Archive for August, 2009

Diving in deep

August 17, 2009

It’s just another manic Monday. Or is it? If you’re a freelancer living on the ebb and flow of emails, calls and last minute meeting requests, waking up on a Monday morning can be a little scary not knowing exactly what the week has in store for you. You start with the first sleepwalking behaviour of the day. Same as always – caffeine. But then what? You suddenly remember you have no work colleagues. No-one to compare your weekend notes with. No-one to jump start your week but you. No-one to share your to do list with. Hmmmm.

A friend said to me as I fretted about creating my own working structure, “perhaps you need to address your relationship with freedom?”. And he’s right. I’m incredibly lucky to have such flexibility at the moment. There’s no point paddling around in the shallows, as another friend Emily pointed out, sometimes you’ve gotta dive in deep. Take stuff on. Have a vision. Believe it’s possible. Make it work.

There’s a great note from the Sustainable Earth people posted on Facebook called The Vision Thing. Well worth a read if you fancy some positivity and inspiration around creating a shared vision for the future. The author, Dr Sam Mills an MBA Director, sensibly states that: “If we don’t shape our future, it will be shaped for us”. And as well as a collective dream we need our own ones too. Who will you be in 10 year’s time? What will you be known for? Make it something big, ambitious and embarrassing to admit to anyone. I’m working on mine…

But back to Mondays. Emily (another independent thinker and worker) and I have been meeting for weekly motivational breakfasts. Our own freelancer therapy sessions. This morning our inspiration was a rather apt message on the Southbank – telling us to Take the Plunge. Check out Emily’s fabulously nonchalant 80s pose.

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Having taped our dialogue on Emily’s dissertation topic – our respons-ability (ability to respond) and how we can sustain that response through communications to address the issues of sustainability – our professionalism plummeted as we filmed a clip of our excitement over the graffitied wall on the Southbank. Watch it here.

Definitely a different and fun way to start a Monday morning…

Express yourself

August 13, 2009

When I was young(er) youth self expression was all about hanging at the local train station, mucking around on bikes listening to mix cassettes on your walkman, going to the roller disco, buying the latest single on vinyl and spending hours at Athena choosing which posters to plaster on your bedroom walls. And when we weren’t calling our friends’ houses for endless conversations (only allowed after 6pm when it was cheaper) we wrote letters – long ones on A4 lined paper with our Shaeffer fountain pens. Happy but hugely different times to today’s teens.

I loved Dan Wilson’s How 31 year olds consumer media blog post in response to 15 year old, Morgan Stanley intern Matthew Robson’s memo for the investment bank about teenage media use that hit headlines for its frank insight into teen trends.

I wish my 75 year old internet-illiterate godmother June had a wider audience for her stories about life in London in the 60s. My favourite of her how-we-did-without-personal-electronic-communication-equipment tales, is when as a nurse on call she wanted to make the most of London’s night-life. So she would tell the cinema (restaurant or bar) that she was ‘in the house’ and she’d also tell the hospital where she’d gone. If she ever needed to be bleeped while out at the pictures, they would put an announcement – like a ticker-tape running across the screen – over the top of the flick and she’d hop skip to the hospital! Genius.

As we were chatting the other day, I realised how big a fan June is of the landline phone because she doesn’t do any form of online or digital communications, and she likes to talk and feel connected. It rang a bell (sorry, Dad-like joke!) with a recent Seth Godin post in which he’s plotted different types of communication channels on two axes – bandwidth versus synchronicity. It’s definitely worth thinking about. As Seth points out, in terms of real time communications in which a high density of information is exchanged you really can’t beat the phone (including tele-conferencing and live webinars) or face-to-face contact. While at the other end of the spectrum (low bandwidth and non-interactive) you’ve got graffiti and postal mail which although doesn’t sell in the traditional sense is still an enduring form of self expression.

The old school writing on the wall concept has today been mainstreamed through Facebook walls (the choice of word ‘wall’ can’t be coincidental) complete with the Graffiti application to Myspace pages, blogs, Twitter updates and online dating profiles. All these free and accessible applications appear to have normalised public self-expression making it more a mass market phenomenon. I wonder how this sits with the traditional arts of creative expression – painters, journalists, novelists, artists, photographers, etc.

One example of art meeting self expression is the Walking in My Mind exhibition advertising along the Southbank this summer. A number of the trees have been wrapped in red material with white dots. Very striking indeed. Emily Wilkinson has some great photos of them on her blog. Note in these pictures they haven’t been graffitied. Last night I was at the NFT and while waiting for a friend took a closer look at the now completely defaced tree wrappings. I wonder how and when the graffiti trend tipped. Who started it? When was the critical mass of tags, doodles and comments reached that it no longer became wrong but was the normal thing to do? Even the sign requesting people respect the art work has been defaced! Or maybe it was intentional?

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At least someone learnt something from their graffiti trial – it’s very hard to write on trees.

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With new ways of expressing yourself come new rules of etiquette. From the Dom Joly “I’m on the train” mobile phone spoof to a combined top 10 for Twitter etiquette. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t indulge.

As N.W.A. rapped, “I’m expressing with my full capability…”. Just make sure this doesn’t result in you ending up “living in correctional facility”!

Mobile messaging

August 3, 2009

For 2 years now it’s been all about the bike to get me from A-B. Speedily, enjoyably and stylishly. And I’m part of a growing movement of girls and guys “who wouldn’t be seen dead in lycra shorts“. But it’s not just about what you wear to ride in, it’s just as important how you ‘dress’ your wheels.

Bike decoration is big, and seems to be only getting hotter. If you’ve got a message why not say it on your spokes, bare it on your basket, or front it from your frame. When you ain’t got a bumper or rear window to sticker, you’ve gotta get creative.

Damien Hirst has done it for Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France wheels. Whether you like it or not, it’s definitely a statement piece of art.

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Image from Marketwire.

The courier crew on their single speed and fixies ride with all sorts woven through their spokes. In recent days I’ve spent a lot of time staring at people’s wheels trying not to topple off my bike in the process.

I’ve seen a kind of knitted effect. Wool wound round between two spokes to form a wedge of colour. When the same is done on the opposing spokes and the wheel is spinning it creates a lovely kaleidoscope effect.

All over sticker jobs seems to be in too. I guess personalised plastering of paint work isn’t so desirable to the old tea leafs.

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I’ve seen nice messages around. Ride on Ride free. No oil. Or one I found on Flickr attached to a bike basket: Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.

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And I’ve met all sorts. The friendly white van man on Critical Mass last Friday who wanted to experience life on the road from the other side of the windscreen. He was loving it.

And the bike polo boys battling in the first European Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships in Borough last weekend. With team names like Malice, FFF (Fabulous French F*ckers), BAD and Malletforce, they make themselves out to be pretty hard. And they are. Balancing, skidding, tearing up the tarmac as they race for the ball with collisions aplenty. But when they’re done they throw their trusty steads to the ground and give each other and their opponents ecstatically congratulatory bear hugs. So even though the covers over their spokes are part statement, part protection, part team identification, their message seems to be a friendly one. Get on a bike. Ride free and fair. Give it some mallet. Enjoy.

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So if you’ve got yourself a set of self-powered wheels maybe consider what’s your mobile message and how you’ll be showing it off.