Tuesday, August 21, 2007

YouTube Tales: Fry's Trek

Our first You Tube Tale is more of a video mission statement. In the video above, 4 pretty serious Star Trek fans (and also guys who work in the bowels of Hollywood), take a ride out to Fry’s, the electronics superstore, and attempt to make a movie. They interview a very confused woman, then run afoul of security and are unceremoniously booted. It’s the story of a Voyage to the Exurbs and the difficulties that the cityfolk can run into out there.

Having grown up out beyond the urban core, I’ve noticed that my friends and business associates often have little familiarity with a life that moves fluidly between hip hop and dirt bikes, Republicans and Democrats, Bed Bath & Beyond and shotguns. The town where I grew up was a natural mashup between the shitkicking place we physically lived in and the urban media culture we watched on TV.

The idea behind YTT is to use user-generated content produced by the people in the hinterlands to illuminate life outside the urban cores that most hip people live in. We’re talking golf communities, rural high schools, big box shopping, souped-up Honda Civics, Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Friday Night Lights, Raymond Carver stories, and the dirt mall.

It matters that Americans understand each other. Most importantly, we have to save the world (warning: link has scary right wing thought embedded). The consumption that occurs 15+ miles from the city is of a different shape than what goes on in denser environments. Some obviously bad things (big ass trucks) might be offset by good things (more local food through larger gardens). Secondarily, understanding the heterogeneity of consumption patterns is just good business and can help us target consumers more effectively. In any case, it makes sense to at least look at each other with clear eyes.

The idea for YTT struck me while I was working out in a Holiday Inn Express in Salmon Creek, Washington, about 20 miles north of Portland, Oregon. The entire workout room was mirrors, brushed metal and (fake?) cherry wood. My skin glistened in track lighting. The place was recognizably ”designed” by anyone. The question was why. How had these particular design elements trickled down to this particular place? Why did they think that the people who would work out here wanted a gym that looked like this? Has Starbucks really turned our whole country on to a certain color scheme and aesthetic?

Any business proposition that targets the mainstream will want to understand what’s happening out there beyond the hipspace. I don’t think I have (all of) the answers yet, but I do think that the diffusion of design among other things to the Common Man(TM) is important for a sustainable future. Is the mass market buying into the idea that the way a product/space is made is important? Or merely that the way a product looks is important? The answer to that question could help us understand our future.

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