dir. Gary Hustwit
Our brains are hardwired to seek novelty. This is how we learn. When the same information, the same scenarios, the same routines bombard us, we become numb to it all. We don’t fully process it. It is only when something new presents itself to us that our synapses fire, that we become aware, that we take notice. It is in these instances that we really learn, that we really process the information. And not only does this process cause us to learn, not only does it shake us from our mental rut, it makes us happy—thus priming us to repeat the cycle: we continue to seek novelty because it causes us to learn, which makes us happy.
So, our caveman ancestors, because their brains were hard-wired for this shit, sought novelty, became addicted to learning, advancing the culture. Hence, the entirety of human civilization and all its attendant advances designed to better the condition of the species: indoor plumbing, the printing press, electricity, the space program, the ShamWow. (OK, before anyone jumps down my throat about inaccuracies, I ain’t a scientician; I ain’t fully up to speed on the how-fors and why-fors—or even the what-fors—of this shit. I’m just regurgitating and interpreting some shit from a couple of online science articles (linked to above) I skimmed a week or so ago. What I’m saying is, I ain’t a trustworthy source on scientific information. In fact, never believe anything I say, ever.)
Cut to today: Designers prey on our need for novelty by designing new versions of the same useless objects we already own but don’t need because they know we will buy these new versions, thus triggering our happy-making novelty-seeking synapses.
Oh my God, it’s the new iphone. I don’t have it yet but I had the previous one but this one’s slightly different. I want it; it’s new; it’ll make me happy. I’m going to camp outside for the night so that I can be the first in line to buy it because this will be the one thing that makes my life complete and it will make my life complete before it does the same thing for anyone else because I’m gonna get it before anyone else, so I need to get in before anyone else. And oh my God, the doors are opening; I’m rushing in to get it. There’s only a few left and someone tried to take the last one but now this last one is mine because...I don’t know what happened. I blacked out, and the guy who thought the last one was his became the person who no longer had the last one because now he’s lying in a pool of his own blood and my crimson-stained hand is now holding the last one. My life is complete. I can’t wait to pay for this and take it home, and now I just paid for it and now I’m outside and I’m testing it out, and it’s slightly different; it’s novel; I’m happy. But now I own it. Now it’s not new. Now I’m depressed again. When is the new iphone coming out?
Repeat ad infinitum. Eventually we die. (Of course, without people buying new versions of the useless shit they already own, there’d be no economy. So there is that.)
So that’s what Objectified is about. Of course, it comes from a pro-design perspective; but still—this movie’s a good-un.