Ogling at Google, obervations and afterthoughts from last week’s class visit to New York’s own part of the powerhouse

This comes from the notes I messily scribbled while we ate lunch. Adriana wanted us to make our observations in one of the following areas things, tactics or people… my observations became a combination of things and people but I realize from these I could also list tactics.

Things I noticed from our entrance to our lunch on the engineering floor:

People:

  1. Those working security were black or Hispanic 

**Egineering floor lunch room***

  1. majority white males who look to be 22 and up and are majority dressed casual (sneaker, t shirt and jeans)
  2. women appear to be slightly older, 25 and up and are dressed more formally (dressy boots, slacks, knee length shirts and button-downs or semi-dressy tops that are not t-shirts)
  3. of the population that is not white and male it is most dominatly Asian or Indian

Fashion

  • Men’s shoes: Vans, Nike’s, Converse, Asics. Majority sneakers, a few loafers and two boots
  • Women’s shoes: Frye, Michael Kors. Majority above the ankle and below the knee boots, followed by heels and a scare amount of sneakers.

Random stuff I wouldn’t expect to find in an office setting:

  • massage rooms
  • LEGOS and LEGO area
  • scooters
  • scooter return spot
  • medicine balls
  • TVs
  • video games
  • more workout equipment
  • palm tree umbrellas for cubicle desks
  • New York street signs/locations for the name of each office and section of the greater floor
  • lots of wallpaper/random spots of color and designed display (old computer display, bringing it back to the old clunkers)

Food

  • gelato
  • sushi
  • full salad bar (make your own
  • full sandwich bar (make your own)
  • dessert bar: banana pudding stuff, pomegranate yogurt parfait, cookies, coffee
  • sparkling water, plain water
  • roast pork
  • fruit: apples, bananas, figs
  • soup: clam chowder, chicken noodle, wild rice
  • Kosher area
  • five types of bread
  • Drink area: apple juice, soda options, Sencha energy shot

Afterthoughts:

Google to me is like the real life version of the Willy Wonka Chocolate factory. There’s a lot that seems placed for comfort and entertainment. As a class we discussed how having all the food options right there and for three would limit people from taking their lunch hour somewhere else and increase productivity. The lunch room conveniently has to-go-container and there are 3 cafeterias (I thought the one we ate in was a dream come true, apparently it wasn’t the biggest). There are a number of different areas where it seems one could become distracted like the game room areas where there are huge TVs and video games, or event the workout areas, yet once again if people have a space where they can relax for a minute perhaps they will be more inclined to come back to their work. Productivity seems to be also supported by the medicine balls as sitting in a chair in front of the computer all day is supposed to be murder for your spine.

The most interesting observations I made were about people; even though Google looks like a total fun house, socially it looks like I would expect other offices to: mostly white and male and being in the computer business, outside the white male domain you have Asian and Indian male. It was nice to see younger faces, but the pressure to hold your own as women in the corporate world seemed echoed by the way women dressed as opposed to men; more formally, dressed to impress. 


"I WEAR THE GLOBAL"

Teal, Tiffany’s, Gold and Turquoise
$76.00
Hand-crafted using the iconic teal Tiffany’s duster and complimented with red turquoise and 14k gold clasps. Each necklace is slightly different as the size, color and cut of stones and fabric varies. Sure, you’re friend just got the signature Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue dog tag, but you know dog tags are for dogs and there is nothing unique about mass production. Dare to be different. Sold exclusively at Fireworks (online too!) and on Etsy, 25% of profits go to the Women’s Collective in Antigua Guatemala to support women who are finding unique ways to be in business for themselves with the support of micro-loans.
 

“I wear the global”



The teal color that Tiffany’s uses for the bags and boxes that hold their signature pieces is perhaps the most iconic thing about Tiffany’s. The reappropriation of the iconic turquoise Tiffany’s dust protector into a bracelet and a necklace was an attempt to produce something that could be considered “unique” or “individual,” two things Tiffany’s can’t do because all of their pieces are mass produced.  I had no intention of making the necklace look culturally specific but I have to admit the finished product looks like something from India or Tibet; this in my mind adds another level of global complexity, it echoes the green/conscious labor trend in which consumers are encouraged to buy items handcrafted/woven or beaded from women in villages in places like Africa, India and Morocco and part of the proceeds goes back to the community of women laborers.

