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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Restaurants issue vouchers to attract more custom. For Cafe Rouge, a restaurant chain of some popularity with families in the UK, these Vouchers are offered by Tesco, by the chain itself, and by websites like Vouchercodes. I picked up a voucher from Vouchercode to head for a Cafe Rouge restaurant in Central London on a Sunday. Here is the Voucher:

Cafe-rouge voucher

The voucher clearly states, valid 7 days a week, one kid’s main free with every adult’s meal. We went as a couple with two kids, expecting some noticeable discount on our bill that mounted up to something like £44. Like most insurance policies most vouchers also come with a catch. Although this voucher clearly states “valid 7 days a week” the catch is mentioned in point 10 of the terms and conditions:

Cafe Rouge Terms

The terms and conditions list a number of restaurants that are exempt from accepting our voucher. Unfortunately, we did not read the small print and fell into the trap. When asking for the bill we obviously were not aware of the special status of our restaurant and mentioned to the restaurant’s waitress and then the manager that we had expected to be able to use the voucher when two explanations were given for them not accepting it.

1. It’s your own fault

When presenting the voucher to the waitress she said that this restaurant was exempt from accepting the voucher which was stated in the terms and conditions that we should have read before ordering. Many other restaurants of the same chain still accepted vouchers and next time maybe we should pick one of those.

As customers we were not really happy to be blamed, yet having seen the small print now we are obviously aware that we better had spent some more time reading the small print.

2. It’s the company’s management fault

Because we were not ready to accept the waitress’ explanation we asked her if the manager of the restaurant was around. She called the manager over who was a very polite young lady who showed her understanding and relieved us from the blame her staff had put on us. She explained the reason for the voucher policy with the company’s management having changed ownership recently and that basically the new management was to blame for having introduced a new policy on vouchers. Since recently certain restaurant’s were exempt from the acceptance of vouchers. She said that she regularly was confronted by customers finding themselves in the very same situation we were in now; their vouchers were invalid and they had to pay the full bill. There was nothing she could do about that.

Obviously looking at the terms and conditions, the waitress and restaurant manager are in the right. We were in the wrong and should have done our research properly before entering the venue and ordering our food. Yet, we as other customers just want to go for a meal without having to check the terms and conditions of the visit. One would imagine that restaurants like Cafe Rouge have an interest in their customers leaving happy and satisfied, and maybe think about returning.

There was a time when managers of companies argued that the ‘the customer is always right’ and that customers should not feel deceived or misled with the product or service they receive for their money. The distribution of vouchers that requires customers to read the small print that might inform them about exemptions of the vouchers’ validity does not seem to be a marketing activity devised in this spirit.

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There is a renewed interest in museum visiting and the practices of doing so. Only this weekend (October 9th, 2014), Stephanie Rosenbloom published an article in the New York Times that explores “The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum“. Rosenbloom refers to Daniel Fujiwara’s (now Director at SImetrica) study of the impact of museum visiting on people’s enjoyment of life as well as on James O. Pawelski’s work in the area of positive psychology. All these studies are of great interest and very helpful in highlighting the impact of the arts on people’s lives. It would be great if such research that is primarily interested in measuring impact and focuses on individuals as experiencing subjects, would include also the influence of the presence of other visitors in museums, both companions and others. It would seem that in order to follow the arguments and suggestions on how to organise a museum visit would require prior negotiation with those we are with in a museum. Statistics of museum visiting clearly show that people not only primarily come with others to museums but also that one main reason for the visit is socialising and interacting with others, whereby works of art (and other exhibits) providing hubs for concerted activities.

Considering that Pawelski, Fujiwara and others show that spending more time with a work of art increases feelings of happiness and satisfaction and that people enjoy interacting with others in museums, exploring how we can facilitate sustained social activities around works of art and other exhibits in museums seems to be an obvious avenue to pursue.

 

Relevant Literature

Heath, vom Lehn. (2004) Configuring Reception. Theory, Culture and Society Vol21(6): 43-65

Heath, Luff, vom Lehn, Hindmarsh, Cleverly. (2002) Crafting Participation. Visual Communication. Vol1(1): 1-33

Hindmarsh, Heath, vom Lehn, Cleverly. (2002) Creating Assemblies in Public Environment. CSCW Journal Vol.14(1): 1-41

Leinhardt, Crowley, Knutson 2002. Learning Conversations in Museums. Routledge

vom Lehn, Heath 2005. Accounting for Technology in Museums. International Journal of Arts Management Vol7(3): 11-21

vom Lehn, Heath, Hindmarsh 2001. Exhibiting Interaction: conduct and collaboration in museums. Symbolic Interaction. Vol.24(2): 189-216

I’ve just been reading Walter Kirn’s review of Alice Marwick’s (@alicetiara) excellent book “Status Update“. The review strikes me as odd and off-the-mark. The author seems to have misunderstood Marwick’s book and misconceives ethnography by criticising Marwick for offering anecdotes. Never mind that review though. The book is very worthwhile reading for everybody with an interest in recent development in social media and social networking technologies. Marwick’s focus is not so much the technology itself, i.e. not Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. but the scene that has arisen in the context of these technologies. This scene mainly based in San Francisco, involves people who develop these technologies as well as people who use them for to organise their social lives, online and offline.

