Narrowing Down Your Personal Likes/Dislikes Plus The Voice Of Money Makes For A New Lingo

October 14, 2007 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

I bought a mars bar for the astortionate price of one euro recently. Mac Donalds next door to the candy store offered burgers for one euro too. The difference between the calory intake of a mars bar and a burger wasn’t what concerned me all that much. But I must admit, it was numbers that made me think about this choice until long after I’d devoured the chocolate.

The Economist’s BigMac Index is a numbers game that can make you easily as obsessed as a weight watcher on a weight losing streak. Published every week on the magazine’s last page, the index calculates the effect that local currency differences have on consumers’ purchasing power in countries around the world. It indexes the price you pay for a Big Mac in dollar terms, but it assumes purchasing power parity (ppp), ie the idea that one dollar should buy the same goods in every country.

The index calculates the price of a Big Mac in every country where it is sold on this basis (some 120 nations around the globe), providing a nice snapshot of a currency’s over or under valuation. For instance, McDonald’s hamburger might cost 80 cents in Moscow. Which means that goods and services are estimated at 20 cents less than where they should be at that moment. The underlying theory assumes that in the long run the exchange rates of countries should move towards the rate that equalises the price of the Big Mac. Something that economists have devised millions of theories about.

The index and related theories represent a good setting for thinking about the global consumer community. Even though compared to when the index was launched simulaneously with the magazine’s inception in 1986, there is a lot more to know about what drives consumers. We’re vastly becoming connected and with this new intensity with absolute strangers, there is scope for change in the relationship we have with manufacturers. Communities have been long believed to be largely invisible. Ernest Gellner has an interesting theory about what a nation is. He points out that it’s an imagined political community that only exists in people’s minds. ‘Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist,’ is a famous line by him. Perhaps it’s time to move on from this notion.

The combination of the vastly extended factual data and computing processes enables us to bigger things connection-wise, than ever before and communities of consumers are leading the new realization trend in social experiences. The relationship between the Big Mac eater in New York and the one in Moscow won’t necessarily immediately be all that more intense than a decade ago, but it would not be inconceivable though. New initiatives rather than established success formulas are building on the new closeness we all feel community wise. And this has its impact, changing what we perceive to be next logical steps. Consumers, without all that much ado, are beginning to materialize. In the flesh.

How much of an irresponsible bet would it be to anticipate what the consequences are going to be of people’s narrowing down on all aspects of life? The mesmerizing long tail that people like Jeff Jarvis describes so vigorously, is incredibly long and incredibly specific and detailed and involved.

There is no reason for people to be involved with strangers that stay strangers or they are miscommunicating about the particular facet. William Gibson’s only novel set in modern day times, Pattern Recognition, is a poignant example of some rather believable ingredients to new crazes. At the moment, we are all hugely keen on assembling information that highlights how we arrive at certain conclusions. Complexity theories enthrall us very much especially because everybody arrives at them from their own field, knowing that the others arrive from completely different backgrounds at exactly the same spot.

The main character in Pattern Recognition has a superficial but interesting relationship with someone she shares a passion for a forum topic with. It makes the relationship adventurous. Being human takes on a proportion that is that tad more exciting because we feel we have greater scope for interacting and unleashing ideas, passions, craves, pet hates and the look and feel of our latest gadget. There is an outlet for each and every one of our crazes that’s likely way more in-depth than we could achieve on our own.

The activity I’d like to refer to as ‘pin pointing’, and which Gibson describes as ‘footagehead’, a narrowing of essential crazes in pictures, is in itself exciting beyond belief and it might lead some people to believe there is a need for an entirely new lingo here. One perhaps that is not immediately going to be understood by outsiders. Language and story telling has long been the object of study of scenario planners as a means of understanding the foreseeable future. Experts assert that the best scenario, anticipating future developments to any degree of precision, treads the middle ground between paralysis and denial. Already, risk managers say that it is possible to cover 80 percent of the most important uncertainties the future offers.

Story telling and narrative techniques are crucial in ‘divining’ the future. But it’s unlikely that adopting an imaginative approach only employs narration. Art projects of all kinds of media preach a gospel of patterns, points, maps, arrival points, departure points. We’re fascinated with the new, the public experience of the new. We’re reinventing ourselves communally almost, by being imaginative even though we know there’s nothing new under the sun and that is the new, ballistic, life style.

Who knows, it might not be beyond reason to imagine that money will soon have as much as its own voice. Or that some groups would invent a new, borderless nation. The breeding ground for private initiatives at bonding on a particular level is fertile. Consider the fact that there’s a number of high profile novels just out which involved the invention of new vocabulary. For instance A clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, which combines Russian with English and Dune by Frank Herbert, who invented vocabulary to go with ecological concepts.

Teri Santitoro, an editor at Samsdotpublishing says that in both instances the structure of the words and language not only places the reader into the story itself, but into the customs and surroundings of that story. And by miraculous means. “When an author invents words and languages, the reader gets drawn into something beyond the normal experience, which is extremely helpful in building new worlds in science fiction,” the editor says. Science fiction and the money vocabulary idea aren’t all that different. Even though nobody really has ever taken the idea seriously that money might have a vocabulary, I could somehow just imagine the first book featuring this idea will roll off the presses quite soon. In fact, I am cursing my busy schedule right now because I’m well enthralled with the idea myself. I’d dream up a saga including Mother Mary who’d be giving (or taking) apparition lessons from or to consumers…

It’s really not all that ridiculous and fictional because up until today, marketers’ only guideline for recognizing consumers have been numbers and cash flows. We assumed so far that this is a blessing, because if more were known about us, our privacy would be invaded. Nevertheless, recently people are realizing that so long as the process of revealing buying intentions is focused and controlled by the consumer who protects himself by becoming a member of a group, the numbers game might not be so bad after all.

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Entry filed under: Green News.

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