Blog piece: Art Buses on the Street Mark the Start of Muni Art Week

Re-posted from original piece on MovingSF

Monday, September 28, 2015
by Staci Morrison

Artwork by Reynaldo R. Cayetano Jr
Artwork like this piece by Reynaldo R. Cayetano Jr. will grace the streets aboard Muni buses starting this week.

After many months of preparation, public participation and creative development, today Muni Art makes its citywide public debut. Through grants and collaboration from San Francisco Beautiful, this project supports local artists while beautifying commutes around the city.

SFMTA’s dressed-to-impress art buses hit the streets in tandem with the systemwide improvements of Muni Forward, also kicking off this week.

Because more service is literally a beautiful thing.

Actually, it is 50 beautiful things. That’s how many buses now boast the handiwork of artists Ariel Dunitz-Johnson, Phillip Hua, Reynaldo R. Cayeteno Jr., Andria Lo and Todd Berman. This elite collection of creatives rose to the top of over 130 Bay Area artists vying for a Muni bus to call their own. For their efforts, each artist was granted the full interior advertising space in 10 buses to replace with their designs.

Artwork by Andria Lo
Artist Andria Lo honors the beauty and enriching presence of San Francisco’s urban gardens and greening with her project An Urban Garden Portrait.

Each work captures the spirit of San Francisco, translating it into interior car panels so it could ride alongside passengers, the vast landscapes of the City by the Bay bottled into a Muni bus.

Another goal of the project was to spread the dressed buses throughout the City so as many riders as possible would have the opportunity to commute in a moving art gallery. You won’t see the artwork until you step aboard, so if you catch one of these lucky vehicles, share your find using #SFMuniArt. Art will be in place through the end of the year.

In the meantime, stay tuned to the SFMTA blog as we celebrate the many other ways and places art plus transportation dazzle in San Francisco. Each day this week we’ll feature examples of art to be seen, experienced or visited through Muni.

Research piece: LBS for LGBT? Consideration of Grindr as a Political Mobilizer for Equality in 2012 Election Year.

Grinder-location-based-application

Applications for LBS have been around for years, though the market for mobile LBS is recently gaining momentum. For example, Foursquare, the largest LBS company, attracted 21 million of its 25 million worldwide users in the past two years (“About,” 2012; Van Grove, 2012). Foursquare offers users a database of businesses in a given area, so they can “check in” to the business or restaurant they are visiting. Check-ins allow Foursquare users to crowd source tips or insights on specific businesses from other users, and track the places their friends visit. A similar service is Yelp which brings the Yelp! community of user reviewers mobile, syncing photos, tips and check ins with the main online website. Google has also joined the fray, overlaying Zagat business reviews into Google Maps for a now well-know mobile service called “local guides” within Google Maps.

The LBS market is growing as mobile phone users become more comfortable adding location services into their daily routine. However, it is still an evolving market, flowing with demand and innovation. In 2010, Mashable declared startup business Neer as the most practical of the top five location-based services, a leader for its simplicity. Today, the business is defunct.

Considering the volatility of evolving consumer technology, public relations professionals representing LBS companies must keep several unique characteristics in mind. The greatest PR asset within the industry is access to specific audiences and key behavior information. Users provide basic information such as age, city, gender upon sign-up. They then begin using the location-based functions to specify shopping, dining or entertainment preferences. After regular use, all this LBS data coalesce to provide PR and marketing teams with a cohesive profile of its users. Likewise, the connections between users provide another layer of insight to psychographics and attitudes. This convergence of social networks and LBS does two things for communication professionals in the industry: opportunity to use user data to form partnerships with local businesses and potential for personalized, two way, even realtime, interaction with customers.

Partnerships increase the clout of LBS companies, giving them a “real world” presence and linking an online influence to an enhanced offline experience for users. Foursquare has partnered with American Express to provide discounts to Foursquare users at local businesses, and modernizing the AMEX image for younger demographics. This has also benefited local business in both online and offline contexts, bolstering direct sales and boosting online reputation.

Greater personalization depends on regular data from users and responsibility from the LBS company. PR representatives must be prepared to handle concerns about privacy and how LBS companies are securing the data they collect. There are legal issues with data collection from users under age 13; PR representatives must be familiar with these statutes and how to address them to users or the media. One LBS company, Skout, had to shut down it’s teen community after it service was implicated in several rape charges.

Broadcasting one’s location to the world strikes many people as unsettling. Facebook Places, the mobile LBS application for Facebook, failed to rival Foursquare’s explosion of growth because it was perceived to encourage stalking and unwanted behavior tracking. It is of extreme importance that companies are promoting policies to protect users and that PR professionals convey this fact clearly and openly. Perception may trump technical superiority if the public doesn’t feel it can trust an LBS company.

