27.2.09

People Of The Now 7: Ryan

A cold Thursday in Clapham, 1:30am.

Ryan: Nice, innit?
Me: Mm! If you like cigarette holders, I guess.
Ryan: Press that button on the side, right? And the lid flips open.
Me: Wow! That is pretty nice.
Ryan: Got it from a charity shop...
Me: Good man. I wonder if they've seen an increase in the trade in the, uh-
Ryan: In the present climate, yeah mate. Well I stole it.
Me: You stole from a charity shop? Isn't that a bit, well, cannibalistic?
Ryan: I only stole it for a joke, like. But I was in there an' I saw this TV and DVD combi, right? Combi. And it was yellow, which is my favourite colour.
Me: Bargain if you have somewhere to put it. Like a house.
Ryan: Well I thought it was £25 cause that's what the label said, but then the woman said that it was the other TV was 25, a grey thing.
Me: Bastards. A bait-and-switch.
Ryan: ...so I bought that one, and sprayed it yellow. Looks proper professional!
Me: Hey, nice one man. I mean that.
Ryan:...so anyway, you sure you haven't got any change?
Me: Sorry buddy. Oyster only tonight. Good luck with that though. Take care of yourself.

24.2.09

Let's try this Slideshare thing

...with the presentation I did this morning. Went down okay.


I expect I'm preaching to the converted, but I'm still minded of a comment I received on Scamp:
"Researcher? There's no bigger waste of money. I'd cut that straight away"

I've got news for you, mister - 57% of people Somewhat Disagree or Totally Disagree with you. So there.

21.2.09

**entry censored by Chinese Government. Thankyou for your cooperation**

After a heady bout of research at the British Library, a spare half an hour found me at the Taking Liberties exhibition. If documents outlining the intricacies of curtailments of feudal nobility give you a hard-on (on whatever happens to you if you happen to be female), this is for you. It was at times a little difficult for me to invest the old parchments with the sense of awe they deserved, but the copy of Magna Carta and the materials on female suffrage were quite arresting, as they obviously were to everyone else.

Moreover, kudos to whoever curated this and wrote the accompanying copy for making all the exhibits relentlessly relevant to today. It worked - I saw a couple studying the Laws of The Forest as they pertained to 42-day detention (or something), with the following exchange:
-Terrible, isn't it. So unconstitutional.
-...actually... I don't agree with you.
-What?
-...I just don't. I'm...sorry!

They rounded the corner at that point, but I like to think that the debate didn't end there, as it so often does in the real world.
Like the best adverts, the entire setup was designed to seize you and force you take a stance on what you saw. Everyone gets a wristband which they scan at various terminals, at which point they have the opportunity to 'vote' on various issues. This had the beautiful Huxleyan side-effect of reducing the individual to a number:

Best of all, these responses were aggregated in real-time, and available to view at a final, big-screen terminal at the end of the exhibition. The results were presented in a visually pleasing, almost artistic way, and almost made me go back in to vote for what I missed, which has to be a first for an exhibition. And, apparently you can continue your barcoded interaction online afterwards. The voting system was elegant in its simplicity, and makes me wonder why this hasn't been fully realised in the experiential world yet. Not the the seeds aren't there: voting at the co-op tills always makes me smile, and mine was one of the families that went mad for supermarket self-scan then promptly ditched it once the novelty wore off. When the synthesis is realised in the marketing sphere (and make no mistake, all the technology is there and affordable), we could see some really exciting developments. I can't wait to shout "I am not a number!" and mean it for a change.
A couple of final observations before I go enjoy the sun:
-In almost all cases, I voted for the wet-blanket wishy-washy middle option on the terminals. Is this a product of middle-class handwringing? Because it kinda pissed me off. Or is it a result of the proliferation of media meaning that we overdebate the issues, and can't take a side? Tough to say. Aww, I just did it again, huh.
-This child (?) has it right:

-Apt, Neil :)
Happy weekend, everyone! Go picket something...

18.2.09

got insight?

The APG Training Network kicked off last night, and what a night it was. The next generation of planning (us) seem pretty awesome, extremely friendly, and tenacious as Carol Thatcher in a jam factory (okay, that was rubbish and stale but what're you gonna do).

We had a talk from Jon Steel, superhero of planning and writer of Truth, Lies and Advertising, a bit of a bible on the old discipline. Oh, and he did got milk?, obviously. Like Moses descending from Mount Plan, he offered us idol-worshipping heathens ten insights into planning. A few that stuck out:

-Planning is logic and intuition in perfect harmony.
-Planning is born of anger. (grr!)
-Planning is a story.
-Planning is listening.
-Planning is about creating a sense of possibility.

Food for thought, there. And the structure of the presentation itself was something to think about. The ten-point list is a good way of making people listen as they know exactly how far through the presentation they are and aren't likely to get disheartened. They also provide something to make your notes around, and starting each section with the simple idea makes people want to hear more. All this was greatly aided by an inexhaustible supply of joyful anecdotes, that it would be a dream come true to match.

So cheers Jon.



Afterwards, Ben, Planning Partner at CHI introduced us to the group coursework - and it's a meaty one, got everyone's pulses racing - then plugged his very entertaining website. Cheeky monkey.

9.2.09

I care?

There's a rather heartwarming story over at Breitenbach Und Brown about a German single mother suffering from cancer. She doesn't believe anyone cares. Truly tragic. She has slipped through the cracks of society.

Marcus' response was to ask the community to say that Yes, We Do Care Actually. The responses were diverse, but overwhelmingly positive in nature... and yet, how many of the respondents walked past a homeless person that week? Most of them, I'd wager. Her conceptual problem was actually worth more than the 'real' (physical) problems around us.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not here to spoil everyone's fun. A community bonding around the concept of care can only be a good thing, and might in time lead to better places. What I'd like to investigate is the mechanics behind this ordering of priorities. Just what is going on here?

Engagement at its best - the 'activation' of a community, you might say. The spuriously attributed "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic" has been put to work. This woman's plight got the same narrative treatment that the 11/9 families got, that the tsunami victims got. That thousands of homeless people, wage-slaves (proper wage slaves, not you lot), and trafficked sex workers have been denied. Caring about them does not allow you to take part in writing the plot twist of someone's life. It's more like throwing a handful of detergent in a swamp and watching for some result.

Not only watching, but watching alone. Or at least anonymously. Giving to most charity goes unheeded by one's community - the charity will thank you, but your peers will not know. And it's just not polite to bring it up in society, since bizarrely it's given the same conspicuous consumption status as a big TV. 'I care' made the responses public, and consequently people wanted in.

But the offering is not just to be in on a community. It's a chance to stand out from it too, as witnessed by the wonderful creativity of the 'entries', which read like a charitable postsecret. People have unconsciously sensed the chance to make an impact, no matter how small, and at the same time to stand out. Many people have hosted their gestures of caring on their own blogs, to maintain an 'ownership'.

It's an advertising tour de force. Low involvement cost, community payback, individual fame, an emotional narrative to feed into... it's everything people are looking for, and the fact that it captured the attention of some very busy people is testament to the power of the movement. Let us hope that movement can be harnessed. Wonderful things may happen.

It's handraising at its best.

(Thanks Angus)

Is dissecting an honest movement with noble intentions shameful? It might be. But if it makes charities and social marketing ideas take flight... who cares?