Saturday, April 25, 2009
This is the first time I've come across a restaurant in Sydney that actively leverages social recommendation. The Catch at The Spit in Mosman is a fantastic cafe, which serves the best Tuna Nicoise I've ever had - and the blue swimmer crab rigatoni isn't half bad either. I eat out at least 3 times a week and I know and love my food - and this place is good. Perhaps that's why they don't shy away from asking their very satisfied customers to review them on Eatability. Perhaps that's why they've got an average rating of 8.5, with 9 out of 10 for food.
Monday, April 20, 2009
The collaborative, social web, Web 2.0, has driven a shift in values from individual to collective, from hierarchy to egalitarianism, and from absolute ownership to a more blurred concept of ownership.
This manifests itself in open source technologies and file sharing, in mass collaboration on documents and books through cloud computing and in Creative Commons licenses, which allow a scalable amount of sharing of content with attribution, depending on the license. (This blog, for example is licensed under Creative Commons.)
An interesting development is that the global recession is driving similar social values, as people pull together to help themselves. A greater emphasis on community is apparent in Australia. Neighbour Day took place on 29 March and there is increasing press coverage on the topic of neighbourliness.
The old hierarchies are no longer unquestioningly accepted, as runaway capitalism - not least, massive CEO bonuses - falls under scrutiny. Barack Obama recently announced that following the current crisis, it will not be business as usual for Wall Street.
Co-operative movements are growing in numbers and strength globally. In tandem, social lending, a form of social networking, is becoming more prevalent, with loans given out to collectives to help them become self-sufficient.
In Argentina, where recession started much ealier (Argentina the country was declared bankrupt in 2002) co-ops are particularly strong. Under the Movement of Recovered Companies, former workers took over operation of failing companies under a share and share-alike self-run system. Now, as unemployment rises again, the movement has renewed support. A key facilitator is not-for-profit organisation The Working World, which lends to groups via La Base Solidarity Fund.
The new co-operatives may conjure up images of Communism but they are different in an important respect: they are driven from the ground up, not imposed top down, much like the communities of Web 2.0.
We live in a topsy-turvy, bottom-up world, in which people power is growing. In marketing, this means engaging consumers, earning their respect and supporting their causes, so they spread the word about brands. Their causes may be big or small and opportunities for brand involvement are diverse. Billabong, for example, supports and propagates surf culture, through its programme of branded content, as Julian Lee's recent article in the SMH describes. Coles is currently making itself useful to families with its feed the family for under $10 campaign, promoted in their TV campaign and supported with online meal plans.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I have always been a fan of post-apocalyptic tales. In the current climate, I'm spoilt for choice. In fiction, Cormack McCarthy's The Road and Jim Crace's The Pesthouse are haunting, simple, achingly beautiful depictions of humanity in a ruined world.
On TV, Battlestar Galactica shows the demise of mankind, repeatedly destroyed by its own creation and abuse of AI. From Watchmen to new renditions of Terminator, the film scene is as bleak as can be. Meanwhile, the current issue of Time Magazine heralds "a new age of extinction" as we continue to ravage the planet, damaging wildlife and ultimately, ourselves.
Somewhat perversely, I see all this in a positive light. These are times of reflection and they are reflected in our stories, which, despite their darkness, have a glimmer of hope. It's as if people sense that we've brought the world to the brink of disaster. Now we're staring at the precipice and reevaluating what's important.
'Economics' and 'morality' were never heard in the same sentence, now they are increasingly bedfellows. Barack Obama has made it clear that, after the financial crisis, it will not be business as usual for Wall Street.
Climate change is on the agenda, not just out of necessity, but through a growing sense of moral obligation. Through our actions, we're signalling that our planet and the beings upon it are worth saving, hour by hour (e.g. Earth Hour) and job by job (e.g. job sharing).
The current crop of fiction is also making us think: are we worth saving? While most superhero films assume that humanity deserves a helping hand, Watchmen takes the opposite tack.
One of the characters, Dr. Manhattan, a supremely powerful being, who resides (in his birthday suit) in a quantum universe (and hence perceives time and space differently from humans) becomes increasingly detached from human beings, with their humdrum lives and inconsequential cares - in a cosmic sense. The one thing that draws him back is the epiphany that human beings are in fact remarkable - the combination of accidental connections that creates one individual is nothing short of miraculous.
Perhaps, in a sense, people are developing a greater sense of self-worth. Who knows? There have been five global extinctions to date and who's to say we won't be the cause of another?
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
"My Dream, Our Vision"
Singapore recently held a contest to design a pavilion for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. The theme is "Better City, Better Life". This entry is an awesome interpretation of a digital cloud skyscraper. It's also a great piece of engagement marketing for the brand "the future". Visitors are invited in to post their wishes for tomorrow.