How far is too far? Policy can not be about what looks good on your voting card but the issues and how to solve them. Even if you’re an anti-gay-marriage anti-immigrant Republican but somehow you’re for protecting the rights of women against violence, (first, you have to establish for yourself that it’s okay for rape victims to be forced to keep a baby, but once you get over that hump…), you don’t want new people coming into this country because it’s ‘your’ country. (You, presumably white, because your Republican, and in this case, most likely male). We are too lax on immigration, goes the reasoning, and therefore spread too thin financially and not able to control crime. Immigration means losing control of an American idealogue illusion. Internal logic understood. Fear driven, false, but understood as a rationale.
With your anti-immigration stance, you can consider yourself not hateful, not evil, merely protecting the space around you as you don’t think there is enough land to go around. You’re afraid. You’re losing job security, maybe your home, and definitely your sense of security in the American dream of middle class prosperity. You’re holding tight to your values which are based on a 20th century construct heavily rooted in materialism and defined by unabated growth. It’s not working out for you. (Hell, it’s not working out for anyone else either other than the 1% but you can’t, you won’t, move on to the 21st century.)
Now onto gay marriage. For you, marriage is the plastic black and white toy on the top of a wedding cake. A man in a tux. A woman in a long white gown. Both with stony eyes and red ink smeared lips. You don’t want to recognize love of any other kind. Especially as gender identity changes so drastically with both men and women ripped free of last century’s clear cut moulds. It’s scary. Who are you now? Are you supposed to wax your eyebrows and fight for your country? What role do you play as a man? Isn’t being a man about playing a role? What happened to roles?
So now we’re onto women’s rights, specifically domestic violence. You are against violence. You’re a man of god after all. Violence is bad. You like to think of yourself as someone who would protect your fellow human being against harm and that’s the kind of legislation you check yes to. But only if your fellow human being approximates the wedding topper on that cake. They can not be foreign born or in love with someone of the same sex. It’s murky, but the voter scorecard is right there in black and white. Like that wedding topper. And that’s how you vote. You can’t see. You can’t think. And the stalemate that black hole of ignorance imposes on the rest of us makes us really really really scared. How far is too far? This antiquated sect of people just has to enter the modern era for us to survive.
Reaction to article Women Figure Anew in Senate’s Latest Battle in the New York Times 3/14/12: ” Some conservatives are feeling trapped.’I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,’ said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama”0 Comments
Here’s what I’d invest in:
Digital Publishing - New platforms that offer immersive media experiences for literary fiction lovers
The literary fiction part is due to my own personal interests (and my fear of the death of imaginative work in a dumbed down world) – but this model could be applied to all fiction and non-fiction. The innovation and technology put into gaming could be applied to merging documentary, non-fiction writing, photojournalism as well as literature, independent cinema, the best in illustration, cinematography, music composition to create rich multi-lateral access to imagination, knowledge and story. Hell it could work for low culture too, that’s the low hanging fruit after all.
I read on Fast Company that this already exists as The Fancy so I signed up – but Pinterest still gets my vote because it builds context with such fluidity as a visualization board for all kinds of planning and creativity. By placing objects or experiences that would lead to acquisition next to the the stuff of life that thankfully does not – plants, a cityscape, a curled up cat – buying becomes more of an act of careful consideration than blind consumption. Organic self-directed retail. Facilitated by a platform that takes the whole spectrum of your life and imagination into account.
Farm-to-Table Fast Food
A farm fresh menu with crops chosen by ease and season. The company would work in cooperation with various local producers. It would mimic the fast food experience in some useful and familiar ways but act as a teaching tool for change in the food system. Done right, it could be replicated anywhere (along the sidelines of the football field? On a corporate campus or at a university? In lower income or subsidized housing estates?) I haven’t worked out the kinks, but I’d invest in this. Jamie? Where are you?
