Archive for December, 2012

How Did Four Lines Drawn in the Sand Rewrite the Future?

Here is some musical data about how little things make a world of difference



Last weekend Norman Joseph Woodland, the father of the Barcode, passed away at the ripe old age of 91 without much fanfare.  This despite the fact that without Norman Woodland’s long and interesting, but relatively unremarked life, the world would be a completely different place than the one that we know now.

In 1948, while a graduate student at the Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Norman and his friend Bernard Silver overheard the owner of  a grocery chain begging the dean to put his students to work on a system to capture product information automatically at check out. The dean was apparently underwhelmed, but Norman and Bernard became obsessed and set to work on devising a way to communicate product information electronically right at the cash register.  Their initial efforts did not meet with much success. Then, one day, while lying on the beach, Norman began to sketch the Morse Code in the sand, and accidentally let his fingers drift. When he looked back down at what he had drawn in the sand, there were now four lines where once there had only been the dots and dashes that had eluded their attempts to render them readable electronically. The Barcode was born.

In the  decades that passed until the first pack of chewing gum was officially scanned at a Marsh Supermarket in Ohio on June 26, 1974, the Barcode, and Norman Woodland brought about the invention of a multitude of game changing innovations including the very first machine that could read electronically, which evolved into the computer, laser light, DNA banding, and the global adoption of the UPC code, which has ushered in the age of big data, the impact of which we have not yet even begun to fully grasp.

Norman Woodland’s miraculous life and unheralded death teach all of us in the House of We about how one thing leads to ten thousand others, about how little is big, and how in a world governed by the forces of Creative Darwinism, four lines written in the shifting sand can quietly and permanently change the world.

Here are a few more Barcode innovations that will blow your mind.

And of course, some things never evolve, like conspiracy theorists who have had fifty years to get used to the idea of a Barcode and still see the mark of the beast.

Warhol’s Whopper: Consumption or Creation?

Aside from realizing that Warhol had just invented reality TV way back in an era when the networks still thought that they could pass off The Monkees as unscripted TV,  David Bowie also  understood that at the Factory, a hamburger both was and wasn’t more than just a hamburger.


Andy Warhol’s iconic lunch turns the act of consumption into an act of creation.  By introducing us to the idea of consumer as creator,  Andy removed the boundary between artists and non-artists, and taught all of us in the House of We that we can all be great artists, even in the simple and mundane act of eating a burger. Just as art imitates life, once we see the extraordinary in the ordinary things all around us, life can also  imitate art.

Andy Warhol Eating a Hamburger was a harbinger of the present age of reality television , when everyone and anyone can be famous for fifteen minutes. But Warhol’s Whopper also points beyond, to the coming age of micro brands, passion and artistry, when everyone will be an artist, regardless of their level of training or talent.

Nearly forty years after Andy first unwrapped that all-beef patty,special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun, the cult of the Warhol hamburger continues to grow, inspiring not only some pretty awesome burger couture in its wake, but has also influenced  culture, commerce, art,  technology and design in ways that has and will continue to change our experience not only of  hamburgers, but of art,  daily life, and how they interact with each other.   Here are just a few:

And of course, it just wouldn’t be Warhol unless somebody got carried away

Which is the Bettter Holiday Deal?

Here is an NYC  classic to put you in the giving spirit


In the  economy of engagement, shopping small is the new shopping big, because you get more for your money than a discount X-Box when you support a local small business.  Shopping small buys you  an enriched local economy, an increased diversity of hand made, one-of a kind, locally created products, not to mention a big box of  community connection that makes every holiday ever green, and more meaningful.

Here is how President of American Express and House of WEcon Susan Sobbott explains this  in holiday shopping

In Waterbury Vermont, cash mobbers have found a way to make the holiday shop small spirit last all year long