I have been working on The Journal of the Medinge Group this weekend, including doing a few nip–tucks to the press release that Stanley Moss originally authored. Here it is, and the latest Journal articles—which are very, very good this year—can be found at medinge.org/journal.
They are all compelling but I enjoyed Nicholas Ind’s one on market orientation, since a lot of my own branding research took Narver and Slater, and Kohli and Jaworski, as starting-points. Stanley Moss and Thomas Gad’s paper on the second wave of sustainability branding in Sweden conﬁrms an earlier talk I gave on the ‘Swedenization of branding’. The papers are all still ahead of their time: when I read each one, which I had to do as their publisher, I felt I was learning at every turn.
I have highlighted only three authors above, so let me say, and not because of lip-service, that it is hard to beat the real-world experience of Malcolm Allan, Ian Ryder, Patrick Harris, Sicco van Gelder and Tony Quinlan, whose papers are based directly on their practice, and not on sit-down theory.
International think-tank, the Medinge Group, publishes second issue of Journal
Stockholm, Seal Beach, Calif. and Wellington, September 2 (JY&A Media) The Medinge Group, a Stockholm-based think-tank on international branding, today announces publication of the second edition of its yearly online review, The Journal of the Medinge Group at <http://medinge.org/journal>. Exclusively digital, the collection of essays and thought provides a window into the think-tank’s evolving vision of humanistic branding.
Medinge is closely watched in the business community for its vanguard thought. In 2003 the group inaugurated the yearly Brands with a Conscience award, which is frequently cited in international media. The awards are given every January at a private ceremony in Paris. The think-tank also runs a free-standing consultancy. Medinge’s gurus are sought after for their cross-category expertise.
The new issue of the online Journal contains articles informed by the group’s leading-edge perspective, on topics ranging from place branding to strategy to value-creation.
The September 2008 issue consists of the following papers.
Branding New Kinds of Places: the Example of Experience Retail Centres
by Malcolm Allan
The author, a town planner and place and destination brand practitioner, discusses the challenges of creating place brand strategies for completely new types of urban development using the example of the emergence of places that combine retail, leisure, entertainment, sports, cultural and heritage facilities to a greater extent than has been seen hitherto.
How to Improve the Chances of Successfully Developing and Implementing a Place Brand Strategy
by Sicco van Gelder
This paper tries to answer critical questions by describing the criteria and factors that contribute to successful place branding. By assessing the place, the players and the plans they make, it is possible to predict the likely success of a place branding initiative.
An Introduction to Storytelling in Employee Branding
by Tony Quinlan
The real power and opportunity for using stories in organizations is in listening to stories, helping others to create their own authentic stories and making sense of the stories told.
Issues and Challenges of Developing and Managing Brand Strategy in a Not-for-proﬁt (Chartered) Body
by Ian Ryder
The rules are different for chartered bodies. Not the fundamentals of brand strategy, clearly, but the processes and procedures of development and execution, as the author reveals.
Mythology, Leaders and Leadership
by Tony Quinlan
The author challenges the myths of leadership deﬁnitions, and puts forward research on leadership that works, requiring the support of legends, communication and role-modelling.
The Next Wave of Sustainability Hits Swedish Brands
by Thomas Gad and Stanley Moss
This article introduces the argument that Swedish brands have moved beyond other countries’ positions on sustainability.
A Participative Approach to Brand-Building
by Nicholas Ind
The argument of this paper is a simple one: creating value for customers is an organization-wide responsibility. The author reconsiders the market orientation papers of Narver and Slater and Kohli and Jaworski and introduces the concept of Participatory Market Orientation.
Saving Detroit, by Not Making the Same Old Mistakes
by Jack Yan
Detroit has not ever used a brand orientation in its automakers’ marketing strategies, and it talks of trimming brands and numbers to allow it to compete. The author believes in being more focused on brands and not losing economies of scale, and building more of what consumers want. The tools are there, such as consumer-targeted blogs, but manufacturers need to use them.
