My Digital World

In 1995, photographer Peter Menzel and writer Charles Mann published a coffee-table book called Material World. It had a great concept: go to families around the globe and ask them to pose alongside all their material possessions. The contrast between the stack of loot filling the entire driveway of a suburban California family and the few spartan implements owned by a family of herders on the steppes of Mongolia was, of course, striking. That book has always stuck in my mind as a unique look into the differences and similarities between cultures.


When I set up this photo (taken May 26, 2005), I was thinking that it would be fun to try the same thing again, but with the focus on digital possessions. What would you see if you asked a person in San Francisco or Seoul or Madras or Catalonia to gather up and pose with all of their gadgets (for the sake of consistency, let's say everything with a microchip in it)? I'd wager that almost everyone, even the Mongolians, has a few digital gadgets today, if only a radio or a cell phone. And a few people, like me, have a slew of electronic toys.


To explore the idea I decided to set up my own shot, showing all my digital stuff. This is the result.

  • habaneros 8y

    This mass media picture would be great in our group Media Me, hope you join us !
  • bert kommerij 8y

    What a great concept! And what a picture!!
  • Thomas Schrijer 8y

    quite nerdy
  • Michael - B 7y

    Cool idea, actually.
  • cherry vega 7y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called The Future is Here (they just don't know it yet), and we'd love to have your photo added to the group.
  • bt-photo 7y

    Missing a RoboDog.
  • alex_legend2k 7y

    Yes 24 i awesome!
  • Nappinaama 7y

    that dog it`s a digital :O?????
  • Chris - Tech Geek (On facebook too much) 7y

    I love Sony stuff :-)
  • Steve 7y

    Aren't you missing out your camera in all this lot?!!

    Found in a search. (?)
  • Chris - Tech Geek (On facebook too much) 7y

    Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Tech Freaks, and we'd love to have this added to the group!
  • Franco Bouly 7y

    ahh la honte ! et il a tout tagué en plus.... je suis éclaté de rire !
  • jordanboy10 6y

    That is about how much stuff I have in my house. I am not impressed. But I do like the camera phone and smartphone. Very jealous of those two things.
  • jordanboy10 6y

    Oh and the PS2!
  • Mark Pritchard 6y

    Would like to see you do this again now, I bet almost everything in this pic has been upgraded! (Hopefully not the dog)
    Nice idea.
  • ModestLife 6y

    I've got that Material World book as well, and you're absolutely right in that it stays in your head as a means of comparison. I sadly am a hoarder and would be embarrassed by my stash (digital and otherwise). My partner is driven mad by it (he's a minimalist).
  • Kapil (Digital Marketing)Sunariya 4y

    wow you are collection is like Bomb good dear But you should have Robo Dog in this Collection but that one also good
    Black Friday Htc Hd7
  • Spoiled_kid115 3y

    I dont think purchasing all the fancy gadgets or all the new ones that comes into market is geeky. There are people who can not afford to buy every new gadget but has a sharp eye on them.
    chicago personal trainer
  • Greg Peverill-Conti 3y

    I remember Material World too. There have also been similar projects looking at a week's worth of food in different countries. What I like about your photo Wade is how well it shows the ephemeral nature of our technology. Of the items in the picture, how many of them do you still own? How many of them do you still use? How many of them could you even use if you wanted to?

    A few years ago CNet did a story on gadgets, something like "Three Things I Couldn't Live Without." I was part of it and think I had my iPod, a original Xbox and a Rino GPS. I actually still have the iPod but use it now to transfer files, the Xbox has been replaced by a 360 and the Rino is still kicking around. All of the functions from those three have also migrated to my iPhone now as well though. Strange.

    I hope you'll redo this picture with your current crop.
  • Wade Roush 3y

    If I redid this picture today, there would be a LOT less stuff in it. The main reason: the iPad, which has taken over the functions of a bunch of other devices.

    Rhody is still around, so he'd be in the photo. Also.:

    Samsung external monitor
    Canon printer
    Canon dSLR
    Apple TV
    Sharp Aquos HDTV
    Vixia videocam (not used much since iPad 2 came out)

    ...that's about it!
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Uploaded on May 26, 2005
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