The necklace is handcrafted with silk string, all of the clasps are 14k gold fill (meaning they won’t tarnish), the teal beads are glass and the large red beads are dyed turquoise stone. I spent a lot of time on the necklace because I wanted it took look legit; the bracelet, made with leather, silver metal beads and the remaining scraps of the Tiffany’s bag, came out a little more sloppy. I get the feeling that these pieces would be a little too DIY to be sold in Tiffany’s and perhaps a little too ethnic to go with their classic diamonds, where culture comes from the diamonds mined in Africa and diversity comes in the edgier pieces like those designed my architect Frank Gehry.


"WHO AM I SUPPOSED TO FEAR?" a response to "IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING"

A little bit about the famous six words that are forever present in your commute:

" The line came about by ' The brainchild of Manhattan ad agency Korey Kay & Partners’ [ chirman Allen Kay made the line] for the MTA on September 12, 2001, as he 'wanted to help prevent another disaster and to do something positive in the aftermath of the attacks.' By January 2003, the slogan was plastered across subways and buses as part of the MTA's security-awareness campaign. The authority has spent $2 million to $3 million per year on advertising the phrase, with a large part of that amount supplied by Homeland Security Department grants.”

“It has since become a global phenomenon — the homeland security equivalent of the ‘Just Do It’ Nike advertisement — and has appeared in public transportation systems in Oregon, Texas, Florida, Australia and Canada, among others. Locally, the phrase captured, with six simple words and one comma, the security consciousness and dread of the times, the “I NY” of post-9/11 New York City,” the Times posits.

(Duboff, Josh New York Magazine)


Personal thoughts/ my response:

I would put my posters right HERE. Using the subway as my part of the city’s landscape, the message I’d want to make would be best interpreted here.

I have thought a lot about how many messages regarding safety the average New York resident is bombarded with daily (I’m using average here to talk about the majority of people who live in New York and use public transportation). It seems people are relatively un-phased by these cautionary interruptions, or so it looks that way on the surface—in my morning commute the majority of train passengers seem to disregard or completely ignore the typical 2 messages that come over the intercom in my ride 7-10 minute ride from Lorimer to 6th avenue. These messages about watching your valuables and remaining alert may spark more conversations between tourists than locals.

Often I stare at these warnings, my favorite being the poster on the subway that says “If you see something say something” …I know I am being instructed to report any suspicious behavior I see, these posters always evoke this sort of ” c’mon this is New York, you see it all” response from me; I know that even though these instructions read very broad they are feeding into very specific fears with cultural, racial and image specific ties that yell to 9/11.  To this I have a bit of a problem. As diversified, upfront and in your face as New York is in population, pace and day-to-day hustle and bustle there is a lot of really obvious injustice that lies within the way populations of minorities and immigrants are perceived and responded too and 9/11 brought about a  whole new issue with regard to fear becoming prejudice targeted at a group of people (yes, Muslims and anyone who could pass as middle eastern).

I feel that the “if you see something, say something” posters provoke viewers to search for who/what from their cultural memory could possibly be suspect on a New York subway; there are a few common responses here and to my mind they generally fall under the category of anything that looks like terrorism. This is an issue that to me this leads back to the same stereotypes and issues about racial profiling. “Just do it” might work when your talking about sneakers but the identity of people should evoke a different response; until the city is ready to have a conversation about safety that includes EVERYONE and doesn’t conjure up the kind of social and stereotypical the media circulates and fear relies on I am going to find ways to spark politically incorrect conversations about what I’m supposed to be looking for; I think we should have some. Perhaps this campaign wouldn’t evoke the same response to me riding the bus in Oregon, but there is enough fear and pain remaining in New York from September 11th that “suspicious” in here has a very specific face, race and connotation—it feels a little dangerous to be bombarded by something daily that is so direct and indirect at the same time.


