Tag Archives: thinking

On Toilet Paper

2020-03-06_21-03

I’ve seen a few people on FB asking “Why on earth are people hoarding toilet paper?” or else “Why are people panic-buying toilet paper?”.  My intention here is not to put these people down, but to try to unpick what I think is going on here.

In Facebook bubble world, the hot-takes in response to these questions are mostly “people are selfish and only think of themselves” or “people are stupid and only do what they’re told by the media”.  In other words “other people” (it’s always someone else of course, nobody’s owning up to wheeling out 100 toilet rolls themself) are the problem and they’re simply conforming to the types that we already hold dear.

The other possible reason I can see is “because everyone else is”.  This is the herd mentality and it’s a little different from “because the media told them to”.  It’s hard for any of us (assuming we’ve money in our pocket) to resist taking a packet of toilet rolls whether we need it or not if we happen to see that the shelves are emptying.  Arguably talking about it on Facebook in these terms is driving more unneeded purchases because we’ve all seen that everyone else is “panic buying” and we need to get in there ourselves.

We don’t know, by the way that anyone is either “panic buying” or “hoarding” – these are phrases that we use freely though to explain why things aren’t on the shelves.  I think the likely scenario is much calmer.  People are doing their normal shopping, heading for the bathroom supplies aisle and picking up an extra hand soap and a larger than normal pack of toilet paper, no panic or hoarding involved, just a shift in the pattern of demand.

I think all of these explanations are part of the picture, but not the whole thing.  Some people are stupid, some people do behave extremely selfishly, unconscious purchasing happens all the time to all sorts of people – some people, for example, have all sorts of worries and feelings and habitually salve those feelings by buying stuff they don’t want and don’t need.  We all know (and, at times, can be) those people.

Isn’t it interesting though that we look first to blame individuals and try to discern why they are behaving badly?

Another way of responding to the empty toilet paper shelves is to ask “Is toilet paper just that supermarket product which is the most sensitive to fluctuations in demand?  Is there something in the system of toilet paper supply that means that if people buy just a little more than usual, shops run out of it more quickly than anything else?”

All of which reminds me of a campaign a couple of years ago that involved buying up toilet paper to highlight the fragility of the supply chain with the idea that this would show us all how dangerous a no-deal Brexit would be.  (Found it: Bog Roll Buy Up)

So is toilet paper the top of the list?  Is there a list?  A league table of products in order of their sensitivity to demand?  And if there is such a list what’s next?  Initial ranting on Facebook, at least in the Guildford area, would suggest it might be pasta (though I’m suspicious of the screengrab illustrating this post which reports that Tesco has run out of pasta completely.

It’s doubtless more complex than this – ie there will be products that are more sensitive to different kinds of crisis but I’d like to know if someone routinely does this kind of research so that we don’t have to construct it experientially as the latest wave of apocalyptic disaster unfolds.  If we have a good list we can measure the level of disaster by which shelves are empty. “Oh you think this is bad, I remember one time, you couldn’t even get tinned tomatoes for love nor money!”

In the meantime, please stay safe, don’t get into fights over tissue paper and please wash your hands, especially if you’ve run short of toilet paper and are having to “substitute”.

 

Wandering in the woods

I’m remembering after the relative structure of commuting to Sittingbourne for #workshop34 that just wandering is an important part of my practice – it’s a way of processing what’s been going on and that I have places to go locally that are great for reflection and self-restoration.  I’m also cheered to remember that I carry some high-quality multi-media content production equipment everywhere I go.

So I denied myself a walk in the woods over the weekend but by Monday it was irresistible and when I got there, these words fell out of my mouth.  Here’s video and audio for those who still subscribe to the podcatching form of distribution.

Playing with GIFs from archive film ( cc @time_image )

I don’t know what I’m trying to do!

I’m just playing really, but I think there’s something in here – look at how current popular media gets scrunched into little animated GIFs – does that only work for stuff that’s around now or that we’ve some connection to? Isn’t there still some fun in seeing loops of little scenes that we’re not so familiar with? I’ve been looking through the stuff in the British Council Collection which is all BY-NC licenced

So far I’ve just picked out scenes that I think would look good as a loop. But there’s also that gifset thing where you can sum up a sequence made up of little bits (often with subtitles for the key dialogue) I may try that sometime.

sparksshakes

Today I also had a go at making something else: a loop of tracings from a scene

traced30dive30

 

I should write up a bit more about how I did that, but if you’re interested there’s more of this spilling out into my tumblr all the time.

Keeping out of the gutters

I was struck by a piece by Scott Walker a few weeks ago on the use of the gutter in comic-strips and relating it to transmedia storytelling. I identified with it immediately because I know that the space you leave between the things you articulate are hugely fertile places – our minds are great at filling in the gap between A and B. Storytellers have exploited this by setting the audience up with a series of scenes that lead you to a certain conclusion and then revealing something that was left out that turns the plot around completely. In great detective novels for example the truth becomes clear when we find out exactly what happened between B and C rather than what we’d taken for granted and therefore Y to Z makes perfect sense.

I’ve applied this to Tuttle. When we started I made up some simple boundary conditions that I wanted to hold and I reinforced them over time: minimal structure; no-one grabs attention; regular meetings; as free at the point of access as possible; it isn’t for everyone but it is for anyone, etc. and theen I let you all make up the “rules” or ways to behave that make sense to you. I think this is the best way to make co-creation work.

And with Tuttle it still works: it leads to conversation that draws out and articulates what we can agree on – just such a conversation happened this week about moving Friday mornings to another location, out of which came the insight that maybe Tuttle needs a social space to feel comfortable in. We’ll keep this conversation going. It isn’t finished – that’s because the gutters are fractal – everytime you fill the gap between A and B with X you actually create two new narrower ones A-X and X-B and so we continue on.

So my favourite advice to people thinking about co-creation is “Pay as much attention to the gaps you leave as to the structure you build”

But this brings to light an error in how I’ve unconsciously applied this to everything I do, particularly in the narrative I create about myself when marketing the things I do. I realise that it’s not obvious how Tuttle arose out of my previous work, nor how Tuttle the meetup relates either to Tuttle Consulting nor to Tuttle2Texas – it’s clear perhaps that I’m involved, but how are they Tuttle things – and what’s all this art stuff about?

So there’s more to say on each of those than fits in a Monday morning blogging session. However, I offer the following observations relating to keeping wide gutters between things:

  1. Some (maybe lots of) people just give up trying to work it out, it’s too hard – this means they give up on the story altogether.
  2. People make up the stuff based on their own experience and that can have positive and negative consequences for someone trying to maintain a narrative.
  3. People vary in their ability to give up a bridging idea that they’ve constructed, but most hold on pretty tight.

PS I recognise that I might not have completely recovered from this – ie I’m leaving holes that might be too big for you to traverse right now. Sorry, one blog post at a time 🙂

PPS there may be some more clues in my soon-to-be-launched newsletter – sign up here