Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Another LA friend who has a new book out is Evan Kindley, with his contribution to the Object Lessons series on Bloomsbury: compact and elegantly designed studies of everyday products, places and procedures that we take for granted and rarely notice, let alone ponder - but in this series are pondered with an approach and a sensibility somewhere between Roland Barthes and Wes Anderson. The "hidden lives of ordinary things" so far exposed and probed include the bookshelf, the sock, the shopping mall, the egg, hair, glass, waste, the cigarette lighter, the shipping container, the remote control...  and the questionnaire,  the subject of Evan's own monograph.

It's a fascinating, fun archaeology of knowledge-procurement, stretching all the way from the 16th Century Spanish cédula and the Victorian confession album, via Gallup and the MBTI personality test, to today's datascape / dataclysm of OkCupid and the BuzzFeed quiz.  Proust, Jung, Adorno, L. Ron Hubbard and Helen Gurley-Brown all make appearances, as do many other figures both well-known and obscure. 

OkCupid evolved, we learn in Questionnaire, out of an online study guide start-up called The Spark. That's my clumsy segue to a song by Sparks that actually features a questionnaire in the lyrics - in a most surprising (but very Ron Mael-ly) way....  Are there any other pop songs that features questionnaires?

More covers from the Object Lessons series  - whose designer Alice Marwick talks about her process here

A series of mini-object lessons - micro essays on things like fridge magnets and "when does bread become toast" - at The Atlantic.

Another "Questionnaire" song - suggested by Ed Torpey

And yet another questionnaire song, this one suggested by Kevin Quinn