The book highlights how the entrepreneurs in their enthusisam for the opportunities offered by social technologies forget or ignore, deliberately or not, the neoliberal ideology that underpins their work and work ethic. The result of this ignorance is an inequality embodied in the observation that the entrepreneurs largely are young, white male. Women are decoration and accessories, “sex objects and secretaries” as Marwick writes. Whilst the media are full of talk about the “social media revolution” Marwick reveals that the members of the tech-community in San Francisco are technology enthusiasts with a business sense that at times makes (some of) them rich. Others who are not technology savvy enough to create their own Facebook-like riches exploit the opportunities offered by social media to become “micro-celibrities”. This status as mirco-celebrity allows some of them to connect with people, offline and online, who otherwise they’d never met. For some the drive to become a micro-celebrity and connect with the really rich and famous, means to reveal events and activities from their private lives, revelations some of them sometimes later regret; for example when being ‘trolled’ and spit out by the audience that for long seemed to love them.

Marwick’s book has variously been reviewed. If you want to check a good review before buying the book check Ravi Mattu’s review in the Financial Times and Finola Kerrigan’s (@finolak) review in Times Higher Education, but ignore Kirn’s in the NYT.

 

Im August 2015 findet in Chicago die jährliche Konferenz der Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction statt.

Weitere Information und ein Call for Sessions befindet sich auf dieser Website.

Der Blog der Vereinigung ist hier.

Die Zeitschrift der Vereinigung Symbolic Interaction wird von Wiley veröffentlicht. Hier Editor ist derzeit Professor Robert Dingwall. Der Blog der Zeitschrift ist hier und der YouTube Channel mit Videoabstracts und Interviews befindet sich hier.

Excellent post by Ed Rodley in response on a critic’s explanation of how to look at art in museums.

Thinking about museums

The blind fingerless art critic by Flickr user Shareheads CC-BY 2.0 The blind fingerless art critic
by Flickr user Shareheads
CC-BY 2.0

I have a confession to make: art critics baffle me. Especially when they venture to make grand pronouncements about the right way to go about experiencing art in museums. So when I saw the title of Philip Kennicott’s piece in the Washington Post, titled “How to view art: Be dead serious about it, but don’t expect too much” I will confess that I died a little bit inside. “Sigh. Another ‘you people are doing it all wrong’ piece.” Just what the world needs, another art critic holding forth on the sad state of museums and museumgoing. But, though there is plenty of sneering, there’s also a lot worthy of discussion. And debate. Kennicott’s post didn’t stand alone too long before Jillian Steinhauer posted a reply at Hyperallergic, and Jen Olencziak a rebuttal at Huffington Post. So, let’s take a…

View original post 2,719 more words

Great to see so much interest in Howard Becker’s work. Becker’s recent interview with Les Back resonates very well with two recent articles in Symbolic Interaction. Only last year, Clinton Sanders published his “Recollections of working with Howard Becker“, an article that was accompanied by an interview that Tom DeGloma conducted with Sanders. Currently, Symbolic Interaction publishes Thaddaeus Müller’s article that traces the development of Becker’s famous articles collected in the book “Outsiders”. Taken together the two articles and Back’s interview make up for an excellent starting-point to go back to Becker’s Outsiders and his other works that has come out of his studies at the University of Chicago and his discussions and email exchanges with Robert Faulkner.

See for example

Robert Faulkner & Howard S. Becker. 2009. ‘Do you know?’ The Jazz Repertoire in Action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

or most recently

Howard S. Becker 2014. What about Mozart? What about Murder? Reasoning about Cases. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

If anybody is interested in reviewing this latest book of Becker for Symbolic Interaction, please get in touch with me.

 

 

 

 

Despite the long-time talk about the demise of the street-market as an inefficient place to make money street-markets, flea-markets and car-boot sales are booming. People seem to have discovered these places not only as markets to buy and sell objects but also as places for leisure activities. In London and other big cities street-markets have become major tourist attractions. In recent years, they have been redeveloped to increase their attractiveness and possibly also to give them a more trustworthy, clean and orderly look. Moreover, they often are equipped with surveillance cameras and security staff who police trading and behaviour more generally. Yet, what has remained largely the same over the past years is that sales are produced in interaction between traders and customers, people who first show an interest in a particular stall or sales item and then make a purchase, or sometimes leave without buying anything. “Price” and”price information” plays a particular part in the interaction between traders and their customers. In “Timing is money” I consider pricing not so much as a process of calculation for the participant to get the best value out of the interaction, although this may play a part in this as well, but as a communicative practice that traders and customers deploy in the interaction. The paper examines the moment when and the way in which traders and customers use “price” in their interaction, e.g. when do they use price in an offer or request of a sales item? It turns out that price is often deployed as a technique to manage the ‘floor’ and the interaction at the stall. For example, when customers display an interest in an item but are not yet committed to buying an item offers, including price information, are designed in a particular way that encourage the customers to commit to make a purchase.

The paper uses “focused ethnography” as a research method. Alongside other recent developments in ethnography, such as “short-term ethnography” (Pink and Morgan 2013) Hubert Knoblauch developed “focused ethnography” (2005) an observational research methods that often supported by video-recordings examines in detail particular settings and activities while spending only relatively short periods of time there.

References

Knoblauch, Hubert (2005). Focused Ethnography [30 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research6(3), Art. 44, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0503440.

Llewellyn, N. and Burrow, R.. (2008) Streetwise sales and the social order of city streets British Journal Of Sociology 59: 561-583.

Pink, Sarah & Morgan, Jennie (2013). Short-term Ethnography. Symbolic Interaction Vol.36(3) 351-361

vom Lehn, Dirk (2013). Timing is Money: managing the floor in sales interaction at street-market stalls. Journal of Marketing Management. (Early View)