We the People
by Patrick Harris
This paper considers the importance of employees in the process of building customer experience. It states that internal investment is rewarded with consistent, quality customer exchanges. Brand values are presented as the currency to measure the worth of exchanges between organizations and their customers. The paper concludes by presenting a case study of the mobile operator, Orange, during the period 1994–2003.
About the Medinge Group
Founded in 2002, the Medinge Group ﬁrst published a brand manifesto of eight statements encapsulating a vision of healthy brands for the future. In 2003, the group authored a collection of essays entitled Beyond Branding, which explored the ways in which brands could add value within alternative business and social models. In 2004, the group established the annual Brands with a Conscience list to recognize organizations who epitomize humanistic behaviour; in 2006, Medinge added a special category of recognition named in honour of its late colleague Colin Morley, which acknowledges excellence by an NGO, in keeping with Colin’s humanistic vision. The Medinge Group maintains an online, automated speakers’ and experts’ bureau accessible through its web site, www.medinge.org. In 2007 Medinge launched an online resource, The Journal of the Medinge Group, a digital anthology of papers and articles written by Medinge members. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:20
Poor Maurice Williamson. He’s getting attacked because of his idea announced on Agenda about charging tolls for roads that will be part-funded by private enterprise. There’s a furore in the media, nudged along by the government’s spin-doctors, about Williamson’s claim that users could fork out $50 a week for use of these roads.
Unlike the secret recording of National’s deputy leader Bill English, saying that the party would sell Kiwibank if elected—which I say goes to show the Opposition’s true intent—Williamson was far clearer about how the $50 was worked out on the programme. But we are talking politics here, so let’s not have facts get in the way of a good story.
I certainly don’t make a habit of defending National and its top men, Squeaky and Head Prefect, but Williamson isn’t as daft as one thinks when his full interview is considered.
Williamson believes that if there were a road on which one could take 20 minutes versus one where one is stuck on for an hour, then there will be some who would be willing to pay a premium to save time.
Having watched the interview, I don’t recall Williamson setting a ﬁgure, but he did say that if a $5 toll per trip were reasonable given the time saving, then it could be the amount charged. He also mentioned $2 per trip.
The ﬁgures were totally conditional and Williamson certainly was enthusiastic, but to see the Opposition spin it by saying a member of the Shadow Cabinet had just got carried away just shows how ill-prepared National is in standing behind its own.
In fact, National has had a record in failing to stand behind Maurice Williamson MP, beard or no beard, but then the last bust-up was targeted at the leader and party president in 2003.
Sadly, Williamson has in part agreed with this “over-reacting” explanation—though I will issue a caveat here myself by saying I only know that through a sound-bite on National Radio.
I have driven a lot on the toll roads in Europe, especially in France, and the difference in time between the old routes nationales and the autoroutes with péages is often worth the euro or two in terms of overall fuel and time savings. However, I doubt that many people will believe that they would save $20–$50 in petrol per week.
On the ﬂip side I can understand the cynicism. We’ve heard promises before from politicians. Few people my age won’t have forgotten Roger Douglas telling us that GST meant that we would have more money in our pockets. Maybe the political journalists and Labour have their decoders on and I didn’t on Sunday morning when Agenda was on, but right now it looks like a tidbit taken out of context. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:23
The PHP glitch that prevented the Lucire ‘Insider’ blog from showing for four days last week has now been ﬁxed. It turns out there was an extra slash added into the code, which the Rackspace support tech spotted. There’s been a bit of a ﬂood from the backlog, including a brand-new article, featuring video, on Bond girl Caterina Murino (Casino Royale) jokingly talking about a scene in the next James Bond ﬁlm Quantum of Solace. I won’t show that clip here, but below are some miscellaneous views from Caterina’s Beijing visit.
