WHY BAUBLE
September 14th, 2011

A little bit more about
the name and direction
of the publication

A bauble is probably most commonly imagined as a cheap trinket — a small decorative object, a gewgaw. It is meaningless, useless and without much value. It is a symbol that signifies almost nothing at all. Or like a currency that has lost almost all connection to any real power or strength, a penny. I say almost, because it is my contention that there are indeed purposes and functions to baubles however tenuous, obscure or debased these may have become. It is in this almost that I wish to begin the process of tracing, or really just discussing, the connections between meaning and objects. Objects can be something that we hold in our hands or they can be less solid but generally fixed and so agreed upon like images (even moving images) or more loosely, things like words or phrases. Because the idea here is that all of these things — silly little things, grand temples, couches, hair dryers, pictures of birds, what kind of bicycle pedals one chooses — are part of communication. Many of these things are functional too. But function and communication are not so easily pried apart. For instance, knives and forks work very well. So do chopsticks. Essentially, they work equally well. But it hardly matters. Because what set of tools one uses to eat is not strictly a matter of function, of what works well and is useful. What one uses is determined by a number of factors most of which are social, are a result of relationships. And communication is mainly a function of relationships. So a bauble does have to do, in a variety of ways, with relationships and communication. I won’t attempt to elucidate all of these, to uncover all of the origins and connections. But I will be thinking in this way, making the assumption that a bauble is an object that communicates and has meaning in connection with relationships between people, between individuals and groups.

Further, a bauble is a designed object. It is created specifically by people for people under a particular set of circumstances. So, a main focus will be on what designed objects — again, objects ranging from what we can hold in our hands or touch, to those which are printed on a page or projected on a screen or held in our collective imaginations — can tell us about the varieties of our communications and what this means for, or simply how it may impact, our relationships. That is, designed objects are a way of speaking. What can this way of speaking tell us about ourselves?

Williams Trent