Friday, February 22, 2008

Damn the Man!

So, just as an update, I have spent the last week basking in the glory left behind by my successful Valentine's Day smackdown. Unfortunately, I had a very busy week and could not fit in another project. But please don't worry my little peaches, I have some great ideas brewing in my devious skull of some Guerilla Media projects of fantastic proportion.

Since I don't have any of my crazy antics for you to witness just yet, I thought I would introduce you all to a group whose work has caused a stir all over bookstores and the web. The Ministry of Reshelving is a group who, like myself, has taken the words and images received by the Media quite seriously. They are a group whose sole purpose is to reshelve George Orwell's book 1984 away from the Fiction section of big name bookstores into sections they feel better suits this literary classic. I found out about this group several years ago while working at Borders. Usually around the end of summer, high school kids living in San Francisco would come to the store to buy their books for that semester. One of the most popular reads for a high school student is 1984. When asked for this book, I would run over to the Fiction shelf to grab one and would find a large empty space. Puzzled by the empty shelf and the computers inventory showing 10 copies, I would give up. Later while reshelving books left by the masses of SFSU students who crowd the store and leave their mess behind, I would find copies of 1984 left here and there. Sometimes in the Sociology section, other times in Politics & Government, and even in Business. This became a trend, and at least once a week I would find the book missing from the shelves. Sometimes the manager would notice and send the staff on a man hunt for George Orwell. Myself and co-workers would get annoyed and vent to each other about the kind of losers who come in just to switch around some books. It didn't make sense to me, and all I could see was that it made my job harder. Only later we found out more information regarding these small-time crooks. Inside the books were small notes to the reader explaining that the "Ministry of Reshelving" was responsible for its relocation. Even though I found it quite annoying at the time, I have since changed my opinion of the group. I think their efforts to create their own small movement is the kind of work that inspires people like myself to do the same. Although their work never sparked any massive change (Borders never took their advice and re-located the book to another section), their work was noticed. Just try to Google "Ministry of Reshelving," and tons of topics will pop up. Here is just one article about the group. If the topic interests you, which I hope it does, here are some pictures of the group in action. I think their work is just another example of Guerilla Media, and incentive for other people to join in the fun in creating new forms of sharing information and opinions.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Phantom Menace

And so begins my Guerilla Media Campaign...

Yesterday I ate some Chinese food, and my fortune cookie said, “DO SOMETHING UNUSUAL TOMORROW.” And I said, “Get out of my head fortune cookie!” I already had something up my sleeve for the next day.

I often work odd temp jobs because I got restless working lame jobs at coffee shops and such. On Monday I worked for my boss’ sister at her flower shop in San Francisco. She always needs help in the shop around Valentine’s Day because of the large shipments of roses that come in. I spent the day de-thorning bouquet after bouquet of red roses for $10/hr with unlimited snacks and the company of a cat named Chloe. It was an alright day, but I started thinking about where those roses came from. The packaging around the roses were labeled “Star Latin” and were all in Spanish. Then I started thinking about that movie Maria Full of Grace, and how the main character worked in Columbia putting together bouquets just like these. I put together in my head the route which it takes for those flowers to get to the shop which I was working at, from there the roses are sold at anywhere between $100 and $200. The whole process got me pondering what a big business Valentine’s Day is. After a days work and a pocket full of tax-free cash, I went home and did a bit of research on the subject.

I came across some articles which gave me a little more insight on the business of buying love. While many see Valentine’s Day as a “Hallmark Holiday,” there is much more to February 14th that involves Latin America, India, and Africa. In this article by, surveys done through market research companies showed that the total 2007 spending for February 14th is expected to reach $17 billion. An article from The Huffington Post explained more about what I had been thinking about while de-thorning roses. The article goes into depth about what Columbian flower workers must go through to prepare for Valentine’s Day. Flower workers, including 80,000 Columbian women, make around 50 cents an hour putting together 70,000 bouquets a week in preparation for this holiday. To think that I was making $10/hr, leisurely de-thorning roses on Monday while young women like myself were in Columbia working twice as hard for much less to get those roses to me got me down. In another article I found more information about making rose buyers aware of this big business and at what expense these roses come.

