Sunday, 25 May 2008

Story of Stuff (Blog assigment 3)

For this final assigment, I have chosen to watch the video "Story of Stuff". I recommend everyone to watch it, because it is really interesting. In brief, it talks about (our...) USA's economy model, based on consumption, the more possible and the fastest possible. I am not going to explain more about it, it is better for you to watch it for yourselves; I will tell you my thoughts about it instead.

The video show us that we buy too many stuff, and usually we trash things when they are still valid. We do that because of the "planned obsolescence" and "perceived obsolescence" (i.e. things break faster than they should, because they are designed for that, and we throw them because they are not cool anymore).

I partially agree with the video. That indeed happens: computer are obsolete after 2 years and it is almost inevitable to buy a new one, and fashion is always changing and telling us that we have to buy new clothes because the ones that we have are not nice anymore, for example.

However, in other cases things change because they improve. For example, today's cars are not so tough and hard as the ones from the 50's, but that helps you when you have an accident: if the car squeezes, it "sucks" the impact and not so much force hits the people.

In the computer field, new flat monitors are advertised as cooler, but they are more comfortable, less heavy, less harmful to the environment,... So, I think things should change, it is up to us not to be impulsive and wait to buy new things until we need them.

Those two effects (planned and perceived obsolescence) are the ways in which a plan to revitalize the economy in the 50's take place. That supposed design seems a bit "conspiranoic", but it looks frighteningly accurate, too. Society has changed from that time, and the result is exactly the same as planned: a consumer society.

It is quite interesting that the happiness levels were at their maximum in the 50's (before this change) and they have been dropping down since then. We try more and more to be happy through things, instead doing it through traditional ways. It might be a cliché, but some women go shopping when they are depressed. It seems that the only way to be happy is having the latest TV/laptop/mobile/car/iPod... As an advertising student, I am worried about its role in this, saying people that the way to happiness is buying...

The last point that I want to comment is about "externalized prices". In the video it explains that some things are cheaper than they could be, because the manufacturers made others, not us, pay for the goods: workers, people in the 3rd world, environment... This is one of the key points of global economy: are we willing to pay more for everything to help other people to have a better life (i.e. not so horrible)? Will you accept to pay a 10% more in every article that you buy if that means that people in Africa will have a decent life?

I am not going to answer this last question, I prefer you to think on it.

Para este trabajo final, he decidido ver el vídeo "Story of Stuff" (la historia de las cosas, en inglés). Os recomiendo a todos que lo veais, porque es realmente interesante. En resumen, habla de (nuestra...) el modelo económico de EEUU., basado en el consumo , cuanto más y más rápido mejor. Muestra todos los problemas que genera ese modelo, las razones detrás de ciertas cosas, etc. No puedo explicar y traducir todo, simplemente comentaré un par de cosas que me vinieron a la cabeza.

El vídeo muestra cómo compramos demasiadas cosas, y muchas veces tiramos a la basura cosas que aún sirven. Hacemos eso debido a la "obsolescencia planificada" y a la "obsolescencia percibida". En otras palabras: las cosas se rompen antes de lo que deberían, ya que están diseñadas para eso, y tiramos muchas porque ya no nos parecen "guays".

Estoy parcialmente de acuerdo con el vídeo. Eso pasa, en efecto: los ordenadores están obsoletos en 2 años y es casi obligado comprar uno nuevo, y la moda nos dice que tenemos que comprar ropa nueva porque la que tenemos ya no vale, por ejemplo.

Sin embargo, en otros casos los cambios se deben a mejoras. Por ejemplo, los coches de hoy en día son menos duros que los de los cincuenta, pero eso te ayuda si tienes un accidente: si el coche se deforma y absorbe el impacto, tú no recibes tanta fuerza de éste.

En el campo de los ordenadores, los nuevos monitores planos son anunciados como más "guays", pero también son más cómodos, menos pesados, menos contaminantes,... Por tanto, pienso que las cosas deben cambiar, es cosa nuestra el no ser impulsivos y tirar las cosas antes de tiempo.

Esos dos efectos (la obsolescencia planificada y percibida) son las vías a través de las cuales un plan para revitalizar la economía a partir de los 50 se materializa. Ese supuesto plan suena un poco "conspiranoico", pero es tristemente acertado también. La sociedad ha cambiado desde entonces, y el resultado es el planeado: una sociedad consumista.

Es bastante interesante que los niveles de felicidad [en EEUU.] estuvieran en su punto máximo en los años 50 (justo antes de ese proceso de consumismo) y que hayan ido bajando desde entonces. Intentamos cada vez más ser felices a través de cosas, en lugar de por otros medios. Puede sonar a tópico, pero muchas mujeres se van de compras cuando se deprimen. Parece que para ser feliz haya que tener el último televisor/portátil/móvil/coche/iPod... Como estudiante de publicidad, me preocupa el papel de ésta en ello, diciéndole a la gente que para ser feliz hay que comprar.

El último punto que quiero comentar es el de los "precios externalizados". En el vídeo explica que algunas cosas son más baratas de lo que deberían, porque los productores hacen pagar a otros, no a los consumidores, pagar por los productos: a los trabajadores, a la gente del tercer mundo, al medio ambiente... Este es uno de los temas claves de la economía global: ¿estamos dispuestos a pagar más por todo para que otra gente viva mejor (o no viva tan mal)? ¿Aceptarías pagar un 10% más en todo lo que compras para que la gente de África tenga una vida decente?

No voy a responder a esa pregunta, prefiero que vosotros penséis en ello.

Song of the day:
Tema del día:


linea de cal said...

As you suggest at the end of your post, people is not willing to pay more in order to help the 3º world...partly, because nobody grants us that the problems will be solved.The world functions in that way and what people can do is almost nothing. The main actors (government and corporations) are who should take part in the problem. Really illustrative video and analytical article.

FABIO said...

Really analytical article,i woulf lihe to sayt hat the USA is a nation of consumers they live for that ,spending money in new technology goods.I think that multinational companies are linked with the government due to the amount of money they can do on citizens.
We can also add that the war in Iraq is question of business with the control of petroil wells as well as the relaunching of the American economy by an overproduction of armament.
take for example Lockheed Martin corporationthe biggest one manufacturing of weapons
Warfighting infrastructure must expand beyond traditional boundaries established among the strategic, operational and tactical levels of warfare. The nation needs survivable, penetrating, long endurance manned and unmanned systems that can provide persistent, real-time, surveillance and targeting capabilities in all threat environments.

Mister Potato said...

Yes, USA's economy has always been based in a big proportion on war, sadly for the rest of the world. A bit Orwellian, by the way.

Thanks for your comment.