Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reimagining Architecture in the Modern Age

As the boys of Monty Python are apt to say: "And Now for Something Completely Different!"
One of the joys of being a cenophile (using the greek root ceno = new, not the latin, though it is applicable for a foodie like me) is encountering new and interesting fields of study and integrating that information into new world constructs.
In college, people often questioned my choice of Economics and Theatre as a dual major. The general response I learned to provide was that between these two fields, you can include practically all genre of  information: Sociology, Antropology, History, Psychology, Art, Physiology, Political Science, Law, Mathematics and Analysis, ... Really, anything outside of the principal "hard sciences" of physics, chemistry, and bio, though recently I've begun to revisit and rethink the fundamental connections between perception and action.

As my wife is an architect and designer, her work affords me a glimpse into the philosophies of an entirely different realm of study - that of the designing and modulation of the very world around us. What follows is some introspection on how we craft our environments based on traditional structures, and a glimpse into a future in which we structure our living spaces more closely alligned with our own needs and behaviors rather than forcing them to conform to a standardized, outdated model.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Neuroeconomics: Introspection on Attention Surplus

Yesterday, I wrote a piece on how modern technology wasn't causing problems by decreasing our attention, but rather with increasing our capacity to handle data in our mundane environment. It occurred to me earlier today that things like meditation aren't about increasing attention, but rather narrowing focus on to a specific set of activities. Actively filtering our experience enables us to push past passive barriers from stimulation that might otherwise overwhelm us - think of tai chi or the intense focus during sports, acting, chess, or really any activity for an example.

This morning I read an excellently written article that provides a sort of counterpoint to my discussion - that the processing of so much data dampens the overall production of independent thought.
It's a worthwhile read, but I disagree with it's speculative conclusions.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Results from the Great Experiment

Well, what can I say...

The final results of our first experiment with Free, Good Will, and Marketing for a small business have finally come in. Overall, very few of the free tickets we offered were taken by the two organizations we worked with, and a third declined entirely for political reasons. Nevertheless, they expressed immense gratitude for our desire to give back to the community by bringing some happiness to those in need.

To simplify the numbers, our total sales topped $2,600.
Now, that doesn't sound like a large number overall, but consider:

  1. Our total budget for the show was minimal ($2,000 budgeted, <$1,700 used)
  2. Nearly a third of that was licensing fees.
  3. We only ran for four shows.  Everyone wanted us to put on additional performances, but any more would have caused both scheduling and licensing issues. 
  4. We came in at a quarter of our advertising budget with little to no manpower. Direct marketing WORKS.
This has been one of our top grossing shows. Overall, that's over a 50% profit for a short term project. Not too shabby. If we had the flexibility of managing our own space, we most likely would have been able to pull off more shows and attracted even larger crowds. As it is, we were sold out one of the nights and our overall audience matched our "better" advertised shows (read: paid adverts in local papers). For a nonprofit theatre group that's entirely volunteer owned and operated, that's not bad. Margins like this ensure we'll have ample cushion to operate shows with more elaborate needs. Our next two plays, a company produced children's play and a Shakespearean piece over the summer, won't have licensing fees at all.

Most importantly, we maintained ample contact with various organizations throughout the community. We are beginning to form connections to other groups which will, hopefully, bear even more fruit in the future. Working together with other social groups helps create that good will that's so critical in creating a successful bond with the public.

Lessons learned:
  • Personal contact is Key - everyone you talk to is an individual. Unique. Treat them that way, and they will happily respond to you 
  • Don't be Annoying, Don't be Ignored - make your message present and immediate, but not forceful - put yourself in their field of vision to grab their attention, but DON'T steal it, or they will feel cheated and resentful
  • Word of Mouth is King - yes, a few people heard about us from the radio spot we did, some came from  the writeups we got in a local paper, but most came from a primary or secondary contact - think the "Kevin Bacon" type connections.
  • You don't need a Big Budget to be a Big Success - what you need, to reiterate, is LOTS of energy put toward generating goodwill and personal connections within your community/audience
  • Don't be Afraid to Ask - people are more friendly than you give them credit for once you get to know them; that surly secretary might react nicer to someone else in your organization. Know your assets and use them.
If I think of anything I'm missing, I'll update this post later. Any thoughts?

Surplus in the Attention Economy

A little while back, I decided on a lark to count the various things I was doing simultaneously.
1) paying attention to a man reciting verse aloud
2) folding an item I was using to put it away
3) reciting a prayer by heart
4) scanning the room for an individual I was going to get a ride with
5) composing this list/blogpost
6) calculating the approximate time I would arrive at work and thereby the total number of hours I would be likely spending there
7) mentally engineering and designing a problem specific solution
8) contemplating the code that I was potentially going to work on that day

And probably a number of others, but these are the ones I remember as being directly conscious and deliberate of.