Open Education and Other New Education Business Models
Browsing articles on the rise of homeschooling, statistics in online learning, and the movement against traditional degree programs, nothing on the horizon is due for such a complete overhaul as education. I’m appalled by the idea of the 40,000 dollar Manhattan preschool. (Nobody wins.) Nonetheless, I think progressive dynamic and creative education is invaluable. I look back to my fondness for Montessori and Bennington (no grades) and the New School (essays instead of tests) and know this approach, and ones that incorporate working in a natural environment, is applicable to the future. I’d love to sign on to a new model of education which balances real world social interaction and problem solving with democratic access to the best possible learning tools from top educators.
Skip the middleman. Think. Plan. Make. Sell. I love the 3D printer and I can’t wait until prototypes can be passed onto small factories that can afford to make small batches putting the designer / maker / entrepreneur in the drivers seat. A mini version of this idea exists in Spoonflower.
Data-Mining For Good: Customer Service 3.0
Ignoring the spook factor of privacy concerns, I’d defer to someone else on that one – if you could know enough about your customer to serve them as well as they expect to be served, remembered, listened to, customized for, well I find that very exciting. Innovations in customer experience that really put the customer first could extend to healthcare and safety, travel, home buying, and finance. It could be a good thing put in the right hands. -Chauncey Zalkin0 Comments
Have you seen this? This clears it up for anyone who isn’t completely sure of the agenda at OWS. One of the injustices represented is gender discrimination. WWM doesn’t overtly address discrimination but rather points out the incredible pool of outstanding women around the world that add to our culture and our lives through leadership, creative talent, innovation, personality, perseverance and spirit. But the fact is that WWM and girlonthestreet before it were born out of the experience of discrimination and lack of voice in the workplace, watching young women like myself get shot down for exuberance and ideas early in their creative careers then deciding to seek alternatives to conventional media and corporate life.
In the spirit of collective individualism, let’s add our own personal wishlists, value, talent, and actions to the cry for change. How can we do this? Women are doing it all over but the voice is not quite loud enough.
I admit it’s been a shock coming back to the U.S. – the convoluted world of ‘organic’, the 24/7 marketing messages, the giddy vapid representation of women. Join What Women Make and let me know your thoughts, your feelings, and your plans..
I’m interested in starting a WWM Meet-up in NY. If you’d like to join, email me at chauncey at whatwomenmake dot com and let me know your project and if you think there’s an interest out there in representing female creative leadership.
Here is the video my partner and I put together from our time there – an immersive walk through of Occupy Wall Street (together we are Show Love):0 Comments
- August 24, 2011
“Good Design Is Long Lasting” Exhibition
Phaidon Flagship NY
Core77 and Phaidon held a contest to celebrate iconic German industrial designer Dieter Rams work and his ‘less is more’ design principles. Rams was the head of product design at Braun from 1961 to 1995 and has been described as the yoda of design. His designs are commonly considered to have influenced the designs of Apple, Nokia, Muji and more – that clean rounded nonfussy most modern of aesthetics). The drawings are on display in a product timeline at the flagship store for the next two weeks.
Here is a reposting of Ram’s principles (color) with some of my own thoughts (grey/black) ; Their essence resonates far beyond the confines of design.
1. Good Design is innovative
It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all functions of a product. The possibilities in this respect are by no means exhausted. Technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.
I wrote an article a while back entitled “new lessons from ancient Japan”. In it, i refer to the term “kaizen,” continuous improvement (process focus) which Toyota embraces as a core value. Their motto: ‘the right process, the right result.’
I want to look at the word innovation. I like to check in regularly with words that become buzzwords to make sure they still mean something to me. So why do we need continuous innovation? Did we always need it?
