Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Cultural Meaning of Space or "Paw in the Face"

So, I was with L to the MC-squared in a town named Sault {above}.  We were in a Dairy Queen and a woman ordered and proceeded to sit in a seat right next to me, as we were eating.  There were plenty of seats around and it just seemed a bit odd that she sat so close.  I was half expecting the other shoe to drop with a grift or some other bizarro behaviour.  

This reminds me of Mimi, a cat from my childhood.  She didn't like it when people got too close to her face and when this happened, she put a paw in the offending face.  It became a thing..."paw in the face."  

This etiquette expert talks about personal space, which is culturally determined, affecting consumer and other social behaviours.  Here's a movie theatre example of what I'm talking about.  Here's some "ethnomethodology" on testing people's limits::

I had the misfortune of being stuck in a crowded TTC subways and streetcars over the holidays, which challenges my personal space zone, but it's nothing like subways in Japan where gloved conductors herd you in::

No audio, but this looks particularly hellish::

Paw in the face.

Divas, Drama, & Why I Often Hate Tennis

So, I was on the road in the hinterlands of Ontario & missed this bit of drama going on at Roland Garros::

While a part of me likes the genteel rules of tennis, I wonder how they fit with the übercompetitiveness of today's professional game, i.e., the high stakes of a grand slam event.  I "get" the idea of the rule if the ball touches any part of your body, you call it & lose the point.  On the other hand, the rules are mute on intentional beaning.  What gives me pause is how Serena hit the ball hard at her opponent who was rushing the net.  María didn't call herself out and Serena lost the point and the first game {4-6}.  Let the bitching commence.  Serena, in her incredulity, tried {in my opinion} to go as far to say she felt bad for hitting her opponent.  Then, at the end of her unsuccessful gripe fest with the chair umpire, she quips, "she better not come to the net again."  Please.  I just wish María retorted with this::

Serena, with acting ambitions, is no stranger to drama. She accused María of being a "cheater" to the press, after the former won the match {4-6, 6-3, 6-4}.  It does look like the ball did hit Sanchez, but I'd penalize Williams for unsportsmanlike conduct for her on and off-court antics.

I'm sure some people don't mind or even like the diva behaviour in the sport {not everyone can be a Federer, I suppose}, but I think allowing it creates a culture in tennis that diminishes the sport and its appeal.  

Let's see if the Canadian Wozniak can derail the drama queen...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Welcome to Butt(e) & the Trainspotting School of PSAs

This ad was on a billboard in the lovely town of Butte, Montana, all strip malls and a dying downtown core.  L to the Q said, "man, this town needs a stimulus package."  Butte seemed like a likely place for a meth boom, so the billboard seemed perfectly placed.

Back to the ad.  The campaign is part of a program with a gritty promotions campaign.  The agency is Venables Bell & Partners in SF.  I'm dubbing it the Trainspotting School of PSAs.  Here's the opening scene of that 90s cult fave.  The song featured in the clip is Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life," featured below.

The outdoor ads are eyecatching, capitalizing on the shock and awe of the graphic images and raw text.  While no longer my area of expertise, relatively recent research on psychological effects of PSAs is showing that tailored messages towards thrill-seeking teenagers were the most effective.  Specifically, ads with negative or threatening images are not as effective as those that related the extraordinary nature of sensation-seeking referents {i.e., people that the audience relates to} to the deleterious effects of drugs {e.g., inability to do something great that the audience relates to}.

Oh, Butte, you are in a "blue" county {Silver Bow}, so why not try to hit Barack up for some stimulus?  Even if the economy rebounds, the place is still like a ghost town with 32,000 people and dwindling.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Med 2.0:: Web 2.0 & Web Communities

I'm transitioning from full-time academic to "rogue" scholar by taking on a rather challenging project with a very tight deadline.  I cannot go into the details of it, but the work and conversations I've had with people have made me think about the interface between Web 2.0 and medicine.  How precisely will Web 2.0 decenter the authority of the socially constructed medical establishment, as user-patients become more savvy at using online resources?  Perhaps more top the point, how can physicians, health practitioners, and researchers use Web 2.0 to advance patient well-being?  I see a lot of opportunities, but I also see this as a battleground in terms of power, wealth, social class, and markets.

While not always a huge Foucault fan, his Birth of the Clinic has been weighing on my mind.  As user-patients with chronic conditions use the web, will this use blast apart the notion of the dehumanizing medical gaze Foucault talks about?  

On the research side, I think we're already seeing the beginnings of a DIY approach to medical research, Med 2.0?, and I think if more research like this could share knowledge, particularly in the areas of genetics, we just might see innovations come to light that the market might not see promise in, à priori.  The example that comes to mind is Amy Shuen's depiction of Flickr.  The market never would have "created" a vast online image repository, but Flickr created an infrastructure for users to do so and add further value through tagging images.  Imagine if web communities of patients/users, as well as researchers, could developand share  knowledge, particularly about the exact nature of diseases, symptomatically and genetically.

Image::  Cancer cells.  From article reporting that nanotechnology research is finding that cancer cells are "softer" than healthy cells.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

More Hockey Nights in Canada?

Miss604 had a great blog about the Phoenix Coyotes potentially moving to southern Ontario, which would bring a team back to Canada.  The billionaire behind this is Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of this Canadian tech. firm, RIM, known for something called the Blackberry.  {Balsillie has tried to get an NHL team twice before.}  There's even talk of an arena being built to be named after Wayne Gretzky's father.  Wayne is head coach and co-owner of the Coyotes.  The details of Coyotes implosion are getting murky and convoluted to say the least.  Reports last year were that the team was losing $30M per annum.

