Michael Chanover & Tim Belonax: Ebay Toy Project

“Toy TOY toy”

“As a social networking site, eBay brings millions of merchants from around the world together, each with a unique perspective on language, and how to describe their wares. These descriptions offer a fascinating glimpse into a collective consciousness that sits outside of marketing and media. Items are named and described as merchants see them. These descriptions become a mirror, reflecting our culture’s true belief of what an item is all about; a user-generated definition.

These definitions are dynamic in nature. They evolve from one day to the next, taking input from, and putting input toward, a global understanding of an object or concept. A snapshot of these definitions offer only a momentary understanding of an item’s essence. Yet, the results tell an insightful story.

In this case, our story is about the term “TOY,” and the words used to name each one sold on eBay.

To study this, a spider culled through the “title” field of each search result for the term “TOY.” The titles were then broken down to single words and organized by frequency. The result is a cultural snapshot of a “TOY,” and a wonderfully poetic view into what words are used to describe such a mundane object. There are both obvious and stunning insights. For example, “Plush” (798), it would appear, is more frequently used than “Plastic” (340). “Dead” (3) is thankfully low on the list. “Small” (104), however is outranked by “Large” (241); and “Medium” (11) doesn’t even come close to either. “Disney” and Disney-esqu terms, not surprisingly, dominate.

These are the terms that describe a “TOY”, as decided by the community of merchants on eBay. As a way to feed this global understanding of the item “TOY” back into the system, this very data is available on eBay. It is described using the exact terms it gathered. “

www.michaelchanover.com http://www.timbelonax.com

(content from Michael Chanover. All right reserved. Michael Chanover & Tim Belonax © 2011)

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