American Apparel Nail Lacquer

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The claim: ”24 unique shades of high-quality color. Manufactured in the USA. DBP, toluene and formaldehyde-free.”

The hype: "We think this nail polish captures what American Apparel is all about, a Made-in-the-USA, high-quality product in a beautiful range of colors," stated Marsha Brady, a creative director for American Apparel. "Like our clothing, the palette is intended for year-round use. It’s a painterly range of colors designed for long-term appeal and creative interpretation. We put equal focus on making sure the polish and the colors were both durable and beautiful" (Told to Women’s Wear Daily, December 2009).

What’s implied: Diversity,perfect application, health safety, unique colors, fair labor “American made”

What it is:

$6

0.5 oz (15ml) glass bottle, American Apparel logoIngredients: Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocelliulose, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Isopropyl Alcohol, Camphor, Benzophenone-1

 


“What is the global?”

            In my first attempt to answer this question I said: The global is an interaction of ideas, items, culture and anything that can be consumed that would not exist in any one culture, place time or shop without the influence of multiple countries, cultures and sources of commerce.

When I look back at this definition it still holds up but I am less inclined to define the global and more confused about what is not included in it. While I can’t quite wrap my head around absolutely everything that is encompassed by the global or how it all interacts, I can safely say that there are a few characteristics that one can say the global operates on, they are: production, consumption and representation.

Today it seems that everything is a mass produced product made possible by the interaction of multiple materials that are mined in one part of the world, designed in another and assembled cheaply somewhere else; I feel that this system of supply, demand and consume is perhaps the biggest form of interaction constituted by the Global. We all participate in it.

As Jean Baudrillard puts it, “there is all around us today a kind of fantastic conspicuousness of consumption and abundance, constituted by the multiplication of objects, services and material goods,” (Baudrillard, Jean, The Formal Liturgy of the Object). Baudrillard goes on to say that never before have humans been surrounded more by objects than fellow humans. Today “we live at the pace of objects” which means that our lives are spent in great part responding to the advertising demands of consumer culture; a constant “celebration of the object” (Baudrillard, Jean, The Formal Liturgy of the Object).  

With regard to representation, the media plays a large part in how the global is represented. From the room of your dreams in the IKEA catalog to the story on the front page of the times and the logo on the coffee cup you sip from while reading your daily paper. The media gives us another thing to respond to, bringing us stories from around the world and reminding us of the things we should value. For telling us what we should aspire to because it’ll make our lives better we have advertising and branding to thank. People around the world are aware of iconic campaigns like Nike’s “Just do it,” because of the feelings they evoke; people go out and buy a pair of Nike running shoes hoping to capture the feeling they identified with in the commercial. The same is true for brands like Tiffany’s; people want to affiliate themselves with the status and unique identity associated with a particular brand.  The most interesting part of our class visit to Tiffany’s was watching tourists stand in front of its large sign and take pictures, Tiffany’s as a New York icon is a world wide image.

Brand identities speak to emotional desires within all of us: the desire to feel at home, want to be fit or want to be cool.  Louis Vuitton is to be aspired too, Chanel is timeless and American Apparel is hip; brands define their selves and we go shopping to redefine ourselves in their image.   This constant foreplay of representation and its reinterpretation is why Louis Vuitton will be iconic no matter where you go, spas are a worldwide concept of relaxation and the luxury hotel room that you stay at in China looks pretty similar to the one you’d stay at in Australia.  Visiting The Standard I got a sense of the kind of person that would enjoy staying very quickly; The Standard is young, fun, artsy, fashionable and bold and its image as a hotel is very manicured to attract a consumer that is looking for a unique experience. Analyzing Apple, their target is also hip, their customer is one who is perhaps more creative and less business or at least like to be perceived as so(think the classic Apple vs. Windows commercial). Apple values clean sleek design and intuitive feel, they like to market to a customer who values family, adventure, good music and will document every exploration of each, making a great photo gallery and awesome iTunes library to be shared on the iPad, iTouch and iPhone.

