Category Archives: Sociology

Putting the “FUN” back into theory

The Fun Theory (a Volkswagen Initiative) argues, “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better”.  They held a competition for people who had fun ways of encouraging good behaviour.  For example: a ‘bottle bank arcade’ to encourage recycling, ‘piano stairs’ to encourage exercise, ‘the world’s deepest bin’ to encourage people to properly dispose of litter and ‘The Speed Camera Lottery’

 

 

 

The theory is obviously a bit of fun and good marketing but it did have impressive results.  For example, the Speed Camera Lottery ‘game’ reduced the average speed of cars on that road by 22% and the piano stairs meant that 66% more people than normal took the stairs over the escalator.  This gamification of everyday things seems to ‘nudge’ people’s behaviour in profound and measurable ways.  This begs the question, how far can you nudge people and in what ways?

 

 

The Fun Theory: that “fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better” seems to have some solid foundations and is becoming more widely accepted and made use of.  Gamification seems set to be a common feature in our lives and one that may make our lives much more fun.

 

Take the stairs!

On any normal day, due to complete laziness I would probably take the escalator. If you presented me with the opportunity to have ‘fun’ whilst climbing a set of stairs, I’d definitely consider it.

The Fun Project – Piano Staircase was an initiative of Volkswagen to see if by making the daily chore of climbing the stairs to be ‘fun’, would increase the number of people to actually use them. See the results here.

 

Yours in laziness,

Justine

Kevin Allocca: Why videos go viral

Kevin Allocca is YouTube’s trends manager, and he has deep thoughts about silly web video. In this talk from TEDYouth, he shares the 4 reasons a video goes viral. (This is the first talk posted from an amazing TEDYouth event. Many others will come on line next month as part of our TED-Ed launch.

“In a world where over two days of video get uploaded every minute, only that which is truly unique and unexpected can stand out in the way that [viral videos] have.” (Kevin Allocca)

Yours in going viral,
Tanya

Gruen Planet’s first episode airs tonight

 

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The Gruen Transfer is my favourite show. Hands down. It’s required reading (or watching) for those in our industry and gives the rest of the world an insight into what we advertisers do each day.

So naturally I’m busting with excitement for Gruen Planet which airs tonight on ABC1 at 9pm.

Over an eight-week season Gruen Planet will delve into the world of public relations – the world of ‘spin’ with Gruen Transfer host Wil Anderson and panelists Russel Howcroft and Todd Sampson.

“Persuasion is persuasion,” says Sampson, pointing out that the techniques used in PR and damage control are not dissimilar to those used to persuade consumers to buy a product.

Topics will include a proposal to run an ad during grand final week asserting that footballers should not be role models, the rebranding of Rupert Murdoch and a pitch to persuade Australians they hate the Melbourne Cup.

Tonight’s episode will focus on the political survival of prime minister Julie Gillard, described as ‘The only leader on Earth more besieged than Gaddafi’. The show will look at how she should be repositioned as a political brand but will also cover SABMiller’s acquisition of Fosters to tackle the question: How do you sell Aussie beers that are no longer Aussie? And do brands really need to worry about patriotism?

The last part of the show will ask contestants to come up with a campaign to convince Australians that they should stop expecting our footballers to be role models in the run up to grand final week for the NRL and AFL.

And for those of you miss tonight’s episode: a repeat of the show will air on Thursday at 9.30pm on ABC2 or you can catch-up with iView.

Will you be watching?

Yours in spin,
Janet

Sources: mumbrella.com.ausmh.com.au

Driven to distraction

Distraction – Damon Young

6:40am. The alarm goes off. The alarm on my iPhone. I’ve not had an ‘old-school’ alarm clock since my early teens. I reach to turn off the alarm and still half asleep open email, scan and delete in a frighteningly drone-like manner. Check Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for overnight updates. Get out of bed. Continue to get ready for work checking my iPhone for the time. Check public transport app for next bus.

Arrive at the bus stop and observe my fellow commuters entranced by their [insert device of choice here].The majority of us fashioning various styles of earphones in our ears. Our own personal soundtracks keeping us company as we travel to our destination.

iPhone, Android, iPad or E-reader we’ve stopped looking up, talking to the person beside us and being ‘ok’ with our own company, idleness or silence. With a constant demand on our attention we are seeing the emergence of anxieties as a result of data surplus and information overload.

