Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm loving it...

McDonald’s what could be more universal than the typical American hamburger chain restaurant? Well judging by the differences in McDonalds’ restaurants around the world that I’ve witnessed, maybe this image of McDonalds isn’t as universal as I thought. Sure the globe is scattered with McD’s on every other corner, on just about every continent, BUT let’s be sure to realize that their menu, their d├ęcor, even their websites differ strongly. It might be one of reasons for their global successes, this ability to adapt and appeal to a multiplicity of cultures.
Although I have not participated in the Spanish McDonalds experience, several years ago I made the mistake of ordering from a McD’s in Paris, France. The portions, the seasoning, the cheese, the condiments, the price, even the napkins had been altered to fit the French’s tastes and lifestyle. Now that I’m in Spain, I checked out the Spanish website for McDonalds and just as I expected, it definitely appeals differently than the American website.
The audience of the American website seems to be mid to lower working class citizens, people who are looking for a filling, satisfying, all-American meal, on a blue-collar budget. However, the audience of the Spanish website seems to be a more sleek, slightly more sophisticated audience evidenced by the clean lines and transitioning of images in their website.
The American website is dripping with pathos that evokes hunger, it’s front page cries ‘’seize the bold’’ complete with strong large graphics that bluntly grabs hold of the audience’s stomach and teases their taste buds. The Spanish website has a much more subdued approach to appealing to their audience, this includes clean sophisticate graphics that feature natural elements, like tree branches, leaves, and subtle rain music. This difference alludes to a different audience, an audience that’s more concerned with the process of the construction of the meal versus the American audience that is enraptured by the idea of instant deliciousness of a hearty burger.

The ethos, the relationship between the speaker and the audience, is verified in the American logo and slogan ‘’I’m loving it’’. This represents a company that we as Americans have grown to trust and recognize immediately because of its presence over the generations. We’ve developed an almost blind sense of trust in the company whereas the Spanish audience has not yet because it is a more recent relationship. Their website develops a relationship by featuring a young McDonalds’ worker in the background of their front page. The worker looks happy, hard working, and friendly which promises the audience the same sense of service. The Spanish website also has more readily available links to nutritional facts and about where the ingredients come from, this kind of information develops a sense of trust between the consumers and producers.
A small cultural side note that I have noticed that may only be slightly relevant rhetorically... In the U.S., it’s quite common to run into a fast food restaurant, like McDonald’s to use the restroom. No one asks or has ever seemed offended whether I make a purchase or not. However, any European fast food restaurant, even the McDonald’s in Barcelona, has strong rules against using their facilities unless you are a customer. I’ve even been to a McDonald’s that had a bathroom security woman who personally handed customers necessary toiletries and ensured that only paying customers used the restroom. I think that this can refer to the more formal atmosphere that even restaurants such as McDonald’s personify in a European context. This formality is even apparent in the website’s graphic quality compared to their more casual atmosphere and graphic representation of the American website. Once again, the contrast of these atmospheres reflects the cultural context of the restaurant.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Google Making us Stupid?

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that the ''writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.'' For me, this is evident not in writing but in graphics. For architecture studios we are constantly juggling digital medium, like 3D modeling softwares, Adobe Illustrator,  or Photoshop,  with physical or analogue medium, drawing, sculpting, or building. It is not only the end result that differs between the two  methods, but the process and form of thinking. Creating and thinking digitally will result in a different concept and or realization of the object than if it was created in a physical sense. I can easily relate this to Nietzsche's experience of changing writing styles to a more ''staccato'' form when he began using a typewriter instead of pen and paper. The medium that one creates in dictates the thought. 
So when approaching a new world where internet is becoming our primary medium, our thought changes respectively. The way in which our mind functions adapts to the new medium, and in a way the machine changes us. From personal experience in studio, it is difficult to bridge the gap between the previous way of thinking and the new, it's an exhausting process that sometimes seems irrelevant. Why should we even bother keeping the old way of thinking if we are forced through evolution of society to think in an entirely new way   '' medium dictates the method''? It's important to struggle between the two worlds, to evolve our thinking while maintaing the advantages of previous methodologies. Yes, I agree that we are constantly modifying ourselves as technology changes, but I don't agree that we are losing ourselves in the machine. We are adding new dimensions to our minds as we expand our concept of thinking, creating, being. We don't ''lose'' a technology/thinking methodology in the shadows of its successor.
It is easy to become confused today in the labryinth of ever-changing technology - for example I still am struggling with the concept of phones becoming our computers and computers becoming our phones thanks to Apple- but it's important that we understand that we are the creators of our virtual World. Its thoughts, are our own. Google doesn't necessarily ''think'' for us, it enables us to access others' thinking in order to build upon it, expand it, evolve it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I. Dentify. Me.

The idea that by creating an ‘’other’’ we identify ourselves is an idea that is slowly starting to ring true here for me in Barcelona. By experiencing others’ norms, from their food to their sleep schedule, I’m starting to create my own more complex identity here than ever before. It’s as if to say, I may not be sure what I am but I can analyze myself by what I am not. Here there are things that I could easily see myself adapting to, changing my identity in a way, such as being in an urban area where there are various cultures all around with a variety of foods and recreation. On the other hand, there are things I just can't identify with and therefore become my ''otherings'' like the lack of maple syrup and the SUPER late nights characteristic of Spaniards. 
Barbecque mutton, farming, campfires, and even store closing hours before 8p are factors of my culture that would have to be explained to anyone coming to my hometown. At home, by simply mispronouncing Louisville as ''Louis-ville'' one can be singled out as a foreigner. Here all I have to do is pronounce the second s on ''estas'' and they instantly clarify any lingering doubts, that I'm obviously not a native speaker. Everything about one's culture from the names of places and things, to the condiments they choose to flavor their meat with forms an identity. My identity, I'm slowly second guessing, and constantly regenerating as I learn how I can change, how I'm different, and truly by discovering my own truths about myself by juxtaposing it with a differing identity.
After a month of being here, it is just now dawning on me that by walking into a restaurant and speaking to my friends in English, I am singled out- I am the ''different'' one- not the cashier or other customers speaking Spanish and/or Catalan. Upon arriving here, I was locked out of my apartment and wasn't able to contact anyone in my program. I was lost in a strange city in a strange country, but the most bewildering factor was when I walked into a cafe asking for help and the lady said to me, '' nobody will help you because nobody understands you''. Growing up in a small town in Kentucky and going to college in rural South Carolina, I have never experienced feeling like such a minority and outsider. It seems like such a small happening but for me, it was life changing to understand what it's like to not be the ''norm'' and truly made me second guess all of my ''norms'' and my normative culture.