Posted by Jack Yan, 12:27
My apologies to anyone trying to get on to the Lucire Insider blog since the 20th. We made some modiﬁcations to the PHP in preparation for launching Lucire’s mobile edition and, like all things technical, they did not work. We had experts do it.
Maybe this is a self-fulﬁlling prophecy since I do not like nor use cellphones (exceptions apply when I am out of town and am forced to take one)—so obviously anything in my world related to them is bound to go kaput. And I have had a go at computer experts more than once on this blog.
I’ve asked the tech guys to reverse whatever changes were made so hopefully the last year’s worth of content on the blog is still around.
I won’t dis these chaps too hard because I really don’t know where the fault lies: our explanations, the original ﬁles provided by the cellphone guys, or the hosts themselves.
I did have an interesting one come up last month when my ofﬁce laptop gave up the ghost. The Laptop Company kindly inspected it without charging me a dime but concluded that the motherboard had died after attempting boot-ups with new RAM and a new hard drive.
My father, who recently turned 73, suspected a capacitor in the power supply not getting to full charge and, on that basis, proceeded to take it apart. And he got it working.
The fault could be traced to the power supply and possibly a short in the battery.
OAPs one point, youngsters under 30, zero. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:08
You’ve all heard the controversy over whether Red Chinese gymnast He Kexin is 14 or 16. A hacker has found documents in the Baidu (the Red Chinese search engine) cache that indicate she is 14. Some commenters have attacked the hacker, pointing out some potential errors in the search. A few point out that it’s really strange that ofﬁcial documents relating to He Kexin are disappearing from Google and Baidu.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that last year, the Xinhua news agency—a branch of the Chinese Communist Party—reported that He was 13.
The Politburo has denied it ever gave the agency her age.
It has emerged since that the People’s Daily, another arm of the Communist Party, reported in May that He was 14. I’m surprised this page has not been altered yet, while all the old spreadsheets have disappeared, and other articles have either been modiﬁed or deleted from the web.
Will the Politburo dare suggest that that it never gave the newspaper her age either? Has the journalist lately “disappeared”?
One speech given by a leading Red Chinese ofﬁcial last year introduced He as 13, to no subsequent corrections.
I’m simply using the Red Chinese’s own ofﬁcial mouthpieces to raise a question, because all this seems really contradictory: 14 before the controversy, 16 (in the same newspaper) after. What gives?
As a Chinese person I am really delighted that the Chinese people have done so well in the medal stakes. The Olympics are one time I root for someone who is Chinese because I can put politics aside. But when it comes to things that put us all in disrepute, I can’t help but point to those that might be responsible.
I ﬁnd it sad that a teenager (14 or 16) has been caught up in this when she is an innocent party. I hope that He does not face any bans if she is found to be underage. If there is deception, the parties behind it need to dealt with. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:02
I know it’s fashionable to have a blog but what if you were a banking general manager with a printed newsletter to customers? From Westpac Banking Corp. New Zealand Ltd.:
I spent so long looking for the comment link, but there isn’t one.
Humour aside, this is either an example of etymological evolution, the mainstreaming of blogs, an old, old industry trying desperately to look hip, or media convergence, where one day many more editorials will be called blogs. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:23
We’ve all seen how Red China can say, ‘The Politburo would like a stadium here, please,’ and one will appear, thanks to underpaid labour. And over the last decade, the growth of Red China has been fuelled by willing corporations all over the world wanting to take advantage of its cheap labour.
It makes perfect sense from a capitalist viewpoint. I have explored the dangers before—using the point of the “race to the bottom” where corporations seek cheaper and cheaper labour to get their goods made. For decades some have got fat off this strategy, and they believe they can continue it. However, they might have met their match with the Red Chinese, who might not be content being the assembly line to the world.
Just as a Red Chinese planner in Beijing can draw a line on a map and order water diverted from a farming region to the city along that route, how can we be sure that such orders are not given when it comes to entire industries?