I'm all for more Canadian teams, particularly if there's fan support.  While I do realize my dreams of an Iquauit team may be far-fetched, I think uniforms with Inuktitut syllabics would be way-cool:: ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ  Anyway.  This made me think of potential Canadian markets for sports franchises.  The Phoenix metropolitan area has an estimated population of 4.28M, as of 2008, which is larger than all Canadian metro. areas, save for the GTA {Greater Toronto area}.  Of course, population doesn't translate directly into a franchise or a reliable fanbase.  Ask any LA fan hoping and praying for an NFL franchise to return.

On Miss604's blog and elsewhere, commenters have brought up other Canadian cities as having potential for an NHL franchise.  I pulled some 2006 numbers from Statistics Canada on some of these census metro areas::

Québec City  715,515 {former home of the Nordiques}
"Winterpeg"  694,668 {former home of the Jets, which became the Coyotes}
Hamilton  692,611  {Had an NHL team from 1920-1925}
London 457,720
Kitchener/Waterloo 451,235

Oh, BTW, Iqualuit up in Nunavut only has 6,184 people.

Kitchener and London are about 64 and 130kM from Hamilton, respectively.   At any rate, if Hamilton and Kitchener/Waterloo are considered to be a fanbase region, it would rival Ottawa, Edmonton, and Calgary, all metro areas with NHL teams.  Adding London would strengthen the case even more.  

As an aside, I think it would be great if regional fans could easily take mass transit to games.  Unfortunately, rail between Kitchener & London to Hamilton is less than ideal.  It's cheaper to take a GoTrain from Hamilton to Toronto {$21.90CAN} than to take Via train from London {$44.10CAN}.  I couldn't find an easy way by train to get from Kitchener to Hamilton.  I'm sure there are busses, which isn't my favourite mode of transit.

This fanbase map, while imperfect, is the type of GIS-like analytical tool that can help assess and manage brand-building for sports franchises.

I can see a southern Ontario team {east of Michigan} gaining a fanbase from Windsor and Sarnia up to Hamilton and possibly out towards St. Catherines {would national pride supersede any loyalties to the Detroit Red Wings & Buffalo Sabres?  Of course, winning changes everything}.  According to a 2008 NHL super-secret report, along the lines of Dean Wormer's double-secret probation, 6 of the top 7 ticket revenue generating teams are Canadian::  (#1) Toronto $1.9M per game, (2) Montréal $1.7M, (3) Vancouver $1.4M, (4) Calgary $1.3M, (6) Ottawa $1.2M, & (7) Edmonton $1.2M.  The lone top-5 US team was the NY Rangers at #5 with $1.3M per game.  While some cannibalization of the Leafs {Toronto} is likely, ticket revenue-wise the Leafs are at the top of the game.

As for a new team name, a Facebook discussion board was started last year.  There was an NHL team there in the 1920s, the Hamilton Tigers.  Someone threw the Loyalists into the ring.  Loyalists?  What century are we in?  How about the Hamilton Prince Willies?.  Given this, let the double entendres flow.

Image::  Mural of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the College Street station, Toronto, ON.  The opposite side of the platform has a mural of the arch-rival Habs.

{Old} Hockey Night in Canada Theme AKA Canada's Second National Anthem

Saturday, May 02, 2009

I'm just not cool enough to be a Mac Person

Several students have brought to my attention these commercials framing Apple Macintoshes as being overpriced and lacking in features that consumers want.  The Laptop Hunters series of ads is here {may need Silverlight plugin}.

Apple has always been at the higher end of pricing.  I'm dating myself by saying I bought an Apple //e in the early 80s for $1,976US, which is $4,153 is 2009 dollars.  Around that same time, the Apple Lisa was being targeted at business users, touting a graphical users interface {GUI}.  Here's a demo of  Lisa2/5, which went for about $5,500 {$11,561 in 2009 dollars}.  More on Lisa here.  The original Lisa was launched in 1983 with a sticker price more than an economy car: $10,000 {21,020 in 2009}.  Note in the video how slow it is and the huge hard drive.  The business targeted Lisa could have more than one program open at a time, something thae Mac couldn't handle back then.

The First Mac
The original target price for the first Mac in 1984 was $999 {$2,099 in 2009}.  Apple adjusted this upwards, as technology and competition shifted and had a target costing approach to price aimed at $2,499 {$5,253 in 2009}.  The original Mac was more powerful than NASA computers that landed a man on the moon, but were "128 KB computers with an 8 MHz 68000 CPU, a built-in 9" 512 x 342 black-and-white display, a 400 KB 3.5" floppy drive, a keyboard, and a mouse."  Memory was a limitation, as it was astronomical in price.  The Mac was able to ship a 512K Mac later in the year, but it retailed for $3,000 {$6,306 in  2009}.  In 1984, the Mac was underpowered for a computer with a GUI.  It brought many features to a "mass-market" computer, but the honeymoon period for Apple would be short.  Windows would be launched in late 1985 with compatibility with a vast majority of the PC market.

Competing on Price?
I'm not sure if competing on price is a good idea for Windows or PC assemblers {Dell, H-P, Acer, ASUS, LG, etc.}, even in a recession.  This is the age of the consumer experience.  Consumers want a good usability experience and a good brand experience, where the brand gives them meaning and they feel a kinship with the brand.  "Same features but lower price" isn't a compelling idea, no matter how likable Lauren et al. are.  It may even be a dangerous one, as it makes turns WIntel machines into generic commodities.  I think it's back to the drawing board, although Adweek disagrees with me.