Food has played a big part in our class explorations and I think it is probably the oldest trademark of the global as cultural cuisines have influenced each other well before the days of Lewis and Clark and far into ancient cultures. Being able to eat the same meal at numerous restaurants and airports around the world is a symptom of the Global but an even stronger one is being able to pickup the ingredients at the grocery store that you would need to duplicate your favorite dish from Sweden or Thailand. Food today is a mix of politics, trade and branding all of which are so globally connected I feel that finding an food item you can’t get in your near you that you can across the globe would be trickier than you’d imagine and even if you could I bet there is company that specializes in getting such rarities delivered straight to your door.


After thoughts on our 6th Avenue Exploration & Christopher Robbins

Before I knew what we were going to get into in today’s workshop the idea of map-making had me a little intimidated and slightly uninterested. Christopher Robbin’s work was thought provoking; a lot of the thought processes that led him to his work (i.e. the feeling of being an outsider in another culture/community and wanting to make a difference or always feeling like your imposing something on whom ever you’re trying to help) are one’s that that resonate well with my own experience and I’m sure with anyone  who wants to or has tried to bring about positive change anywhere.

Christopher’s concepts for breaking down his thought processes into “loops” and “gaps” really got me thinking about how the U.S. goes about placing its self in other countries. Loops explains the process of trying to solve an issue by diving deep within yourself and your own ideas and conceptions and gaps is the act of looking outward and trying to solve an issue by creating space between what you think you know and what else is out there. I would say generally I approach issues from the loops standpoint, though when I put myself out into the awkward space of not knowing, I  generally come across the most profound truths and change. I wonder if it is somewhat of a western mentality to naturally feel that the approach to resolving issues come first through the rationale of one’s own mind and effort rather than the support, advice and perspective of others? Is there a taboo to codependency?

The 6th Avenue tour pushed me out of my comfort zone which was a good experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who actually responded to our questions and may have even enjoyed talking to us. On the corner of 6th avenue and 14th street was a man passing out Metro PCS flyers, in many ways his employment situation reminded me of the men I had encountered on Canal street. As an immigrant (I don’t know what his document situation was) it seemed in the current economy this may have been one of the only jobs he could take; he expressed the $5 an hour was better than asking people for money to catch the train. All of the chain stores, the businessmen, the cultural and economic diversity of 6th avenue were common place to me but really taking the time to note the other affects of the global: the waste, underpaid labor and levels upon levels of vertical consumerism that lined the streets left more of an impac l thought they would in our hour tour of the street I frequent daily.


FEASt your eyes on breakfast:Banana Pancakes with some chocolate love<3

Hot Chocolate and waffles with bananas, walnuts and dried cranberries (Enjoyed at Phoebe’s cafe in Williamsburg Brooklyn).

While the toppings on the waffle may very Eggo and Aunt Jemimah have made this breakfast a global possibility. The hot chocolate was a nice addition, I would bet that you could have something similar if not the same whenever and where ever…Mexican Hot Coco for example would be a nice change of pace.


"You’re an asshole!" A Canal Street Story

“You’re an asshole!”

  What is evident to me about the Canal street experience is that the people who sell you the goods are people whom themselves would scarcely come into contact with the real thing. When LV, Chanel and Gucci market their brands this is not the fan base they think of. The Canal street hustle is run by a primarily immigrant crew of Africans, Asians and Jamaicans; though it doesn’t offer the plush experience of the fifth avenue stores its business is fueled by the same desire. People who shop Canal (mostly tourists) are looking to score an LV, Chanel, Gucci, Coach or some other luxury good associated with a luxury brand  that carries its status and is iconic …in this respect there is no difference between the fake and the real.


After making a few stops on Broadway my friend and I made our way down Canal street, I explained my assignment to him—“how do you know whose selling,”  he asked. Just as he got the last of that out of his mouth we were greeted by an Asian man on the corner of Canal and Broadway who barked “handbags! You lookin’? I’ve got Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton. Come.” And we were off. I was hoping he would bring us up or down into one of those creepy warehouses where when you peek through the walls you see them manufacturing the bags. We ended up in one of the malls on the side of the street, a woman opened a black duffel bag and tried to talk us into one of the many Chanel bags; she went from $60 to $30 which would have been an awesome deal if I were interested in actually spending money.

