[nSLUG] Slightly OT: icons and how we sometimes feel

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Sat Apr 14 09:57:30 ADT 2007


On 4/14/07, D G Teed <donald.teed at gmail.com> wrote:

> I was reading an interview with the Author of "Made to Break"
> regarding planned obsolescence.
>
> He made a statement about icons in our culture which I think
> has some relevance to how people sometimes feel about
> Macs, types of Linux, and more.
>
> > GILES SLADE: Yes, younger people don't want to hear anything negative
> about the iPod. I might as well put a turban on and grow a long beard. It
> comes down to the social value of consumer goods as icons. If I'm saying
> something negative about your tribe's icon, it's as if I'm attacking you
> personally. Also, younger people have much less sense that things should
> last. I find that really disturbing.
>
> He has the turban part and many other details mixed up in his interview, but
> I think this sociology remark is interesting.  Why do people want
> to attach to brands as deeply as tribal people would feel about
> their icons?  I grew up in the 70's and then there was an embarrassment
> to wear clothing showing brands.  People ripped off the leather
> tab on Levis.  This was the practise among ordinary
> teenagers living in the sticks, who wore white Adidas shoes
> with 3 blue stripes all winter long, not radicals of the left.
>
> Something to think about.

Thinking is work.  I recall an article about lawmakers making laws
whose purpose is to avoid making the hard decisions for which they
were elected.   Instead of figuring out how to deal with a war, you
just pass a law: "troops come home by a certain date" and no more
thought is needed.   I think brand loyalty is in part a way of
reducing decision making.

For complex systems such as computers, there are "network" benefits to
sticking with the same brand your friends use.  They can help you
solve problems, or least be sympathetic when you and all your friends
encounter the same bug.   This moves brand loyalty to a different
level since if your friend chooses a different brand of MP3 player,
OS, etc., then your support resources are diminished and you run the
risk that your widget will have a serious glitch that makes you look
silly because your friend doesn't have the glitch, or that you will
look silly because you can't figure out how to do something that your
friend can do.

Once you make a decision there is always the possibility that events
will prove you made a bad choice, but if you always go with the
majority you don't look as silly as you do when you are one of the few
who made a bad choice.  There is also the possibility that a minority
choice turns out to have been much better, but you are still seen as
an outsider who is not part of the support network for the majority
choice, so the benefits of a good choice must be discounted.

I think the key factor is not so much the generational difference as
it is the greater complexity of things people buy.  When I was growing
up, the big technology choice was the brand of bicycle.  There really
wasn't much difference between brands, although some used metric and
some English parts, so it was easier to find a wrench that fit if your
friend's bike had the same size nuts.

-- 
George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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