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Archive for July, 2012

Buying into the Idea of Provenance

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Provenance springs from a French word (provenir) meaning “to come from”. In a hyper-competitive globalised marketplace provenance can be a significant competitive edge to differentiate your goods or services. That is, if you really consider what the idea can do for your business.

A great example, from Fred Pearce’s Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff, is at the heart of the European Union’s supermarket supply of African grown green beans. By noon the African farmers are contacted on their mobile phones in the fields and told the exact amount of beans to harvest and package to be available for European customers at opening time in the European supermarkets.

The provenance is provided with a number on the beans packaging that enables consumers to do an Internet provenance check. This includes the farm where the beans were grown, the farmer’s details, information about the land and about any agricultural chemicals that may have been used. In reverse, this also allows any anomalies to be traced back to a specific field within an hour.

Suddenly, miraculously, a simple plastic packet of green beans evolves from an ordinary food consumption commodity into an authentic story that builds out into an experience of African enterprise.

Because provenance is an opportunity to inform consumers about the product or service that transcends taste or short-term benefit – examples come to mind like the labour conditions of apparel; environmental footprint; the Fair Trade of coffee beans; or, information about the use of local organic produce in an artisan Tasmanian cyser (made from Huon Valley honey and Huon Valley crushed apple juice).

The nature of technology and the yoke we’ve put to technology converge at the consumer where a growing emphasis is on a desire to be better informed. So, naturally, providing provenance on your products and services both meets expectations and provides a prime opportunity to stand aside from the competition and explain why your business is different (even superior).

The market’s desire for provenance is also strongly related to the customers’ growing call for corporate transparency. People want to be assured of ingredients, factors of production and environmental impacts. And the trick to capturing the essence of exactly what provenance to provide relates directly to the individual product or service that you’re selling. It relates to the value proposition that you’re putting forward for customers to part with their hard earned cash.

In short, once you find out what customers want to know then provide that information.

Another great example of provenance can be found in photography. I might see an absolutely awesome image from a master photographer like Elliott Erwitt and I think “What a beautiful picture.” Then I find a documentary where Elliott Erwitt explains his contact sheets and how that photograph came into being.

The authentic story behind the photograph enhances the earlier superficial enjoyment through to a fuller understanding of the captured place, people or event.

Buying into the idea of provenance is recognising that Internet connected and educated customers are no longer happy just buying their beans on price-point. A vast swathe of them want the information to make educated choices about where to spend their money, often based on their political or social points-of-view.

Beautiful Photograph: Ali vs Frazier, 1971

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

I’m a teenager of the 70s and my absolute love of boxing was founded in the training gym of Des Mills at the George Town Boxing Club. The smell of Goanna Oil, sweat and machismo that drove us two nights a week was fuelled by legends like Ali, Frazier, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Class fighters of the day.

When Alex Charchar shared on Twitter a geometric dissection of a classic Ali vs Frazier photograph my brain bubbled with nostalgic excitement. Those were also the days of film photojournalism – you could say I’ve developed an even deeper passion for film photography than boxing.

So here is the background to that beautiful photograph.

The setting was Madison Square Garden at 8th Avenue in Manhattan on March 8, 1971 for the The Fight of the Century between Heavyweight Champion of the World Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Their boxing records were an impressive Frazier at 26 wins (23 by Knock Out) and 0 losses; Ali stepped into the ring with a record of 31 wins (25 by Knock Out) and 0 losses.

Frazier had a devastating left hook. Ali had a punishing left jab and as a boxer’s boxer he could pull devastating combinations out of a hat. Frazier was a fighter and Ali was a boxer. Frazier was pro-establishment. Ali had refused to fight in the white man’s war in Vietnam stating “No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger” and had been stripped of his World Heavyweight title and banned from fighting in 1967. With two fights in 1970, Ali had gained his shot at regaining the title from Frazier.

The gangsters and actors were all there. This was a fight so hard to get tickets to watch that Frank Sinatra entered with a press pass and a 35mm camera and shot the cover for Sports Illustrated from the front row.

Ultimately, Frazier’s crushing left hook connected onto Ali several times with the result that in the 15th Round Ali hit the canvas. The fight went the distance and Smokin’ Joe Frazier retained the title. Muhammad Ali suffered his first loss.

The in-fight photography is pretty amazing considering these guys were shooting film ringside at a live event in 1971 with 35mm and medium format cameras. The image Alex Charchar geometrically dissected is a brilliant example (the dimensions indicate it as a 6cm x 4.5cm film negative). The Fight of the Century video clearly shows those photographers right under the bottom rope throughout the event.

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We Need to Rethink the Revolving Door

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Australians have an expensive prison system based on the early Industrial Revolution paradigm – large physical barriers to prevent escape; we employ armed guards empowered to maim and kill almost anybody incarcerated under the British model of perpetual psychological (and physical) violence.

If you think otherwise then you haven’t ventured inside any of Her Majesty’s maximum (or medium) security prisons. We employ thuggery to engage thugs; no more, no less.

By far the vast majority of Australian prisoners eat meals under the rifle, shower under the rifle, walk, talk and wipe their arses on a publicly exposed toilet under the rifle. Partly on the pretext of security; mostly, because we demand our pound of flesh. And if they are supplied individual showers in cells to combat the systemic rape issue we’re the first to be offended… a statement that appears to condone the rape of sixteen-to-twenty year old boys in the mind of average Australians.

And we have this type of prison system because as a society we clamour for it. We demand our revenge. There are other ways to manage criminals and people who fall outside the maxims of society but we prefer this system because we like to fool ourselves that it works. Despite the reality that it hasn’t cured crime in centuries of infliction mostly upon the lower socio-economic demographic.

Worst of all, while we complain about the cost of the infamous revolving door of our prison system there is one single undeniable truth about the door that never gets a mention – it’s revolving because we, the Australian people, are pushing it. First we treat every prisoner as a normal distribution for escape and social threat (our prisons are designed to meet this expectation) and then we pursue our revenge for decades beyond the sentence served to ostracise the vast majority of these men and women from any capacity to earn a living into their future.

And we often release them with court-imposed economic debt due to their original crime, they are released without secure housing, are very unlikely to have a job to go to, they are constrained by the only social group they can belong to (serving and ex-cons), they are under-educated and socially excluded and we begrudginly throw each of them the bone of a full Centrelink benefit the day they are released and the following fortnight a half a Centrelink benefit. That in itself incites an awful lot of television sets to be stolen… the second fortnight has to be survived on HALF A CENTRELINK BENEFIT (unless something has dramatically changed since I last experienced it)… and the door revolves young Australians back into prison where thuggery is employed to engage thugs.

Don’t think that stealing a meal in Australia has any less brutal consequences on a life than 18th century transportation. If anything, transportation offered a hope that we fail to provide our modern prisoners and ex-cons. A new life beyond their sentence. A chance. Hope. The ability to start a new life.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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