One warning I have given for over a decade is the danger of Red Chinese companies, which have little respect for intellectual property rights, taking designs and selling them. The idea of a “third shift” is not unknown in Red Chinese manufacture, where pirate goods come out of the authorized factory—during the times when the place is meant to be empty. The companies can learn the ideas behind the goods, learn about the consumption patterns of the buying nation, and conclude: hey, why don’t we make the extra proﬁt ourselves? (I have long been a supporter of Indian commerce instead if people truly sought a stable billion-population market—plus Indians in business speak impeccable English and have a common law system.)
The likelihood is that a Red Chinese business commission could order entire industries shut, forcing factories supplying overseas buyers to stop their production. The commission could make whatever excuse it wanted, e.g. ‘This area is now designated a high-tech area, and not one for textiles.’ The buyers are left with no goods, effectively collapsing them. Then, seeing the demand for those goods remain, the Red Chinese government would ﬁnance the establishment of a rival company after a few months, exporting exclusively to it, and earning the extra proﬁt itself.
Not only would the Red Chinese be the world’s manufacturer, but it would be the world’s retailer.
If you don’t believe this is possible, and that the Red Chinese are all capitalists, then think again. The Olympics have shown that little has changed in occupied China: homeowners were evicted forcibly at night, farms are being starved of water, churches have been shut down, and there have been more detentions of locals without charge in the lead-up to the event. The claim that Red China would open up as the Olympics neared, creating more freedoms—that’s what it told the Olympic organization in pitching for the 2008 Games—has turned out to be BS. Only because of the threatened loss of face has Red China allowed greater media access, otherwise I reckon it would have been business as usual.
And for a totalitarian régime, the industry-closure technique could be an appealing way to spread its inﬂuence more widely.
I doubt this warning will be heeded because it sounds ridiculous to anyone who has not either lived through or has had a family member go through the Communist régime’s handiwork. Or it’s too far-fetched because buyers could seek new production sources. Maybe they can—but it sure is hard ﬁnding goods that don’t have ‘Made in China’ stamped on them. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:54
I did a bit more work on JY Aristi last night and today. Here are some test documents for it, now with a few revised characters.
Firstly, Hamburgerfonts (or, in this case, Hamburgefontsiv) is a common test word in typeface design. It shows the cap height, x-height (the height of a lowercase x), ascender height (b, f, t) and descender height (g) plus some regularly occurring letters and how the typeface fares with diagonals and curved letters.
The ﬁrst graphic compares JY Aristi (ﬁrst line) with some similar typefaces to check copyﬁtting and styles. The typefaces are JY Aristi, JY Ætna (on which JY Aristi is loosely based, but was designed for 14 pt settings), Monotype Plantin Light (a 10 pt master), Monotype Bembo (also based on a 10 pt master) and the ubiquitous Monotype Times New Roman.
What is apparent above is that JY Aristi could work in text. There is little contrast between verticals and horizontals and it is largely legible. The new g is more robust. It can be an excellent text font with some oldstyle connotations.
JY Ætna, because it was designed for 14 pt, appears lighter when set at the same point size. It also appears narrower. The idea is that when it is set at the size it was designed for, it should look like it has the same contrast and weight as the text. In this case, I think it would work with JY Aristi.
The third typeface is Monotype Plantin Light. This version was based on drawings for a 10 pt model, so it should compete with JY Aristi. The x-height is greater so if we were to shrink down the point size to match the x-height, it would be more compact.
Fourth is Bembo, which has the same roots as Ætna and Aristi. I normally like Bembo but I think this early PostScript version from Monotype is too light for text usage. Monotype issued a new Bembo Book some years ago, but I haven’t bought (a licence for) it yet.
The last is Times New Roman, as installed on nearly every computer in the world. Times was based loosely on Plantin and it’s here for comparison. It also has a high x-height but its designer, Stanley Morison, was clever in having many of the common letters condensed, which newspapers love—that’s why, for so long, many newspapers used it—and many still do.