I decided for Episode 1 of my Guerilla Media Campaign I would try to make others take notice of what is behind Valentine's Day. In hopes of making people more aware of where those roses came from that they are buying their spouse, girlfriend, lover, baby-mama, or friend.
Evil cupid and myself put our heads together to think of a good way to do so (while simultaneously slapping Valentine's Day in the face)...

After some consideration, we thought balloons could do the trick. Without spending too much money or time on something which might fail miserably, balloons seemed like the right idea. Yesterday I went out to my nearest party supply store and bought 6 balloons, which somehow ended up being free with purchase of Little Mermaid party plates and a package of birthday candles. The Diddam's employee didn't seem to care about the balloons, and I didn't argue. With my research handy, and a jumbo black Sharpie pen, I decorated the pink balloons with facts and ideas to ponder this Valentine's Day.

I took these balloons with me early this morning to show to my audience: the students of San Jose State University. Since I live in San Jose, this seemed like the ideal place to spread awareness to open minds.

I took the six balloons and placed them all around campus where I thought they would be seen. I put the first balloon here in the stairwell of the crowded parking lot.

I tied another to a bench in front of the library.

After distributing the balloons in front of buildings and in courtyards, I decided to stick around and see if anyone notices my work. I sat in the shadows near the entrance of the library like a creepy voyeur, drinking a nasty Odwalla drink I bought from inside the Student Union building, waiting. People walked by, acknowledged it was there, but did not read it. A skateboarder smacked it while riding past, but for the first 15 minutes it got no response.

Then, it finally happened! Two girls leaving the library stopped and took a few seconds to read the balloon. My heart jumped and I scrambled to snap a photo of this rare encounter. When it was over, I was thrilled. I suddenly got excited to see if my other balloons were causing a stir at their posts.

This one was causing a stir. I walked up to the scene of the crime. In this photo, a campus police officer struggles to detach my balloon from a bench in front of this building. I didn't wait to see how long it took to take it down, but it probably took a while (I triple knotted that thing).

On the other side of campus, in front of the Student Union/Cafeteria, another student stopped to read the balloon. I felt pretty good about my balloons and the response they received, so I decided to head out. I hope my balloons last a little longer than the one in front of Moorehead Hall did. Most of all, I hope the people who stopped to read the balloons acknowledge and appreciate the work that goes into making this holiday possible.

Good job evil Cupid. Our work here is done.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Intro to my campaign

To decide what I wanted this blog to be about was a very hard process. After much consideration I decided to choose something that would force me to be productive outside of work and school, rather than sitting at home getting upset at (or consumed with) what I find on TV.

Last semester I took BECA 301-Media Literacy in the Electronic Culture, which is how I became familiar with guerilla media. Although I liked the idea of the required Guerilla Media Project, I was not happy with having to work with other people. I think everyone has been in this situation, where your group members are extremely difficult to contact and agree with, and you just wish that you were working alone. This time I'm going to do this the right way: by myself.

I'm planning a Guerilla Media Campaign to create awareness about various issues and distribute information in clever ways, then blog about it! For me, this is a way to creatively express some thoughts on issues which interest me and share them with a wide audience. I think that the more issues I approach, the wider my audience will be. I know this may be a large project to attach to this class, but it is something that I hope to accomplish alongside the rest of the work I have ahead of me this semester. I feel like this is an idea I can take many different ways, and I am excited to share the course of activities I approach throughout the following weeks.

After deciding on this topic for my blog, I did a little research in an attempt to find similar projects. I found that this is something a lot of companies are catching on to . Guerilla marketing has become very popular, and there are now companies which exist solely to produce creative ways to advertise and distribute information. One marketing company called Go Gorilla Media creates innovative ways for clients to advertise their products or services. Take some time to look at some pictures from recent projects if you are unfamiliar with this topic. I also found an article called The Rise of Guerilla Media which explains new techniques in guerilla media, including the rising popularity of blogging. A similar and very interesting blog is Guerilla Innovation. This blog includes many cool and creative guerilla projects and inventions.

With that out of the way, I am now off to create some clever, fun, and cheap ways to spread my opinions all over this city (I live in San Jose)! Stay tuned...