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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

Rugs on the ‘Net: A Paradigm Shift or an Oxymoron? by Jerry Silverman

When it comes to ballyhoo, few phenomena have ever topped the Internet. Maybe when Gutenberg invented movable type there might have been just the tiniest ripple of excitement across Europe. And when Morse sent that first message by telegraph some people could see what the future might hold. But nothing has even come close to the excitement generated by the Internet.

Even some hard-headed, flinty-eyed analysts become ga-ga over the possibilities. How would you like to have been able to lend Andrew Carnegie some money for a part interest in his steel mills, they ask. Or back John D. Rockefeller with a few rolls of dimes back before he
created an oil monopoly? Or perhaps you might have been able to help Henry Ford get his production line rolling a few months early in trade for some stock. Being lucky enough to be present at the start of a Revolution offers enormous potential for building a fortune.

The kind of Revolution I’m talking about here is a revolution in thinking, a new way of looking at things and organizing information. In 1962 Thomas S. Kuhn wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and introduced the term “paradigm shift,” meaning a change in the way of looking at information that is so total that it entirely changes the scientific discipline. (The change from Euclidian geometry to Newtonian calculus is a paradigm shift. So are the changes from Copernican physics to Einsteinian physics to quantum mechanics.) Each grows out of
inconsistencies in the early model, and each sees the world in a new way.

Nowadays, consultants like to throw around the term “paradigm shifts” with casual aplomb and have demoted it to such things as signifying an increased emphasis on “customer satisfaction” or some other extremely modest change. Well, I have something far closer to Kuhn’s original
intent here when I suggest that we are now participating in a paradigm shift in the world of oriental rugs.

1) The rugs themselves. How long will it be before a rug-buyer at her home computer in Des Moines, Iowa, can enter the size, primary colors, and pattern number for a rug for her foyer on a weaver in Turkey’s (Erol?!?) web site? A deposit will be transfered from her local bank to
his via the Internet. A computer-generated picture of the proposed rug will be sent from the weaver to the buyer for her approval. The buyer can cut and paste the rug’s picture into a digital picture of her foyer to see what it will look like. She can filter the color of the entire foyer to indicate the presence of incandescent lighting. Noticing that the reds need to be softer, she can e-mail the photo back to the weaver who can make the necessary color adjustments matched to the precise colors indicated in her digital image. Progress photos of the rug on the loom can be sent. When the rug is finished, the final payment can be transferred and the rug shipped. No middle men.

Or maybe there are still manufacturers who organize the entire process, and the lady from Des Moines carries on her communication with them at their web site instead of the actual weaver.

2) Buying rugs. How long will it be before rug dealers have their entire inventories available at their web sites? And the web sites will be “searchable,” meaning that the consumer can just enter "5’x8’ Antique Bijar" and all such items on the database can be retrieved. Will this
industry be affected in the same way as has changed book-selling? Or has affected airline ticket-buying? And lest you argue - as I long have - that rugs cannot be bought without touching them first, may I suggest that you log onto and search under the keywords “rug” and “carpet.” Your will find more than 900 listings, ranging from Rug Rat throwrugs to genuinely collectible rugs and everything in between - all of them being bought by people who can’t touch them.

3) Studying rugs. Prior to the Internet one studied rugs by reading books, going to museums, traveling to rug producing countries, joining rug societies, attending rug conventions, and hanging out at rug dealers. I would like to propose that we are not all that far from being able to do all those things on the web. Some of them right here, in fact.

Geographical isolation or physical infirmity need no longer limit one’s possibilities for learning about and/or acquiring oriental rugs. Regional differences in taste need no longer limit one’s choices. Cameraderie need no longer be reserved for those with the wherewithal to travel to conferences. Weavers can be just a click away from consumers.

And if all that doesn’t constitute a paradigm shift, I don’t know what does.

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