JY Aristi is not meant to replace Times—I see it used more for magazine work (one of the aims) and my colleague Stanley Moss thinks it would work for academic usage as it looks historical enough.
Finally, here’s JY Artisti with Monotype Bembo, set to the same x-height and leading. It’s not really a fair ﬁght: Aristi is easier to read and more compact. Put Aristi alongside Times and I am sure it would not fare as well. However, I believe the two typefaces have a similar overall effect. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:02
I started this typeface design months ago but after chatting to a colleague today, I decided to ﬁnish some of the outstanding bits. It’s not ready for release as there are still bits to be reﬁned.
The idea was to create an aldine text typeface to complement my earlier release, JY Ætna (based on the work of Francesco Griffo).
Griffo designed Bembo in the ﬁfteenth century. I discovered its usefulness as a text typeface through the old Your Classic magazine and began using it myself for a few clients then. JY Ætna was based (liberally) on the original cut of Bembo, and I used a 14 pt master, which meant that it could be typeset comfortably at larger sizes than the digital versions of Bembo on sale back in the mid-1990s.
The problem was that JY Ætna was not that great at anything below 10 pt. I used it at the smaller sizes when new but I look back and the ascenders were too high. Basically JY Aristi, as I have called the new work was borne out of necessity and a stubborn preference for my own typefaces rather than someone else’s. It will be my ﬁrst retail release in many years, too.
When Kris Sowersby, a fellow typeface designer, mentioned Plantin to me in an email, some of the letters were reﬁned in a Plantin direction—it’s one of my favourites thanks to it being the body typeface for Autocar in the late 1980s.
JY Aristi might become the text family in Lucire. I just have to make sure I like reading it over long passages of text. I was not happy with the earlier lowercase g, which looks a little prissy and close to my earlier JY Tranquility. The 5 in the illustration above was too heavy and has since been changed. Maybe I will release it in early 2009, but it depends when I have time to do the italics and bolds. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:57
It’s still the 8th of the 8th of the 8th somewhere on this planet, and this, coincidentally, is the 888th post on this blog. It wasn’t ﬁxed up to be this way—it just happened.
This blog has been an interesting experiment. Branched off from the old Beyond Branding Blog—the one which Google–Blogger won’t ﬁx despite protests that the home page won’t load—I was a daily or several-times-daily blogger in the ﬁrst year, then dropped back and tried to do weekly.
Although I have been blogging since 2003, I initially saw little point to it. Part of that was because I had other websites on which I could post op-eds. Another part was that, even in those early days, blogging was a way that amateur writers could pretend to be professional publishers, and I looked down on a few of those efforts. There were bloggers I admired then, but I felt they deserved to be in a better medium.
Today, I am happy to say my views have changed: while I think a lot of blogs are amateur, there are some amazingly professional ones—and if the technology had not been there, the world would have been poorer without the contribution of many folks out there. I consider myself a visionary about some things, but I sure didn’t see the immediate relevance of this one.
In 2005–6 I don’t mind admitting that blogging was a way to straighten out some of my own thoughts, in particular through a period when there were internal difﬁculties, and once we had got through them, my focus was more on sticking to the knitting. That meant blogging was a trivial affair—the less well thought-out, slice-of-life, dear-diary pieces are at Vox—and the ones where I philosophize more about work, especially the Jack Yan & Associates side of things, wound up here. Lucire’s blog started a year ago—as a very late entrant to the game even if it had pioneered many other things—and the more fashion- and often media-related things wound up there.
Where to next? I don’t know. If there’s one thing I have learned about blogging is that it is up to the author, rather than any great plan. The blog should be a laissez-faire affair, reﬂecting the whim of the blogger. In my case, I believe it should be driven less by audience demands, because it is a tool, which I have decided to control. Each one of the blogs I have run has evolved: in 2006 I had little need for a Vox blog, but it has since found a place in my life. The Lucire blog is driven more by the audience, but then it is part of Lucire as opposed to my personal brand.
