Thursday, September 01, 2005

Get McCracken!

One of my favourite recent blog discoveries is This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics by Grant McCracken, a Canadian academic who writes in a very straightforward and engaging way about commerce and culture and their effects upon each other. McCracken introduced me to the concept of media fragmentation when I heard him speak while he was a guest lecturer at McGill and I was very pleased to stumble across his blog.

Recently, McCraken made me rethink the way movies are marketed... Why do studios use trailers when they so rarely do a good job of communicating what a film is about?

But what I want to link to today is his very interesting post on Dallas versus Austin, comparing the images we have of those two cities versus the reality. He calls Dallas, a "sunken ship" city, explaining it's "not the dead space that environment[alist?]s warned us against but a place diverse species congregate and multiply."
Some sunken ships work best when there is one very large, public, and well defined idea in place. As long as this remains in place, as an apparent consensus, the thing everyone KNOWS about Dallas, then everyone can go off and do whatever the hell they want.  And this might be the strategy by which Dallas makes itself more various and more interesting than a place like Austin with its self conscious feeling for the alternative.

This could be one of those cunning identity plays in which the background and foreground are switched.  (A Canadian example: Quebec claims to be a society with one language and culture, but in fact everyone there is bilingual. In the rest of Canada: a great show is made of being bilingual but in fact most everyone is monolingual.)  In this case: Austin is putatively experimental and ends up being a relatively small universe of well policed options while Dallas claims to be narrow and monolithic when it is in fact free wheeling and multiple.
Having recently returned from Scotland, I suspect the same observations could be made about Glasgow versus Edinburgh... But what I was particularly interested in this post was his comment about the ol' background/foreground switcheroo.
Further to what he was saying: everyone KNOWS that Quebec is the a den of socialists and leftists, yet that is where there is the most private health care. Meanwhile, everyone KNOWS that Alberta is a redneck, cultureless, business-oriented province, but actually it has the most vibrant arts scene in the country, particularly when it comes to theatre.

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