A new generation, one that grew up with a data surplus, is coming along. To this cohort, it’s no big deal to miss a tweet or ten, to delete a blog from your reader or to not return a text or even a voice mail. The new standard for a vacation email is, ‘When I get back, I’m going to delete all the email in my box, so if it’s important, please re-send it next week.’ This is what always happens when something goes from scarce to surplus. First we bathe in it, then we waste it. – Seth Godin, The Shower of Data

When did we cease to disconnect in favour for a distracted and digital existence?

After seeing Damon Young talk at ‘What makes creative minds tick’, one in the Surrealism series of GoMA Talks, I was intrigued to read his book Distraction. Damon’s book is one that you consume in a single sitting. As the image below shows: I was earmarking like a crazy lady.

 

I spoke with Damon and asked him a few questions about distraction.

Brio (B): What are the biggest distractions in the workplace and what do businesses need to do to overcome them? Can they be overcome?

Damon Young (DY): Email is often a focus-killer.  Studies suggest that we reply quickly, sometimes within six seconds.  Then it takes a minute or so to recover our train of thought.  Then another email arrives.  You get the idea. Used clumsily, Twitter, Facebook, internet browsing can also be distractions.

There’s nothing wrong with email, or other online technologies.  They’re just tools.  The trick is to make sure we’re not enslaved by our own habituation, laziness or hunger for novelty.  Set realistic limits.  Check email or Facebook at regular intervals, rather than just responding to beeps.  Speaking of which, turn off notifications, like bouncing icons and dings.   This helps to reinforce the rhythms of work, rather than disrupting them.

Other diversions include gossip and status anxiety – getting sucked into petty office or industry politics.  This is perhaps a harder habit to kick, but talking to folks outside our own profession helps.  It offers a little perspective – the forest instead of the professional trees.

B: Does it have to be as plain as ‘one or the other’? There’s a trend for people to take ‘digital sabbaticals’ to remedy digital overload or go cold turkey. Do we need to go to such extremes in order to balance these devices and technologies in our lives?

DY: Extremes can seem easier than moderation.  This is partly because we rightly don’t trust ourselves – we know if we have a taste of Facebook, we may want more and more, until we’re nervously fingering our smartphone over dinner.  So we hurl ourselves into cold turkey.  This works for some.  But for many, we feel either horrid or suddenly sublime, and then throw ourselves back into e-junky benders because of desperation or over-confidence.

A better way is managed moderation.  Realistic limits to technology use, for example – checking emails at certain hours, for so many minutes, and no more.  This not only diminishes use, it cultivates authority: I’m in charge here, not the inbox.

We can also play our talents off against our weaknesses.  For example, if we’re reliable with money, we promise to save a certain amount, each time we successfully keep to our limits.  Saving, which we’re good at, then becomes a reward for undistracted work, which we’re not so good at.  At the end, we can give ourselves a gift.  Other examples might be exercise, dinners out, treats for a spouse.  We leverage virtues against vices.

B: Why are we so easily distracted and why are we so quick to forgo long-term satisfaction for the quick hit of social media?

DY: We’re distracted because: we get easily addicted, we’re curious animals, and life is frightening.

Addiction doesn’t always involve drugs.  It can be stimulation or certain rhythms – the ‘hit’ of a new email, for example.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we’re habituated to the stimulus.

Curiosity is a good thing.  Researcher Jaan Panksepp talks about ‘seeking’ behaviour: sniffing, foraging, digging, and stalking.  It’s a primal state, which is more about anticipation instead of reward.  We get off on ‘looking-for’.  Google, Facebook, internet browsing turn on this state, and keep it on.  The result is we just keep seeking and seeking, without ever finding.  Nothing wrong with the state – the point into guide it into more rewarding pursuits.

Grown-up life is scary.  Work, friendships, and intimacy – they can all be intimidating, embarrassing or just painful.  It’s easier to flee into distraction than to confront life’s ambiguity, ambivalence or fragility.  “Haste is universal,” wrote the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche over a century ago, “because everyone is in flight from himself.”  But as Nietzsche himself counselled, life is more rewarding when it’s lived fully, rather than in flight – whether this ‘flight’ is online browsing or too many beers.

What do you think? Have we forgotten to disconnect? Are we driven to distraction? What are your remedies for staying focused?

Distraction by Damon Young is available to purchase from Melbourne University Press | Readings | Book Depository | Fishpond

Yours distractedly,

Justine.