The Perils of Inadvertently Making a Cuturematic

I’ve been reading Grant McCraken’s Culturematic this week.  I met Grant at an event last year, after Mark introduced us, and insisted that I showed Grant some Artefact Cards.

“That’s a Culturematic” said Grant, holding the cards.

Shape of Artefact

Having not read the book, I didn’t get what he meant, really.

I probably did that slightly gormless nod, smile, mumble and shuffle though.

…as an aside, I’m a terrible reader at the moment.  The social web is breaking my ability to get through books, it seems.  More on that another day…

Now, sitting here having read the first third of the book, I’m getting a grip of what Grant means by “Culturematics”.

Which means I’m beginning to understand the interesting/worrying implications that has if I’ve made one inadvertently.

What is a Culturematic?

In Grant’s words, it’s “a little machine for making culture.  It is designed to do three things: test the world, discover meaning, and unleash value”.

I interpret it as this; you find a problem, a problem that bothers you.

You could spend ages trying to solve it, and solve it well.

It could turn into another project that sits on a box on a shelf for months whilst you try and get it right, turning to it in spare moments with a lessening frequency over the years.

Or you could glue some little legs onto the first version, and send it off into the world to meet people, who’ll help it become a solution to the problem.

Or they’ll point it in the direction of new problems, and use it to solve those instead.

Now, there are nine features that Culturematics have that Grant Identifies…


Culturematics Start Playing In Our Heads Immediately
Culturematics Make The World Manageable
Culturematics Are Something We Want To Try

Culturematics Are Both Playful And Deadly Serious
Culturematics Work From Naive Curiousity
Culturematics Like Order Out Of Accident
Culturematics Aim To Change The Contents Of Our Heads
Culturematics Find Value Invisible To Others
Culturematics Make Scientists, Social Chemists And Adventurers Of Us All

Without going in to death-defying detail (which I may do another day, heaven help you), I can go through each of them and go “ah-ha”, spotting parts of the development journey as I go.


If the Artefact Cards are a Culturematic, which they might well be, then I’ve done a really, really daft thing with the new website.

I’ve made a website for normal products.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 20.56.55
It’s clean, simple, works across any device beautifully.  And it’s probably an excellent template for a website if you’re selling shirts, or bicycle bells, or anything else that people clearly understand what it is.

It has short, simple descriptions of each product.  It has customer quotes saying why people like them.  It has all the stuff you have on a normal website.

But I don’t need a normal website.

I probably want a website for a Culturematic, with lots of weirdness and rabbit holes, that’s quite hard to find what you want on, and more long, rambling product descriptions like there used to be.

The website for a Culturematic probably needs to be a Culturematic in its own right…







2 responses to “The Perils of Inadvertently Making a Cuturematic”

  1. […] more about people, and culture – sending out little emissarial ideas in physical form, like Grant McCracken’s Culturematic idea that John talked about a while […]