Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gone Fishin'

I'm off to Europe to present my latest research on masculinity and advertising, and I won't be blogging during the summer months. The blog will resume in September.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living, playing, learning and working in virtual worlds

So you think that adults who participate in virtual worlds are silly, geeky, and more than a little weird. And those avatars…they look like cartoon characters. Who would want to do that, you ask? A Second Life is not something you seek – right? Well, think again. Your world is becoming more virtual by the day, and just because you don’t notice it or feel it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It is in this way that culture sneaks up on us. To put it another way: culture is something we take for granted. And, you need to recognize there is a generation coming up behind you that is already participating in immersive environments in play and in school. If you don’t get with the program, you’ll be left behind (out of this cultural shift), and you will become part of a generational rift. You know how your parents take issue with you regarding your media consumption? Well, this is potentially where you become the critic of the children of the next generation. Join them or be left out in the proverbial cold. Just to emphasize the point of the growing use of virtual reality in realms beyond play, The Wall Street Journal reported this week on the use of virtual reality in training nurses to deal with disasters. The article describes a scenario that might be too costly to simulate in authentic reality, but one that can in a more cost effective manner be created in virtual reality. I’m talking about medical training in Second Life.
What about the hi-tech company where half the employees who may live in different parts of the world don’t come to work, but meet in a virtual environment, or administrative meetings among the deans from nine campuses at a southern university that take place in a virtual world, because of the cost savings derived from not having to travel long distances. While virtual worlds may look like something that should be relegated to the world of play, play in fact is one of the ways in which we learn. So whether it is training for a potential disaster or collaborating with colleagues, virtual worlds have potential beyond the world of entertainment, although there’s nothing wrong with that. When you think about the future of virtual worlds, think 3-D or perhaps holography, as this will bring new meaning to the word “immersive” which characterizes the experiences we have in virtual worlds. Instead of thinking about how cartoonish those avatars look, think about a realistic replication of your self. And, think about not having to create an avatar for each virtual world you inhabit, but a single avatar that travels through several if not many virtual worlds. Think about whether this is silly, geeky, and more than a little weird, or whether we are in the early stages of experiencing a major cultural and technological shift.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Behavior Placement: TV tells us what to do and what to buy

We’ve recently been discussing the power of celebrity, in particular the imaginary relationships we form and maintain with media figures. Sometimes those relationships provide the motivation to use a particular product or cut your hair in a way that emulates the celebrity, among many other possibilities. NBC television appears to understand the potential influence of television characters and the stars that portray them as they enter into a Faustian bargain with marketers by including politically and socially correct messages in programming, something they call “behavior placement.”  Behavior placement, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, is not unlike something we’ve talked about – product placement. The idea is that by including politically or socially correct ideas, like going green, within storylines the network wants to kill two proverbial birds with one stone: they want to influence behavior, and they want to use these ideological positions to sell advertising. The article describes one scenario where a hybrid vehicle is featured in a particular dramatic context. Including something that subtle may be appealing to hybrid automakers that may, on that very basis, choose to buy advertising time during the program. The network has announced they will include within regularly scheduled programs features on healthy eating and exercise. Again, scenarios are being written into scripts in order to create a symbiotic relationship between what the viewer should do (exercise regularly) and what the advertiser wants the consumer to do (purchase Healthy Choice meals). This sounds a lot like propaganda to me. NBC, I guess, can feel good that they are touting ideas about health and the environment, but their motives simply are not pure. I’m curious to see if I can pick up any of these idea “placements.” But I guess that means I’ll have to actually pay close attention to what’s on the scene; something I really don’t like to do.