Filed under: Zeitgeist
There are two things that I really love that I don’t remember learning how to do. One is swimming, though a thousand mornings of getting up at 4am to eat endless laps changed my passion for it. The other is reading, but no matter how much, or how long, or how intently I do this my affair with words has remained unchanged.
Last year when I spent a heap of time in China I had my first experience of being illiterate. Through travel and the kind of work I do I’ve had plenty of experiences of not being able to make myself understood and not understanding what people are saying around me. If Creating Confusion were an Olympic sport I could represent the country, but I’d always been able to read the signs.
In China I’m illiterate, innumerate, I can’t read a map, and I can’t even match word shapes. While your options become very limited, there’s a sort of freedom involved in the experience too- your attention is not pulled by the millions of hungry words contained in the urban streetscape. You are free to attribute meaning as you go.
I’m finding that I have a similar reaction to brands in the States. I can’t read them. I don’t know what they mean. I can’t put them in a hierarchy. I don’t know the difference between Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s intuitively. In a supermarket isle I don’t know how to make a decision between the hundreds of types of cereal.
I will make decisions as a consumer, and again it’s a freeing experience. I’m not bound by the heritage of the brand, or by what my friends say about it- only the signs that the brand uses to communicate with me will make the difference.
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