Saturday, April 6, 2013

Discussion Questions

Hey everyone, interesting collection of readings this week. I've posted a series of questions below. See you all Monday.

Both Popp (2011) and Goss (1995) describe technological “advances”—or at least systematizations that are deemed to be advances—in the advertising industry. In Goss, there is a concern about whether geotargeting may be an invasion of privacy as well as whether such tools will even be all that effective (although here, the problem may be more in terms of the unit of analysis than the method itself). Popp doesn’t express much concern about checking departments, although there is an implied skepticism about their role; they were intended, he argues, to signify an edifice of scientific professionalism, perhaps to compensate for the leap-of-faith nature of advertising’s general effectiveness. Digital technology has further improved advertisers’ ability to selectively target and personalize ads as well as track exactly how many readers/viewers were exposed (a considerably trickier problem than just checking that ads were indeed printed). These technological changes have meant a lot in terms of the sales pitch for advertisers to their clients, but is there a saturation point where we reach a creepiness threshold of Minority Report-style customized advertising to which consumers will respond negatively? Are we there yet? Likewise, might an over-segmenting of the consumer population lead to the end of mass culture? Are there consequences for civil society if we have fewer shared cultural (consumption) experiences?

The two readings about print-laden urban life—signage and other posted printed materials that aid in the navigation of cities and impart a richness to the urban culture experience—has me thinking a lot about the future of this sort of thing. We seem to be on the cusp of large scale adoption of “augmented reality” technologies—for instance, Google Glass, but also in many ways, internet-enabled mobile devices in conjunction with sites like Yelp and Foursquare are already upending some of the conventional ways businesses attract customers and attention in their local communities. Maintaining and disseminating a virtual presence is often as important (if not more) than a business’s own physical signage, and increasingly the two are converging in some interesting ways. Presumably signs and other printed materials are not going away entirely, but where do we see the future taking us? What potential concerns (marketing discrimination as Turow describes?) may arise as businesses are able to adopt virtual signage that perhaps selectively targets and appeals to customers spotted nearby?  

Finally, the Turow reading and the Wimberley and McClean article on information-seeking consumers in the grocery industry further emphasized the trend toward customized shopping experiences. One question I was left with after reading both articles is where these trends in data-mining and analytics leave small businesses? While large conglomerates like Walmart are able to take advantage of these new technologies, are we going to reach a point where these tools are accessible even to the average family-run restaurant or coffee shop? Also on the consumer side, it’s probably important to note the ease with which customers can now comparison shop, scanning barcodes on their phones, making people that much more aware of the actual price instead of the psychological price. Will this further empower the Walmarts of the world that have advantages when it comes to competing solely on price?

Additionally, I’m curious how people feel about extensive use of marketing discrimination as Turow describes it. Is this different than charging people different prices for the same products—typically wealthier people receiving better deals because they spend more in total? Is this fair? What can be done about it?

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