There is no more ‘the way things have always been done’. Has iterative, motivated ($$, survival) change always existed at this urgent alarm-shrieking level? It seems like we can break history down into 3 phases where innovation changes from being a base ‘Maslow’ style need to a self-actualizing ‘nice to have’ Maslow style need. I’d say it goes something like this:
A. The dawn of man, -history, ancient Egypt, Rome, through to industrial revolution: continuous improvement, better tools, better solutions – all the time. Base impulse of humankind. Gets increasingly less urgent once we start lying around talking about philosophy through to committing mass genocide on several continents.
B. Next phase: 40′s on – years of trying to find solutions that last (excepting planned obsolescence of course) so we could rest and be happy fat cats. No need to innovate to survive.
C. Where we are now. Screw ‘innovate and stop, innovate and stop’. Back to the most urgent of loop to loop innovation in every day life.
Is continuous innovation a fact of modern life as well as a fact of primitive life? Is life now mimicking primitive life?
Mandate: how can we continuously improve and reassess, stay objective, keep questioning meaning?
2. Good Design makes a product useful
A product is bought in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose – in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimise the utility of a product.
I used to tutor a 6th grade kid with anger issues and I always said ‘use your resources’. I don’t know where i got it form but it was the way to get him on track when he began to get frustrated with a lesson.
Then I realized that I don’t always use my resources. I forget my resources and seek new ones to the detriment of what I’ve already gathered.
Sometimes things are just easy. Don’t make them hard. What do you already have?
3. Good Design is aesthetic
The aesthetic quality of a product – and the fascination it inspires – is an integral part of the its utility. Without doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, that you are unable to relate to. However, it has always been a hard task to argue about aesthetic quality, for two reasons.
Firstly, it is difficult to talk about anything visual, since words have a different meaning for different people.
Some designers I speak to don’t feel comfortable with words. My job is sense making in this arena. In others, my words are more essence than organization. Words are my output. On the other hand, i can barely draw a straight line.
Secondly, aesthetic quality deals with details, subtle shades, harmony and the equilibrium of a whole variety of visual elements. A good eye is required, schooled by years and years of experience, in order to be able to draw the right conclusion.
4. Good Design helps a product be understood
It clarifies the structure of the product. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory and saves you the long, tedious perusal of the operating manual.
Every practical interaction should be so easy so we can leave the talking and words for literature, criticism, love, and debate.
5. Good Design is unobtrusive
Products that satisfy this criterion are tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained leaving room for the user’s self-ex ssion.
6. Good Design is honest
An honestly-designed product must not claim features it does not have – being more innovative, more efficient, of higher value. It must not influence or manipulate buyers and users.
7. Good Design is durable
It is nothing trendy that might be out-of-date tomorrow. This is one of the major differences between well-designed products and trivial objects for a waste-producing society. Waste must no longer be tolerated.
8. Good Design is thorough to the last detail
Thoroughness and accuracy of design are synonymous with the product and its functions, as seen through the eyes of the user
9. Good Design is concerned with environment
Design must contribute towards a stable environment and a sensible use of raw materials. This means considering not only actual pollution, but also the visual pollution and destruction of our environment.
10. Good Design is as little design as possible
Back to purity, back to simplicity.
What becomes of the baroque? (it certainly shows up in contemporary television but where else does the baroque make sense?)
That’s all for now. (not the most graceful exit but it’s time to rest and after all this is a blog.)0 Comments
In the fall I presented an ethnography seminar in Barcelona in partnership with a company called Brain Ventures. The audience was a lively assortment of marketing professionals. During the session, I relayed stories of media-producing eleven year olds, rap industry insiders who vehemently denied the validity of a client’s research, and stuffed animal nostalgia that offered insight into grown up identity. It was a mixed bag to say the least. But that’s what I do; I wade through the messy reality of contemporary life in order to find the nuances that offer opportunity and change.
Ethnography comes from anthropology. It’s a style of research writing where the author privileges discovery over verification and provides a deliverable that takes the viewer on a journey instead of presenting the client with one big rational conclusion. Counter to traditional market research protocol, subjectivity and flexibility is crucial to the value of this kind of work..