So on the 8th of the 8th of the 8th, I have no announcements about the future of blogging other than a reminder that people are in charge, rather than the technology. But today in this 888th post, I have one announcement: a big thank-you to readers, either through the blog page or through the feed, for sticking with me over these last two years at this domain. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:46
I never heard a response from LinkedIn over its alleged treatment of my friend Vincent Wright, but I was interested in the change to its terms and conditions effective July 31.
Folks may be interested that the following are not permitted:
• deep-link to the Site for any purpose, (i.e. including a link to a LinkedIn web page other than LinkedIn’s home page) unless expressly authorized in writing by LinkedIn or for the purpose of promoting your proﬁle or a Group on LinkedIn; …
• use manual or automated software, devices, scripts robots, other means or processes to access, “scrape,” “crawl” or “spider” any web pages contained in the site; …
• upload a cartoon, symbol, drawing or any content other than a photograph of yourself in your proﬁle photo; …
I respect LinkedIn’s right to set whatever terms it wishes, especially since it doesn’t charge us for most of its services.
The ﬁrst term cited above might be problematic—it prevents me from recommending a colleague or friend’s LinkedIn proﬁle directly now.
Unless there’s some agreement to the contrary, the second outlaws Google. You guys are in trouble if you spider the LinkedIn site. And there’s not going to be much in the way of conﬂicts of laws there.
The third is plain restrictive.
I’m agreeing to them, but I am not sure how well thought-out two out of the above three are. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:46
[Cross-posted] When I was younger, software developers did this thing called testing, which doesn’t seem to happen these days.
It was such a radical idea. They would test the product and when we used it, it would work! How cool!
Nowadays, everything is so full of bugs and you need a computing degree to understand the manual.
I was reminded of this today with this new look on Facebook. When I clicked on ‘Proﬁle’, Facebook automatically switched me to the new look. The ﬁrst thing that came up was an error message about Ajax and some sort of ‘Transport error’. I’m not interested in your transport problems, Facebook. Really conﬁdence-building.
But I am willing to give things a chance, and use programs in the way they are meant to be used. I should have learned this lesson by now: never give software a chance and never use programs the way they are meant to be used. That is a sure way to break it. In 2008, this is bound to waste your time and make you lose conﬁdence in the product.
I noticed that my FriendFeed application was on the ‘Boxes’ page in the new Facebook. I didn’t want it there, and the FriendFeed options gave me the choice to shift it to my ‘Wall’ page.
I took that option.
Facebook or FriendFeed deleted every single entry out of the FriendFeed box.
Angry, I switched back to the old Facebook design, only to notice that the FriendFeed box had now been eliminated.
I tried to add it back in but that was impossible.
Facebook insisted it was already installed, but I could only conclude that it would take a spiritual medium on LSD to detect it.
Eventually I struck upon the solution of intentionally going into the new Facebook look, bugs and all, and move the empty FriendFeed box there back to the ‘Boxes’ page.
I returned to the old look.
Then I edited the privacy settings (which of course are not under ‘Privacy’—that would be too easy) for FriendFeed, ticking one box at a time to see what changes would happen.
Eventually I had to select every box except for the email option.
I selected the ‘Display in the left-hand menu’ option which, in Facebook terms, eventually saw my FriendFeed application appear on the right-hand side.
It actually didn’t appear at ﬁrst. I had to click one of the links below my proﬁle photograph for FriendFeed and the site then did a search for it on my page. It didn’t jump to it—it was a laborious crawl down the page, with Facebook hoping it could conjure up the repaired FriendFeed box.