One company that has found unique success in the LBS market despite these challenges is Grindr. Grindr is a social networking service for gay men. Tuning into the dating scene has been tricky for other LBS companies, in large part due to women’s unwillingness to broadcast their location, fearing they will appear too vulnerable. So far, gay men do not have the same concerns, embracing the capability to broadcast and receive these personal details. Although the company bills itself as the “largest and most popular all-male location-based social network” it’s four million users pales in comparison to mainstream, general interest networks like Foursquare.

Still, four million users is significant in the dating LBS scene, especially one focused on a very specific demographic. Grindr’s success lead to the creation of an application for lesbians (Qrushr), and one for straight users (Blendr) to respond to community demand. However, neither Qrushr nor Blendr have had the widespread adoption of Grindr yet. Part of the allure of Grindr was its acute identification with its user base – it met a need that no other business was addressing. Grindr CEO, Joel Simkhai, is openly gay, and created the company to facilitate how gay, curious and bisexual men connect and socialize. Though much of Grindr’s users found the application through word of mouth, savvy PR has also played a part in bringing this company into the attention of mainstream public. For example, Grindr is struggling secure adoption by women, even on Qrushr and Blendr, so the PR team is altering its messaging. Grindr can be an application for straight women to find gay friends who share their interests or may be in the same mall shopping.

But for Grindr, the core of business is the gay community. Simkhai feels a responsibility to use Grindr as a platform for awareness as well as socializing. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Grindr became a platform of social change through the campaign, “Grindr for Equality.” “We must elect not only a president but representatives and senators who are supportive of our community and our equality,” said Simkhai. He knew that all users of Grindr were of legal voting age because of the requirements of the application. Using other user-specific information, Grindr delivered hundred of tailored messages to encourage users to politically support gay rights. For example, users in Minnesota were alerted to Amendment 1, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and encouraged to contact their local representatives.

Successful mobile LBS applications offer companies – and their PR representatives – direct access to a community that can be mobilized to promote a cause or ideal. Grindr is just scratching the surface, but it is possible this tight-knit group of four million was instrumental in voting down Minnesota’s Amendment 1, as well as legalizing gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Grindr can capitalize upon these milestones to increase political mobilization, inspiring gay rights activism within the other 191 countries of its users.

Once people embrace a platform in the LBS space, invaluable business and PR outreach opportunities emerge. The future of LBS is engagement, as is the future of new media overall. In LBS, the privacy and adoption stakes are higher but the impact will be more focused, and potentially, more lasting.

 

Sources

“About.” Foursquare. Retrieved from https://foursquare.com/about/.

“Foursquare + AMEX.” American Express. Retrieved from https://sync.americanexpress.com/foursquare/Index?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.

Goldberg, S. (2010, Aug. 19) New Facebook feature raises more privacy concerns. CNN Tech. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/social.media/08/19/facebook.places.privacy/index.html.

“Grindr for Equality.” Grindr. Retrieved from http://grindr.com/blog/grindr-for-equality-election-2012.

“Learn More.” Grinder. Retrieved from http://grindr.com/learn-more.

“Mobile positioning.” PC Mag Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,1237,t=location-based+services&i=47145,00.asp.

Pan, J. (2012, Sept. 8). Grindr CEO: 100 Percent of My Audience Does Not Have Equality. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/09/08/grindr-ceo-equality/.

Pepitone, J. (2012, Jun. 13). Skout suspends teen community after child-rape charges. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2012/06/13/technology/skout/index.htm.

Shapiro, L. (2012, Nov, 7).Gay Marriage Victory In Maine, Maryland; Minnesota Votes Down ‘Traditional’ Amendment (UPDATE). Huffington Post Gay Voices. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/gay-marriage-victory_n_2085900.html.

Van Grove, J. (2010, Oct. 27). Top 5 Location-Based Services [MASHABLE AWARDS]. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/10/27/best-location-based-services.

Blog piece: “What’s it like to be married?”

*Archive re-post! From my now retired personal blog, The Unconventional Newlywed, which was published from 2012-2018.

The other day, a coworker friend asked me if anything changed after I got married.

You’d think after being the oldest person in graduate school, I’d become accustomed to this question. But, it has been a few months since then and my brain has since aged exponentially (due to the oldness).

As a result, this question completed voided my mind of understanding and I was dumbfounded.

What has changed? Changed, like…my name? I just couldn’t think of anything big that is different in life now, that was not so different with that other last name I had, oh whenever that was.

Just two years in, I act like a tenured ball and chain. 

It’s just that once you get over the baffling sloppiness of living with a man, life resumes as before. There are times both your names fit into the same addressee line on bills,  and that whole M-R-S concoction is unsettlingly old-sounding, but these things settle quietly atop life as it always was.