My own history with ethnography emerged quite by accident. In 1999 after getting a degree in cultural studies from the New School with a thesis on Vogue Magazine and a few editorial jobs, I started a pre-blog era website called Girlonthestreet.com where I published an obsessive list of the deals swarming around the tech and media sector and combined those with observations from the streets of New York. I was driven by a desire to connect the dots. Over time I amassed a following of likeminded creative young entrepreneurial women and a social network. Marketing firms and ad agencies caught on. They hired me to dig for insights and translate them into business terms. Eventually I became an account planner at ad agencies and while I gained the discipline to transform fresh insights into strategic positioning, it was a struggle to get the powers-that-be to give much credence to my immersive approach.
It’s a tough sell, proselytizing free flowing research methods when the marketing department needs numbers, measurement, and proof; but that is precisely why ethnography is a discipline that serves marketing, development, and operations, all at the same time -and is a case for why these areas should work more closely together. Discovery leads to insights. Insights lead to action and measurable testing – much easier to do in small doses in today’s manufacturing and communications environment – and in the end, all parties from the consumer to the board of directors, can gain clarity and renewed focus.
The key three principles of this type of research, boiled down, are: become a participant; be aware of your own subjectivity; listen without prejudice.
The benefit of unfiltered observation is that you can see things that people are simply unable to tell you about their behavior. For instance, someone in a focus group might tell you they sit down with a salad every day at noon but spend time with them, and before you know it they’re wrist-deep in a bag of french fries exiting a McDonalds drive through window. When people get comfortable, they start to be themselves. They might intend to eat a sit-down meal every day and really think that’s what they do but the reality could be far different. This insight might lead you to create a product like the guys at Jamba Juice did – a healthy delicious smoothie with energy boosters available at convenient, hip, and clean Jamba Juice locations all over the U.S. It’s a lunch you can have in transit or at your desk. Or you could create a food storage system with a chilled component, or compact healthy meals to eat on the go, and so on. Ethnography is a way to find out how people really live with existing products. Most often products have a second life not intended by the manufacturer. Keep your eyes open for discoveries. Then, and only then is it really legitimate for you to start to develop your theories and test them.
So how do we get there? How do we get inside? First you find the right people. Be as strategic about this process as any other. Not just any subject will do. Small samples are encouraged. It’s quality and depth, not quantity and breadth, that count. Find insiders who are articulate, dynamic, and demonstrative. You can find them through natural networks, through recruitment companies who will pinpoint the people leading purchases and cultural shifts, or through an ethnographer who has the resources to do both.
After you’ve found your group, open your mind and be humble. You’d be surprised how much people want to share with you if you show sincere curiosity and respect for differences. An ethnographer goes in one end somewhat blank and come out the other end full of new information.
When you embark on ethnography, make sure you are recording not only your observations, but also your changing thoughts and feelings. An ethnographer should be part of the research and be transformed by it. For a loungewear brand targeted to young women and older teens, I researched the role of stuffed animals because it tied into the iconography of the brand. I gathered a group of young trendsetters and opened up the exploration. What emerged was an interesting connection between childhood nostalgia and young adult romance. I explored how cuteness becomes sensuality and what that meant for the equity of the brand. This led to rich storytelling opportunities that lent depth to the brand.
The purpose of ethnography is not to justify a preconception, nor is it to rationalize a company’s existence. If you try to push an agenda, it’s the waste of time. For a classic men’s fashion brand, a trip around the U.S. brought out the insight that your average ‘Joe’ between the ages of 28-35 working in middle management with traditional expectations for marriage and job advancement is just not comfortable with the amount of pressure being put on him to be fashionable too. We looked at how this could be an opportunity to relate to men, however uncomfortable it was to present to the client. The result was a campaign unlike any other men’s fashion campaign out there, one that used the vocabulary that was most natural for the group we spent time with.