All I can say to Facebook is that I did not sign up as your beta tester. Please test your programs before forcing them on to the public. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:36
Remember Xanadu? It’s become somewhat of a cult hit even though in 1980 it was considered Olivia Newton-John’s mega-turkey. Stylistically, it sits uncomfortably between the 1970s and 1980s, as though there was a vacuum in between the decades. In one scene, Michael Beck insists to Gene Kelly that ‘It’s the ’80s’, but you know that it must have been shot in 1979 and people had not rebelled against disco at the time.
Of course, reality tells us that you can’t mark off decades so clearly: elements of the 1970s necessarily continue into the 1980s, and some of what we regard as 1980s style had their roots in the decade before.
But by 1982 there’s no doubt that one was in the 1980s: Rick Dees poked fun at ‘Disco Duck’ on Solid Gold and even ABBA no longer could do number-one hits.
While there aren’t clear decade-dividers, there is a sense among us, as people, to want to bring new things into each era. Who can forget the sense of optimism we all faced as January 1, 2000 came around, even though it wasn’t technically the new millennium yet? We saw the year number beginning with 2 and it was a big deal. All those science-ﬁction ﬁlms predicting a new era in the twenty-ﬁrst century brought with them a sense of anticipation—and those that didn’t forecast the end of mankind in 1999 suggested that we might be a nicer bunch in the 2000s than we were in human history’s most violent, murderous 100 years.
Here we are in 2008 and not that much has changed. We deﬁnitely aren’t nicer; in western countries we might well be more paranoid. But these are, in my reckoning, not twenty-ﬁrst-century issues. This is leftover business from the twentieth century that we have not sufﬁciently dealt with, and we still have the opportunity to do something about it.
Terrorism and nutty red brigades were with us through much of my childhood but various western democracies thought they could turn their backs on them. Arafat’s PLO came to the fore in the 1970s, not the 1990s. The negative effects of globalization have been with us since the postwar period. As has communism in Red China, which has brought us the censorship that western media are only now, with days to go before the Beijing Olympics, making a song and dance about.
Just as a new decade does not begin to be “felt” till two years in, a new century won’t be felt till, I reckon, its second decade begins.
The twentieth might well have been marked by our arrogance and over-dependence on technology as the Titanic set sail. And as that century dawned, indeed we were bullish about globalization brought about by shipping routes and the British Empire. As the Titanic sank, we were reminded that we could never be over-conﬁdent about technology. We might have said a few years before that we had too much to lose from going to war, with the expansion of global trade, but humankind sank into the Great War with new innovations of aeroplanes and machine-guns.
Yet humans remain optimistic as we head into the 2010s. I would say there are more Americans hopeful about Sen. Obama’s race toward the White House than Sen. McCain’s at this stage, regardless of the latter’s attack advertising—because Obama has not deﬁned things well. There is a sense of casting off the twentieth century. You see the same in so many areas as people question the economic system, politics, and how we are exposed to global disasters through the media. You also see questioning of the media. All of this inquisitiveness seems to be happening on a wider scale, maybe sparked off by authors and thinkers writing in the last part of the twentieth century trying to lay some useful groundwork for the rest of us as their ideas got out.
What sort of century is emerging? We would like to think that we can solve all the world’s problems because we are blessed with the ability and desire; yet institutions seem to constantly thwart our collective wills. Various individuals take matters into their own hands, be they international philanthropists setting up funds for poorer countries or bloggers trying to break the mainstream media’s deadlock on what we are allowed to know.
Meanwhile, corporations try to feed consumers products as a substitute for Orwellian soma—not necessities which we should look at having, but unnecessary items that take us away from being true to ourselves.
I don’t have the answers to what sort of century we will face. I know what sort of century I would like to face. One where people from all walks of life can realize their dreams, where people can receive the education they want, and where deceit and avarice are shown to be harmful to the collective good. One where imagination and innovation drive forward human progress, rather than impeded by society or corporations because they view them as threats.
