unfolds.
Cover image credit: Courage Copse Creatives