We’ve experienced a sea change in the way we live. As our framework continues to splinter into finer threads of communication and stimuli, we have to look at the market as an ever-flowing continuum of give and take. We have to stop thinking ‘us’ and ‘them’. That old divide no longer exists. We have to look at our consumers as the people they are instead of as the bottom line or a demographic that will respond to a message. The social network universe is an ideal place to start.
Take a highly successful teen anti-tobacco campaign for example. It had been awhile since they’d done any teen research and they weren’t sure they really needed to. Psychologically, teens are not that different decade after decade. But culturally, they absolutely are. I picked ten teens from around the U.S., boys and girls from 11 to 17 years of age. I asked the kids to keep a daily diary of all of their media and technology activities for one week and to observe two of their friends in the process.
What I got back was robust, revelatory, and visually rich material. First off, everyone was obviously technology obsessed. The sixteen and seventeen year olds sent a lot of texts, downloaded a lot of music, and put pictures on Facebook. But it became clear that the younger kids were the most active producers of digital content. The thirteen year old skipped school and pretended he was sick so he could keep making his “Dragonball Z fan video”. He wrote: “At my grandmothers, saw two movies and fell asleep early. It’s so boring being away from my computer. I can’t wait to go home and finish the video.” Meanwhile, the eleven year old handed in a multimedia DVD of her life, complete with a music soundtrack. These younger kids and their friends were the most at ease with the tools of technology and the least passive. The boundary between producers and consumers was blurring and it was evident in just the span of one teen generation. That was 2005.
The bottom line is that you need to be standing next to your consumer serving their needs, not selling them smoke and mirrors. The future is theirs and they are just too smart for that. After all, they’re you!
As an ethnographer, my desire is to work more and more on the client themselves, opening them up to the insights within their own company, their products, their services, the quality of life at the office, and day to day operations. Together with immersive consumer research, companies are simply more prepared for the future. If you want to learn more, please contact me at email@example.com and visit me at www.whatwomenmake.com where I focus on ethnography, design, and female entrepreneurship.
from the article I authored published in Comunicas the magazine of Spain’s leading financial paper, Expansion and this year’s winner of the Gold Quill.
Want to see the whole article easily but you don’t subscribe to Spain’s financial paper, Here it is.
Half a review of the documentary “September Issue.” The other half a review of how differently I see things now from 15 years ago.
I wrote my thesis on Vogue magazine. Up there in that old Vogue library on the top floor of the former Condé Nast building, I lived and dreamed in the pages of Horst P Horst and Man Ray’s dramatic lighting, in the whimsical pithy fashion prose of Diana Vreeland with her face painting and pony fantasyland. From Edna Woolman Chase’s days of the corset to WWII fabric shortages, from the New Look to Grace Mirabella’s power suit, I was fascinated.
But just as Anna Wintour said in the tedious bedraggled documentary, September Issue, some are not let in. But far from making me envious and mournful of all those lost years not spent at Vogue, I was ultimately empowered by fate. I thought about all of the broken hearts and broken spirits of the young girls who went there full of dreams and came out beaten and diminished and possibly anorexic and I wondered, ‘what do you do with that?’
If a girl has any sense (but who does at 21? And why should she?), she’d never get wrapped up in the first place. She pursues her dream whatever it may be, undaunted. Hopefully it’s something noble, helping mankind, that sort of thing, but if not noble, something personal, something that takes discipline, dedication, some measure of purity of intent.