The answer might lie in examining the changes in style between decades. Were they the result of companies dictating fashion or some deeper change in the Zeitgeist, driven by many individuals?
I like to think it was the latter. When the end of 1999 came about, I certainly was not told to head into town to see how crowded or fun Wellington city was. I just went. Something drew me to it.
There is something to be said about people driving the mood of the planet, and how we still have a chance to shape the twenty-ﬁrst century’s destiny as we cast off the negative effects of the previous one.
We know where we goofed. We have seen it in the destruction of freedom or the greed of certain parties; we have seen it through a failure to understand other cultures or how institutions block aid from getting to the people. We know there must be solutions, and we now have a twentieth-century invention—the internet—where we can band together, make some noise and maybe generate real progress. We just need to wake up, realize what is useless in our lives, what we can do for ourselves and others, and get back to ﬁrst principles. Technology, for instance, is here to serve us, rather than direct us into buying the next little toy to waste away whatever precious seconds we have each day.
We might deﬁne the new century through new energies (hybrid cars are so last century—we can do better), through new ways of reaching people in need (which we are already doing through unprecedented dialogue), and through redeﬁning institutions to turn them into agents of change rather than stiﬂng collectives of people.
It’s through simplifying our lives and our directions that we can sense what we might want in the twenty-ﬁrst century. Have a think—and maybe we can just put something out there into that Zeitgeist as this century really begins unfolding. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:50
[Cross-posted] Keira Knightley says that she feels inadequate alongside better qualiﬁed actors because she didn’t go to university, according to next month’s Tatler. This is despite Miss Knightley, as Forbes revealed, being the second most highly paid actress in Hollywood. But that feeling of needing a little more is a refreshing one among the highest-proﬁle members of the acting profession.
While there are many productive citizens out there who lack university qualiﬁcations—and some of history’s greatest players also lack a degree—I say Miss Knightley’s lament serves as a better example than those ill-qualiﬁed actors who believe they are the bee’s knees without having exerted academic effort.
For even those great players in history had done their share of critical thinking rather than drift through life with whatever they knew at the end of high school.
Yet we are witnessing an occidental society that worships actors and athletes ahead of, say, Third-World charity workers and nurses.
In the fashion media it has been somewhat concerning to see Gisèle Bündchen, one of the few younger models who might append the super preﬁx to her title, being reported as ‘Tom Brady’s girlfriend’ as though she were some possession. Athletes, it seems, outrank supermodels in the mass media—even the specialist media, ironically, such as Condé Nast’s GQ. Never mind that Bündchen is the best paid model in the world: she is now grouped in as a junior member of the Brady Bunch.
I have nothing against actors and athletes, mind—they should command respect for their inspiration and their service to their countries—but I would hold back that respect if any did not further their duties by setting a positive example for young people to follow.
Tireless and continual industry and the quest for higher knowledge inspire our youth to realize their dreams. Discouraging higher education in favour of easy street is not an example we need. Some, I fear, are guilty of that with their drug habits and vice, all in view of the paparazzi.
And while some universities indulge in forcefeeding young people with facts to regurgitate, rather than have them engage in critical thinking, the mere exposure to higher learning in a ﬁeld one loves can still do wonders for a person’s potential.
For most of us, there is no easy path where we can get through on the mere cult of our personalities.
These days, Miss Knightley is making up for her feeling of inadequacy through reading, a course of action I would certainly recommend to those who might have forgone higher education.
I have lent two books to one of our assistants here who is taking a break from university because I do not want to see her put aside her knack for critical thinking.
Miss Knightley’s reading expands her horizons, which I think will set her in good stead as an actress who can look forward to a long career. This act alone shows that she should not feel inadequate: she is taking her future into her own hands and ﬁlling in the gaps that she perceives in her life. If only more of us took this self-improving route.
She is someone who has thought about herself and her goals, and her frank admission in Tatler may have more positive effects than she planned. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:27
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