Scarcity & Abundance in the Digital World
I’m obsessed with the concept of scarcity. The idea that scarcity can cause an object to have value well beyond its initial worth is fascinating to me. In 2007, Damien Hirst took an actual human skull, encrusted it in over 8,000 flawless diamonds and gave it a £50 million price tag. The skull sold in a shroud of secrecy as a group of private investors purchased it for a rumored £38 million — well beyond the £12-15 million it apparently cost to produce. Flash forward to 2012 and Hirst has joined forces with s[edition], a digital gallery and art marketplace. For $800, you can own “For Heaven’s Sake,” a 360-degree scan of a baby’s skull covered in diamonds. The run consists of 2,000 versions of the same digital file of which 27 have been sold so far. s[edition] is attempting to bring scarcity into the digital world by teaming with famous artists in an effort to make their work available in a series of limited editions.
Looking beyond the shock factor of the art, the notoriety of Hirst and the international press the project received, there is something interesting in general about the various ways a strategy of scarcity can be applied to new work, particularly of the digital kind. Outside of the art world, such strategies are being widely adapted by everything from crowdfunding campaigns (limited number of perks for those wishing to support a project) to deal aggregation sites and mobile applications (amazing deals available on a first-come, first-serve basis). At its core, scarcity taps into our desire to be a part of something unique and exclusive.