Reflections on ‘Advanced Techniques for Modern Living’

Sam and I finalised the video portion of our assignment yesterday, and so I’m going to talk (or write) about the process that led us to what we’re doing today.

As with all art, it began with bitterness and Sam hating customers. I’m not sure if he had a bad day at work, or if he is just constantly angry about customers who do not display proper courtesy, but as soon as we were let free to begin brainstorming Sam instantly came up with an idea about the unwritten rules of purchasing and the relationship between customer and merchant. Sam keeps a list in his head of things that customers do that irritate him, if they violate too many of these no-no’s then he shuts down, and does not communicate with them other than to serve them.

The original idea we had was to ‘publish’ this list in the form of an instructional video. The concept was that if employees had to undergo training to serve people, the customers should undergo training in order to be served, as common courtesy is often forgotten about when dealing with people that bag groceries or serve you McDonalds. Along with this we would set up a fake cash register, and the viewers of the video would ‘purchase’ something from us, and if they adhered to all the rules and were polite they would be rewarded with a candy bar. The problem with this is that we both felt that it would be hard to pull off without coming across as preachy and negative, and we both agreed that though we wanted the project to have a strong message, we also wanted it to be light-hearted and fun.

This is something that we got from the cards Adrien Piper would hand out addressing racism or an unwillingness to be chatted up.  I like the idea of a non-confrontational way of fixing problems, as too often a fight only cements both parties previously held ideas, but something about the card system didn’t seem like something either Sam or I would do. We felt we both wanted an element of humour in our work, as it’s enjoyable to watch and do, and it diffuses possible negativity towards the social aspects of our work. So we learned from Piper’s card system, but we also learned what we wanted changed about it.

We decided that the ‘training system’ was a fun idea, but that the relationship between a consumer and a merchant was too fraught with negativity, as both customers and employees have likely had many negative experiences in that environment. Whether it be rude customers demanding things, or careless employees giving people the wrong item and saying it’s what the asked for, everyone has had some kind of bad time on one side of the fence or the other. While this is still an interesting idea to me, and I would like to one day do something examining where the power actually is in that relationship, we decided to change the training system to a more positive area: walking.

In class we had done a few exercises in walking with certain rules put into place, we enjoyed that but also realised that everyday walking has many rules in it too, and that some people were not aware of that. We decided that the focus of our experiment would be to create a training video for everyday life, titled “Advanced Techniques for Modern Living”. Along with that there will be a training course in walking, similar to a Learners license test for driving.  We wrote out some rules and analysed some things that we had experienced while living our day to day lives, and we came up with the video and walking course that we will be showing you all in a few hours, so I guess we shall talk more then.

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