Friday Finds (McLuhan, Marketing, Sitcoms, and Hobby Tribes)

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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

The 10th cohort of Write of Passage is now open for enrollment and we're back with an all-new curriculum.

Fondly referred to as Cohort X internally, we've turned up the heat and tuned up the experience.

I'm particularly excited about The Cultural Tutor joining as a Guide for our students, given that he likely runs the fastest-growing intellectual Twitter account in the world right now. Other highlights include our Editor Program and our new skill-focused Deep Dives. Our team will give feedback on every draft submitted and help students overcome their specific blocks in the writing process.

If you want to join us or know somebody who does, here's the link to enroll.

And if you want to get a better feel for what we teach and how we do it, you'll dig the video below.

Friday Finds

The Gutenberg Galaxy: Marshall McLuhan is known for Understanding Media, but this book is equally brilliant. McLuhan's work is psychedelic in nature. In The Gutenberg Galaxy, he argues the emergence of the alphabet restructured human consciousness. It created a cultural schizophrenia — a rift between the passionate and the logical, the symbolic and the empirical, the mythical and the rational. If listening speaks to our intuitive side, reading activates our analytical one. The medium of communication is every bit as important as the content of what you say. A culture dominated by the spoken word will be charged with emotion and drama, while a text-dominated one will be calmer and more contemplative. Communications technologies aren't value-neutral. They lead to predictable shifts in culture and cognition. If you're interested in the practical implications of McLuhan's ideas, I recommend this piece on the epistemology of a world governed by social media. If you'd like a big-picture overview of McLuhan's worldview, you'll like this talk by Terence McKenna.

New Rules for the New Economy: A classic article from 2011. In it, Kevin Kelly identified so much of how the Internet would change the world. Here are a few principles for you: "The Net tends to dismantle authority; In the network economy the separation between customers and a firm's employees often vanishes; In the network economy, producing and consuming... ...fuse into a single verb: prosuming; Expertise now resides in fanatical customers. The world's best experts on your product or service don't work for your company. They are your customers, or a hobby tribe." The last one stands out. My friends who are Apple fanatics know more about the products than store employees (and they're better salespeople too). Reddit threads about Tesla will teach you more about the company than visiting a store. The point about authority stands out the most though. Trust in institutions is plummeting. This study found that an increase in Internet access lowers government approval and increases the perception of government corruption. When information becomes abundant, institutions can no longer lean on blind authority and self-justifying narratives.

Rory Sutherland: Imagine a fusion of marketing, psychology and economics, but funny. He's the author of Alchemy and a long-time executive at Ogilvy & Mather. The fundamental insight of his career is that good marketers exploit the blindspots of economists and overly logical decision-making processes. To succeed as a marketer, you have to test counter-intuitive ideas. Before Red Bull, nobody would've expected an over-priced drink that tastes terrible and comes in an offensively small can to become one of the most popular drinks in the world. Logic can be the enemy of creativity. Small "illogical" tweaks in how you frame something can have a huge impact, even if the underlying product is the same. Nobody wants death insurance, but life insurance is a multi-billion dollar industry. Spreadsheets may be the enemy of effective marketing because of the way decision-making power is disproportionately given to people who can justify themselves numerically. For an introduction to Sutherland, I recommend this YouTube talk or my interview with him about his writing process and core ideas.

Remystifying Supply Chains: Everybody’s life is shaped by supply chains, but few people understand them. Supply chains aren’t some distant phenomenon either. We live inside of them. They shape every aspect of our lives, from the computer you’re reading this on to the clothes you’re wearing. Here, Venkatesh Rao shows us how we should upgrade the analogies we use to think about supply chains. For a more practical look at supply chains, I also recommend a book summary called The Epic Story of Container Shipping.

Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus: Reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody was showed me just how transformative the Internet would be. This speech is a good place to start. He compares modern sitcoms to gin during the Industrial Revolution. People didn’t know what to do with their lives, so they drank and drank and drank. Now, they watch and watch and watch. Only later did society wake up to new ways of living, made possible by the Industrial Revolution. Shirky argues that something similar has happened since World War II. But this time, the social lubricant wasn’t liquor but sitcoms. We spent most of our free time watching TV. Now, with the Internet, we have a giant cognitive surplus. Americans watch 200 billion hours of television every year. Meanwhile, the whole Wikipedia project — every page, every edit, every line of code, and every translation — represents the result of roughly 100 million hours of human thought. Every year, we therefore devote ~2,000 Wikipedia projects to watching television. What if we could transfer some of that energy into something more generative?

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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