Okay…that’s not entirely true.

For example, today I woke up early and went to the gym. Then I returned home and ate two donuts. Had a cup of coffee, then ate a chocolate chip cookie.

Single girls don’t do that shit. 
Girl, if you had my husband, you could have the whole baker’s dozen.

Alex is forever reminding me how great I look, even as the second Krispy Kreme donut enters my mouth and spills frosted sugar chunks all over my stupidly smiling face.

EXACTLY.
There are more serious changes, too.

My least favorite is finding the leeway between “nagging” and “doting,” aiming to err to the former in attempt to perpetuate myself as The Pants-Wearer. I almost always fail.

 

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Being called nagging is among the worst things to do to a wife, yet what is my retaliation? I am legally, contractually obliged to grin and bear it.

There are books aplenty reminding women that they are not supposed to fly off the handle at their inevitably ridiculous husbands. Instead, we are to learn to channel the seething irritation into baking or how to master the elegant quip.

Marriage is an endless game of strategy.  Monopoly that never concludes.

It’s a test of the wits and the pride. Similar to how going to graduate school made me wonder if I ever deserved any degree, marriage makes you question your self-worth.

Sure, you were the shit in your early twenties. Probably were a nice piece of intellectual curiosity in college (see what I did there?).

But then, you got engaged. You said, “Hey, this person, this guy/gal/thing is a KEEPER! The One.”

Now, take a moment and pull yourself aside to say goodbye to those rollicking days of whimsy and adventure that fed your ego and inflated your sense of personal uniqueness.

Yes, you are still you, you are special, blah, blah, blah.

Fascinating or insipid as you may be, your marriage will not add value to yourself, and it does not remove value. It will, however, make you share everything. Including your reputation and your perception of what’s worth your time, with your partner.

You will have to work harder to stay in touch with your individuality. 

It’s a daily exercise. It makes you stronger if you remember to do it regularly. Just do it a few extra times if you’ve got a soft spot (or a couple pounds of soft spots?) for donuts.

Other than that, life is exactly the same as before but with better company built in…for better or worse.

And look at how happy people are when they take the plunge. The Mr. & Mrs. Morrison, April 2011.

 

 

 

 

Blog piece: The Real Game of Life

*Archive re-post! From my now retired personal blog, The Unconventional Newlywed, which was published from 2012-2018.

Do you want to know why it is hard to be married and a broke graduate student these days? Because America is a mean place to live.

We can all blame this guy:

Don’t be fooled by his gentle, grandfatherly appearance. He is a ruthless hope killer who represses the weak and bolsters the rich. HE IS THE MAN. Damn the man! 

This week I learned how to play Monopoly. Have you ever played Monopoly – the real way? All of my childhood I thought the game was an endless loop about the board, trying to avoid jail and roll doubles every time.

There is money exchanging in the real game. A little economy between players. Who knew?!

I didn’t. Alex taught me (chalk up another point for the husband).

Here’s the catch – the game of Monopoly is just as is sounds. A quest for MONOPOLY.

It is unethical! Illegal!

Especially with only two players, it is inevitable that one player will dominate the board slowly driving the other into defaulting on mortgages and selling little plastic kidneys just to pay for utilities.

Is this America or what? And the game is not even ashamed. Official rules of the game state, winning is not only amassing wealth but making all other players bankrupt.

Look at pretentious old gramps, sneering at your common man-ness.

This game is bad for mental health. Unless your a trust fund baby zooming through life on your daddy’s little tin race car, you’re doomed to an existence of overextended credit.

That said, 3 out of the 4 games Alex & I have played I bankrupted Alex. It’s a terrible thing to watch your partner sink into unresolvable debt while your piles of $500 bills lay watching in ennui.

The view from the wealthy side of the game.

‘Murica. The land where you don’t lend your neighbor money cause you want him to be tortured by the mob in attempt to draw loan repayment from his blood. Fuck yeah. Now I buy a hotel.

Speaking of the greatness of American commercialism, have you all seen this commercial?

It hurts my heart. And not in the way that Prilosec can fix.
Some days, the relentless pursuit of mindless wealth makes me want to quit life and turn back into a monkey.

Other days, I play Monopoly, kick Alex’s ass and think,

“My, what a terrific guy this Alex is.  He lets me win Monopoly without pouting! He is not threatened by any potential or existing successes of mine. He supports me going to school full-time while he works crazy hours. Hmm, he even job hunts for me.”

 “He’s OK with me being the breadwinner.”

Then, I get stressed out by all the pressure and have to leave the game to eat a slice of pumpkin pie. Then I return to give Alex a hug and feel less stressed and a bit more inspired.

As much as I don’t want to be part of our ubercapitalistic society, is it comforting to know that someone around here truly thinks I can succeed in this rat race.