Eyebeam’s wacky new street game festival, coalescing (I know I spelled that wrong) around new types of play, mobile games, urban tagging, etc. Looks fun. Big ups NYC.
Month: August 2006 (Page 1 of 3)
With all the talk in the blogosphere today about the reprehensible Forbes article, I thought I’d accentuate the positive for once and send kudos to Newsweek for its balanced and sensible revisiting of the famous 1986 article that contained the choice quote “women over 40 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married”. That piece inspired Susan Faludi to write Backlash and became a symbol of how frequently mainstream press misconstrue academic studies (it also, unfortunately, became canon of the 80s: if you’re not married by 40, the conventional wisdom went, you’re SOL).
So great to see Newsweek revisiting that by examining the original study, looking at new studies, and re-interviewing the participants in the 1986 article. Their conclusions?
– Men and women are more likely to marry after 40 than they ever have been before
– College educated women actually have greater chances of getting married than non-college educated women (they do nicely identify that if marriage becomes a class privilege, it contributes to the rich-poor gap as marriage has many financial, child-rearing, etc. advantages, as all those denied that right by virtue of their sexual orientation would agree)
– Trying to predict future behavior based on past demography when you’re looking at rapidly changing social mores is difficult (before 1980, women really didn’t marry much past 40)
– There are plenty of fulfilling life paths for both men and women that don’t include obsessing over marriage
And finally, Newsweek admits to participating in the “trend-spotting and fearmongering that are too often the stock in trade of both journalists and academics”.
But I have to take umbrage with this:
Statistically, people who marry at much higher-than-average ages don’t have lower odds for divorce. But intuitively, some experts are starting to think that later-in-life marriages may have better chances of survival. “It makes sense—if you’re getting married at a later age … you’ll have gone through a lot of relationships, and you’ll know what you want [and] what you don’t,” says Elizabeth Gregory, director of the women’s studies program at the University of Houston and the author of “The New Later Motherhood,” to be published in 2007.
This is a common technique in mass media using social science: Statistically, this is not true. But we think it is, so we’re going to repeat it anyway. This is just a lazy way of repeating conventional wisdom rather than to bother exploring why it might be incorrect.
But otherwise a nice and balanced look at a social construct that we spend way too much time obsessing over to begin with. A great book on this is Stephanie Coontz’s “Marriage, a History”— she’s excellent at locating difference historically. Before one gets all up in arms about marrying career women, not marrying career women, working outside the home, not working outside the home, housework, day care, “soul mates”, marrying past 40, marrying before 40, domestic partnerships, gay marriage(*), and any other type of problem that can be analyzed, overanalyzed, and polemicized, let’s keep in mind that marriage is a constantly-changing institution that has meant an enormous array of things over the years. (Marrying for love is about a 200 year old concept, for one thing. And engagement rings were invented by the N.W. Ayer advertising agency working for DeBeers in the 1940s).
* Not to de-emphasize the importance of attaining equal marriage rights in the U.S.
Why Facebook isn’t worth $2bil, and other obvious conclusions.
HP launches camera that skinnifies women. I’m not sure what horrifies me more: that such a product exists, that it’s aimed squarely at vain women or that it produces an effect akin to the photoshopping skills of a small child. Oy.
As much as I’m usually against increased advertising, the cost of college textbooks is preposterous, and it’s mostly due to the practice of issuing superfluous new editions all the time making buybacks impossible. Students are cash-strapped enough.
Robin sent me a link to Google Labs Music Trends. It tracks what Google Talk users are listening to.
First, consider a few points:
1. Google Talk currently has a whopping 1% of the IM market with 44,000 users of the client in June and 3.4 million unique users overall in May (Google Talk standalone client is different from the Talk integrated into Gmail).
2. You can only report Music Status through the standalone client, not the Gmail version.
3. Music Status doesn’t automatically update this chart. Rather, you have to opt-in to share data. From a privacy perspective (not to mention PR), I fully applaud this decision. From a data-gathering decision, this means that Music Trends is measuring some absurdly small percentage of 44,000 users.
Which is why you get stuff like this (apologies for image width)
For those of you who don’t remember your hott 80’s hits, “Shattered Dreams” was a one-hit wonder by Johnny Hates Jazz (“You’re giving me, giving me/ nothing but shattered dreams, shattered dreams”) which isn’t likely to have a resurgence any time soon, let alone in the new hot “Gym” remix format.
If one person’s mistagged Shattered Dreams can get to #8 on the Google chart, how hard can it be to skew it? I downloaded Google Talk, opted in, and have been playing MSTRKFT all afternoon in an attempt to thwart its careful collection of analytics. I urge you to do the same.
The chart apparently updates once a day, so tune in the next few days to see if this did anything.
(For a decent collection of online listening analytics, I recommend Last.fm’s charts; although these are similarly skewed towards highly technical, highly dorky, highly OCD internerds, who appear to listen to middle-of-the-road soft alternative rock.)
Cheesy WaPo article about Suzanne Vega, Regina Spektor and others using Second Life for promo. I’m not convinced SL is effective for marketing. I think most SL users are edge cases- ad buys in SL might work for PR, but not much else.
As any regular reader of this blog knows, I’m fascinated by marketing, particularly online marketing. One of the many and endless fields that I affiliate myself with is “surveillance studies”, and my focus within that is on the ethics of marketing practices like behavioral tracking and targeting, astroturf, fake street team and guerilla campaigns, etc. (I may be speaking on this at SXSW this spring. I’ll keep you posted). My interests in participatory culture, fandom, social networks, and Web2.0 all overlap with marketing as well.
Very few academics work on “the culture of marketing”. One of the few who does is Boston College sociologist Juliet Schor, who wrote a brilliant book called Born to Buy about marketing to children. Arlene Davila, a cultural anthropologist, wrote Latinos Inc. about the strategic creation of “Latinos” as an identity closely tied to a lucrative demographic-cum-consumer group.
Of course, in the non-academic realm there are plenty of resources. I tend to find Adbusters a bit polemic and over-the-top, not to mention not always well-researched, but I really love Stay Free, an NYC-based zine about marketing, culture, and advertising.
Now, I’m in an interesting position because I’ve worked in marketing for years, and lots of my friends work in marketing. The academic viewpoint on this tends to be “marketing is evil, capitalism is evil, marketers are evil and they have no self-awareness.” Let’s break this down:
1. Regardless of what you think about American capitalism, it’s not going anywhere any time soon.
2. Likewise marketing.
3. Therefore, doesn’t it make more sense to try to work towards ethical marketing, or at least elimination of the more shady/egregious examples of the field, rather than eliminating it all?
4. And honestly, while there are plenty of rah-rah cheerleader marketroids in the field, there are plenty of people who are thoughtful, highly intelligent and introspective about their field.
Why read this type of thing? Well, first, it is impossible to study online anything without paying attention to commercial and consumer-driven uses of the internet. Even if you’re looking at open source, Wikipedia, or “Progressive NetRoots” (yargh), it’s really crucial to look at how for-profit sites interact with other types of sites, how they share techniques or stand in opposition to each other, how they feed off for-profit sites, etc. Second, I hate to say it, but marketing, like pr0n, is becoming an indicator of successful social technology. It often hits weird, emergent behaviors dead-on. Out-there online campaigns might be more edge than early adopter, but they can still be useful to think with. Finally, if you’re interested in media studies at all, you have to look at marketing (or, overall, “the political economy of media”) in order to make sense of the overall media ecosystem (e.g. what gets funded, how does it make money, why is X chosen over Y, how does media consolidation affect things, etc.).
I have a lot of marketing / industry resources in the sidebar for anyone curious.