My second attempt at getting underground brought us to a group of black men with the same “Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton” chant. I told one of the men I was interested in buying a Chanel bag (again with no intention of spending money). There was no catalog involved- he told me $160, “I wouldn’t do anything over $100” I replyed him, “wait until you see the bag. My friend and I waited where we were told and after a good 15 minutes began to walk away, one of the other men stopped us and assured us the man would be back with the bag. When the man brought the bag, I looked at it, felt the leather and played with the straps. “It’s good leather,” he assured me “I’ll give it to you for $130.” One of the other men told the guy to be careful. I asked the man if they got harassed a lot by the cops-“they’ll take the bags from us” he told me, I smiled not quite knowing how to exit the situation. “I can do $130” I said. The guy pleaded with me and eventually said he would take whatever I had, after I said no deal the man called me an asshole and they both continued to get in my face about having even looked at the bag with no intention of buying in the first place. The desperation in this man’s eyes was heart wrenching, I really did feel like an asshole and if I had $20 on me I might of given it to the guy and told  him to keep the  bag.


Thums Up

Walking around last night with my roommate we passed an ayurvedic specialty store, I’ve passed the store a few times but this time on a hunt for an incense burner I stopped in (seeing as there were about ten fully visible in the window). From the outside this store looked like a bodega, similar to those you’d find typically in Queens and Brooklyn.  The slightest crack of the door bought a fragrant trail of spice to the street and one foot in, the aroma of spices became visual, with most walls and shelves of the store piled with bags and small jars full of different colors and textures of powders, seeds, leaves and roots.  Michael and I walked around the mart for about 20 minutes, he ended up with a box of Yogi brand green tea (product of the US),  “Blackout” incense, and DEDE Basil seed with honey flavor drink (product of Thailand). I on the other hand walked out with a bottle of Thums Up cola (product of India) and “Female Energy Tonic Chai Masala,” a “house special” that was made at the store from a recipe originating in India, needless to say no incense burner.

Thums Up is delicious; I much prefer it to American cola. It is the largest selling Cola in India, I’ve only come across it twice in the US. It’s not like Jarritos, the delicious Mexican soft drinks that have become extremely popular at most corner stores in the US, Thums up still seems a bit rare in the states. What is interesting to me about Thums up is that it used to be its own independent brand, taking the place of The Coca-cola Company when it was booted out of India in 1977. Thums Up is currently a Coca-Cola product which would make me think its existence would be more widespread, I suppose, however, that a global brand like Coca-cola would make products that speak to its consumers on a more personal level and adjust its products after noting which ones are more popular with their targeted consumers. After The Coca-cola Company bought out Thums Up they tried to install  “coke,” the product we are used to here in the states but it simply was not as popular. Wanting to keep up with Pepsi, Coca-cola brought back the national standard, letting India continue to sip on its old favorite. The bottle of Thums up that I was sipping on had both an FDA required nutritional label and the label that it was normally marketed with. I would argue that Thums Up is a product of the global, not simply because it is marketed under a global company but because it was created out of rebellion against one, Thums Up was created because India wanted something to replace coke, so it has a mixed identity from the get-go, Coke is pretty much an American standard. With both nutritional labels intact it bares the mark of global export.

While I get a little confused about what is a product of the Global when trade now involves so many Global Companies (I no longer think of certain items as being imported because of sheer convenience). I am certain that stores like the hybrid Indian bodega I walked into that called its self the “Dual Specialty store” are results of the Global. Markets that specialize in a multitude of items with no one identity seem to show just how mixed up in the global they are, for it defines them and they seem to survive by marketing themselves to the customer who is looking to find oddities like Honey, Basil Seed Drink in the same place they can buy their Colgate brand toothpaste and Turmeric powder.