The founders of the website Significantobjects.com, a site devoted to quantifying the bottom-line power of story at a product level, say, “Stories are such a powerful driver…that their effect on any given [product’s] subjective value can be measured objectively.” The website is home to an experiment that goes like this: the founders buy thrift store, garage sale, and flea market products, always cheap, no more than a couple dollars at most. Then, they hire a writer to compose a fictional story about the product, imbuing it with heritage, history, and ostensibly, value. The once-valueless products, accompanied by their new stories, are then sold auction-style on eBay. The difference between the original purchase price and story price is recorded as the objective value of that story.
The takeaway results for the first 100 products bought, storied, and then resold on eBay are poignant and telling. On average, the original product price was $1.29. But the average resale price after a story was added grew to a staggering $36.12. All in all, the experiment shows that even at a micro level, story can increase product value by a whopping 2,706 percent (or more, in the case of this snow globe).
Significant Objects, a literary and anthropological experiment whose first two phases ran from July 2009 through October 2010, demonstrated that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively.
The project auctioned off thrift-store objects via eBay; for item descriptions, short stories purpose-written by over 200 contributing writers, including Meg Cabot, William Gibson, Ben Greenman, Sheila Heti, Neil LaBute, Jonathan Lethem, Tom McCarthy, Lydia Millet, Jenny Offill, Bruce Sterling, Scarlett Thomas, and Colson Whitehead, were substituted.
The objects, purchased for $1.25 apiece on average, sold for nearly $8,000.00 in total. (Proceeds were distributed to the contributors, and to nonprofit creative writing organizations.)
Most recently, a book collection of some of our finest stories has been published by Fantagraphics.