Note — May 24, 2020

The Umami Theory of Value

The consulting duo Nemesis with an intriguing take on the experience economy, Instagrammable trendy spots, the 2008 crash, David Chang, and Umami. They come up with the idea of metaphorical umami. Is there an umami-like quality to places and experiences enhancing them like the actual umami does to food? Does taste have more in common with taste than we thought? There was no real tangible growth since the crash, only twelve years of mostly financial gains so the new trends, experiences, and many subcultures were remixed from meaning and not much else. Disparate things mixed through emergent properties into greater umami-ized wholes. These meaning remixes were so fragile that the great pause has brought them tumbling down with no “next thing” in sight. (I haven’t decided if this is a good theory or just a long-winded way of saying that some places just have a certain je ne sais quoi but it’s a fun read.)

“Advanced consumers” became obsessed with umami and then ran around trying to collect ever-more-intensifying experiences of it. Things were getting more and more delicious, more and more expensive, and all the while, more and more immaterial. […]

Meaning is always readily available to be repeated, remixed, and/or cannibalized in service of creating the sensation of the new. […]

One to five years later, metaphorical umami makes the combination of the food and the authenticity of the space somehow culminate in a desire to pay prohibitively expensive rent in a postindustrial wasteland. […]

[I]t intensifies a moment in a flow, temporarily thickening your experience without keeping you anywhere for long.