Now that we’ve opened up a whole new platform for people to create and be heard without any golden gates barring entry, what will become of Vogue’s primacy? Or maybe we should be looking at the real monster these days - the ghastly tasteless celebrity circus with its gobs of drooping collagen-implanted lips and tight foreheads with forced squirrel eyes. That whole ordeal makes Vogue look like Glenda the Good Witch — or maybe Hollywood and Us magazine are so vulgar and absurd that it makes you yearn for a high priestess arbiter of taste again, the kind they had in the old days, the kind that, well, it seems Grace Coddington carries with her in her disappointed expression looking out over the Tuileries on a grey Paris day. ‘Maybe I’m just a romantic’ she muses, and you feel sad for her, all those lovely frocks and dreams on glossy pages and for what? Surely there is something more she can do with it all. If she couldn’t then, she can now. Create a book of all the fantasies in her head without Anna’s veto power. Or costume a ballet or an opera like Chanel, Picasso or Cocteau. Or move to a new medium and have an exhibit of her own work, her own vision, without the dress price tags. Write a book… It’s ironic that her face in that scene, the only one that resonated for me, reminds me of all the women and girls out there I want to promote, applaud, and support. A spirit that needs saving.
There’s something lost and something gained in every generation. I’d take autonomy and freedom of expression any day. Let the curators and editors find their artists and let the artists find their curators and editors among the millions of profiles and networks and shouting voices out there, politics and pecking order be damned.
Here’s the TRAILER:0 Comments
- The intelligent craftsperson is the visual world’s thought leader.
- A challenge to the primacy of traditional currency – a resurgence and innovation in barter.
- The most useful and most simple exchange of goods and service wins.
- Learning how to continue to trade, create value and be compensated in the face of the creative commons shift. People will not pay for things they can get for free therefore creativity that is spreadable through the ether (music, movies) must find a new way to be supported, through networks of supporters. The contract will be implicit. Just not sure yet how.
- Living life as a combination of your online identity and brand and your offline interactions, enriching both through the recording and refining of both to its bare essence of what matters most to us.
- Consumers are empowered with increasing control over the shaping of the things they surround themselves with. Products we consume must be refined to their ultimate utility. The consumer is too savvy and stretched too thin to tolerate poor design and unnecessary steps in service. New creative challenges result in more innovation in design, higher mental processes up the ante, more inventions result and inventions that matter, that speak to our current concerns of climate, sustainability, environment, crowded spaces, creating more time for our hurried society to enjoy life.
- Remember that sustain means creating something that allows us to stay on this planet longer, to enrich future cycles in the life of a thing, allow for continuous improvement, continued harmony.
- As technology is further and further integrated into our mobile lives we will become untethered to our computers again and our interactions will exist in a third space, now forming.
- As more exciting innovative materials are being created and light sources are redefined and evolved, the raw organic materials from metal to wood to vegetal fabrics will be prized and cherished and treated with respect. Nature the new ‘love mark’.
- Finding ways for us to live for a common good instead of an increasingly alienating individualistic and ephemeral satisfaction. Individualism will be more and more about satisfying both social and common needs and finding time and space to recharge. Rampant selfishness and egoism is now subsiding.
- The end of the traditional fashion magazine. A centralized authority defining what we should love, follow, wear, is falling to the wayside as more diverse voices share the stage and fashion moves so quickly as to be as unremarkable as yesterday’s lunch special.
- Design is integrated into utility. Design means organization of principles. Ordering. Prioritizing. We will have to take the most time and care at this stage because competition is fierce. Homogeneity is a constant threat. And for the process to be invisible, it must be thoughtfully considered beforehand.
- Simplicity is king but that doesn’t mean dull.
- Scent and color become design elements.
- Everything has a purpose but that purpose might be visceral, might be emotive. We have to listen to culture and hear the shifts.
- We must stop saying ‘consumer’ and say ‘people’ ‘person’ ‘citizen’. As marketers and developers, we are on the same side. We must not work to ‘trick’ people into buying. We must respect their needs and serve up the best solution, the best most enjoyable experience or product.
- Create whimsy. Create pleasure. Get people to think. Promote expansiveness. Promote progress. Promote sharing.
- Time is a luxury. Time will be a currency. We will ‘pay’ in order to have more time.
An agency in Barcelona asked me what I thought about the future and this is how I answered in an email. It came off the cuff and still holds true for me more than a year later.
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