Posts Tagged culture

Surprise Santa Grams!

The winter season can sometimes be stressful with everyone meeting deadlines and wrapping up projects before taking off for the holidays.

So delightful surprises are always welcomed! Today we received a singing Santa Gram of Silver Bells at the SF office by our own Ernie & Ryan!

Thank you WeWork for spreading the holiday cheer!

The Problem with Tautophrases

You do you

This morning, my sister and I had a short chat about Dexter’s motivations as a serial killer (typical 9am topic in our family, apparently). The whole conversation was quickly shut down when I said, “You know, he just likes killing people and stuff. You do you, Dexter”.

Immediately after I said it, it bothered me immensely. Not because I thought it wasn’t funny – the idea of accepting anti-societal, murderous behavior with a simple, undeniable statement like “you do you” is just absurd – but because this kind of tautophrase (a statement like “it is what it is” that basically repeats the same thing twice as a logical, Undeniable Truth) actively shuts down any kind of educated discussion or consideration of the world around us. I pride myself in being a thinker, but tautophrases stop thinking in its tracks – it’s just really mentally lazy to say “you do you” without any deeper thought into the topic of conversation.

It reminded me of a New York Times article I read a couple months back. It’s titled, appropriately, “How ‘You Do You’ Perfectly Captures Our Narcissistic Culture”, by Colson Whitehead, and it describes how tautophrases like “you do you” or “it is what it is” have shifted in cultural use over time. These thought-blocking statements used to be about supporting the status quo (“what will be will be”), but in recent years hip-hop and then pop culture have reclaimed the tautophrase to celebrate Me, as a beautiful and special Individual. Even, as Whitehead says, if that person is Taylor Swift – she can’t help it that the “haters gonna hate hate hate”; it just goes to support how unique and worthy she is as an individual. “Regardless of how shallow that individual is.”

Living in San Francisco, a Mecca of counter-culture, I see this attitude of celebrating individuality for the sake of individuality every day. Anti-culture is the current glorified culture (especially in the tattooed and vintage-ridden Mission district), while “normal” is something to be embarrassed by – “you do you” glorifies the traits that make people stand out, while “Basic Bitch” shames people who may agree with a mainstream trend.

Of course, I’m all about celebrating differences and uniqueness. It’s the shallowness, the lack of thoughtfulness behind “you do you” that stands out to me. If we’re using “you do you” to brush off any abnormal or weird behaviors (like my neighbor’s obsession with mushrooms, or Dexter’s killing tendencies), we’re not digging deeper to understand what makes people that way, who they truly are beneath the surface “uniqueness”.

While tautophrases used to be used so people wouldn’t question the status quo, are they now used so that we don’t have to question each other as individuals? So that we don’t have to get deeper than appearances – maybe because it’s just uncomfortable to do so?

Normally when we write blog posts, we’re writing about what our industry can learn from someone or something. In this case, though, I think that we, in our personal lives and how we interact with others, can learn from research. Research is all about getting deeper with people, about exploring people as more than stereotypes to truly understand their motivations and attitudes. In our “you do you” culture, how can we take cues from research into our daily lives, to get deeper with the people around us?

New Wearables Restore a Lost Connection

sensorlumolift

Technology has a track record of disconnecting us from our bodies. From 9-5, we are hunched over and typing away at our computer desks; during lunch, we crane our necks to check messages on our smart phones; and even when we get home to relax, we stare into our iPads to watch Netflix. Unfortunately, the longer we live in the world of our screens, the longer we are absent from and unaware of the needs of our own bodies, reinforcing bad habits for our health and well being.

In the past few years, researchers have been studying the impact of the physical self on mental and emotional states. You’ve probably heard about how body posture can boost confidence, helping you to perform better in an interview or to nail your next presentation. Or you’ve seen this map of emotions on the body, which is just another example of how emotions are connected to biological responses.

But what’s most interesting is that technology is stepping in to enable people to reconnect with their bodies, a separation which you can say it is responsible for in the first place.

Take, for example, the new wearable device Spire. When clipped to your bra strap or belt loop, it detects when you are tense, and sends notifications to your phone to remind you to step away and breathe. It tracks your breathing patterns and data for you over time, and then actually makes recommendations for how to make real-time changes to your habits. “You’ve been sitting for over an hour, perhaps you should stretch your legs”

There are similar apps out there (Lumolift, for example detects bad posture, and reminds you to sit up straight) that are also trying to take a hold of the tech-wellness space and restore the connection between the mind and the body. This combined with power poses is a recipe for physical health and mental success.

While I’m not sure yet which approach I’d personally take for reconnecting with my physical responses to stress from the many options out there, as a researcher I’m most interested in what the reception of these apps says about shifts in our mindset as a culture, and the fresh ground they are tapping into. There’s a return to the natural and to the balanced, and it’s not exactly tech-free. The shift shows just how deeply dependent on technology we are, that we need to use technology to connect with our most basic functions – like breathing and sitting without hunching over.

There’s still a lot to be explored when it comes to mind-body connection and the role of technology, and I’m excited to see what research will uncover next, and how it will be implemented into other consumer-facing devices.

antedote is an award-winning strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumers and identify opportunities to grow their brands. 

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Serving San Francisco’s fashion rebels

camping

The other night I had dinner at a Castro restaurant that Yelp calls “trendy, intimate, romantic, casual.” What Yelp didn’t mention is that San Franciscans will always pull out the tees and sneakers, “casual” restaurant or no. After a year in San Francisco I should be used to it by now, but I was still surprised to see folks in that little Castro restaurant whom even my native Ohio counterparts would consider “underdressed”.

The pragmatic approach to fashion in San Francisco makes some sense, of course. In an area that’s well-known for being both laid back and fit, and where “proving yourself” means having great, even world-changing, ideas, why would you want to dress on-trend? Levis are practical, comfortable, and multi-purpose; Patagonia shorts mean I can go hiking at a moment’s notice. Even fashion-focused Missionites prefer making fashion their own – such as repurposing thrift items – to touting big-name labels.

It seems that there’s almost an intention behind the backlash against “trendy” fashion in San Francisco. As it turns out, San Franciscans already knew what everyone else is starting to realize – dressing slightly “off” from what is traditionally expected can actually gain you more respect. Harvard Business School recently came out with a piece of research that showed that people who intentionally wear something a bit different are seen as independent, purposeful and unique.

Through extensive immersive observation and comparison (aka moving to SF after living in Manhattan), I’ve begun to identify subcategories of San Francisco’s independent fashion-rebels, including:

  • The Extreme Basics – “I’ll let my ideas, and not my clothes, do the talking” (note: You may have heard of the “normcore” in SF; I like to call these folk “The Extreme Extreme Basics”)
  • The Function-Forwards – “I want to be ready to hike the trails at a moment’s notice”
  • The Retro Recyclers – “I love rediscovering and repurposing vintage pieces to show my own unique style”

For apparel brands and retailers looking to innovate, this can have many applications. It’s about focusing on the attributes that can emphasize the values of these fashion-rebels – whether that be emphasizing the practical usability of apparel, focusing on the functionality, or playing up the boutique, “unique” qualities.

It turns out at the end of the day, as an Ohio kid by the way of Manhattan, I am an SF kid at heart (at least, when it comes to fashion). I love the fact that here, I can always pair my respectful skirts with a tee and some all-purpose Converse.