Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention

Captivology
Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention caught my attention at my friend’s apartment (when I was helping her move from Boston to Little Rock). I was curious to learn what the author Ben Parr had to say about rising “above the noisy crowd,” especially given my experience in public relations and marketing, and seeing firsthand how Buzzfeed and Broad City have become pop culture mainstays. Among the reasons why Beyoncé is popular and why we tend to agree with the crowd, I learned the following from reading this book:

 

  1. Attention is the conduit through which we experience our world.
  2. Wear the color red – Our brains are hard-wired to “ignore everything that isn’t necessary to goals,” so we rely on a variety of stimuli to direct our attention through what Parr calls “automaticity triggers.” Red not only stands out, but it also signifies competence.
  3. Offer someone a warm drink – Touch is another important sensory cue, and it turns out that people who hold warm objects are more likely to give positive attention and are more cooperative.
  4. It’s difficult to change someone’s frame of reference – Parr calls this the “inertia of ideas” because over time, we don’t have the mental capacity to continuously reassess our beliefs.
  5. We may believe something is true because we’ve heard it a thousand times – This is known as the “illusion-of-truth effect” and it demonstrates how the familiarity of a statement may impact our assessment of its validity.
  6. There is a certain number of times an audience can be exposed to something – This is known as “effective frequency.” The repetition may cause an audience to engage or it may just become worthless.
  7. Disrupt – It’s easy to capture attention by disrupting expectations through a) surprise, b) simplicity, and c) significance. Significance is the most important because a great ad or campaign won’t be successful unless it’s meaningful.
  8. FOMO – We really do have the “fear of missing out” also known as the “commodity theory,” where the more scarce something is, the more we value it.
  9. We want to be rewarded – Parr discusses intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and how we place more value–and thus pay more attention to–intrinsic rewards such as positive feedback from a boss.
  10. Imagery is a powerful motivator – Because we aren’t so great at grasping esoteric concepts, we go after rewards that we can visualize.
  11. Reputation matters – Turns out that talent is not the best predictor of popularity, reputation is. We rely on three types of reputable sources for directing our attention such as a) experts through knowledge and wisdom, b) authority figures through ability to command obedience, and c) the crowd through its collection of knowledge. Reputation is built by consistency, personality, and time.
  12. Credibility is a shortcut to building reputation – While still building a reputation, one can use a reputable person or company also known as a “validator” to back a pitch.
  13. Confront the crisis – It’s best to respond quickly and thoughtfully when faced with a difficult situation. The longer a misconception is allowed to linger, the more likely it is to stick.
  14. We agonize over mystery – Suspense is a powerful tool to capture and hold our attention because of our “compulsion for completion.”
  15. Being acknowledged is important to us – We have an extreme desire to be recognized, validated, and understood by others, and so we direct our attention towards anything that affirms our identity. Social media is very important because we can instantly and immediately be validated.

All in all, I found Captivology to be an insightful and informative book about the variety of ways to capture attention. I also enjoyed reading historic examples of marketing campaigns such as Edna Murphy and James Webb Young’s campaign to make antiperspirants the cultural norm and Russell Birdwell’s campaign to drive interest and thus ticket sales for Gone with the Wind. Through these and many other examples, I gained valuable knowledge that I can use in my personal life and professional career. I definitely recommend this book.

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A South Carolinian Debutante Ball

At the invitation of a friend of mine, I traveled to South Carolina to attend a debutante ball, a grand tradition in which young women are presented in society. Because I had only recently learned about this tradition, I jumped at the chance to experience this unique coming-of-age celebration.

South Carolina Debutante BallDonning a floor-length gown and opera-length, white gloves, I stood at the front of the crowd and marveled at the cherub-like debutantes entering the ballroom. With their anachronistic white dresses, bouquet of red roses, delicately placed hands, and pleasant smiles, the debutantes were escorted by their fathers to the center of the floor to perform a grand curtsy under the chandelier.

South Carolina Debutante BallThey were then handed off to their escort and shuffled across the floor once more.

South Carolina Debutante BallFor the finale, the fathers and daughters danced a waltz.

South Carolina Debutante BallThen the real party began with party-goers dancing the Carolina Shag and contemporary dance styles.

Carolina Shag

South Carolina Debutante BallAlthough the presentation was perfectly executed and the party was fun, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the rationale behind this antiquated event in today’s society. I also couldn’t imagine how these young women were coping with the varied messages the ball conveyed as well as the impossible expectations that were set upon them. I found myself questioning the entire event – Why does this tradition continue today? What purpose does it serve? Is there a more meaningful way to spend an evening? Is there a better way to showcase the strengths and talents of young women?

South Carolina Debutante BallAll in all, the debutante ball was an intriguing cultural experience that somehow transcended time and provided me with some additional perspective.

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Goldberg at the Park Avenue Armory

Igor Levit

At the performance of Goldberg at the Park Avenue Armory, starring Igor Levit with direction from Marina Abramovic and lighting by Urs Schonebaum, I was entranced by the commingling of artistic voices and how they translated into a pure expression of music for the audience to experience.

We were asked to lock up our belongings and we were then given a score and noise-canceling headphones. We found lounge chairs in which we were to sit, facing the center of the Drill Hall, which was illuminated by four screens of bright, white light (reminiscent of the productions of Robert Wilson).

The first gong rang and we obediently placed our headphones on as the instructions dictated. With my headphones on, I was immediately reminded of John Cage and his revelation that one could never be in complete silence because one always hears two sounds – the high pitch of the central nervous system and the low murmur of blood in circulation. Once I acknowledged this, I tried to focus on the experience of the Abramovic Method for Music and “embrace the unfamiliar sensation of doing nothing.”

But then, I saw Levit sitting at the piano on the platform, slowly making its way toward the center of the Drill Hall. I was captivated by his presence and his lack of stillness. He was clearly antsy, fidgety, maybe even nervous (in all fairness, it was the dress rehearsal). He had a long slow journey ahead of him and yet, he could not settle into the moment. I couldn’t tear my attention away. I had to keep watching as he continued toward the center, my own anxiety heightened by this spectacle. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Get it together!” But then again, who am I?

The second gong rang and we removed our headphones in order to listen, as the instructions stated. A horizontal line of white light appeared along the edges of the hall and above the piano keys, flooding Levit’s hands in light. “Framing the space using light, ” says Schonebaum, “gives a focus point for the audience and the freedom for the music to go beyond.”

Levit then began to play what Peter Laki describes as “nothing short of a complete encyclopedia of musical forms, styles, and keyboard techniques existing in Europe in Bach’s time.” Levit’s hands seemed disconnected to everything in the world as he played the 30 variations ranging from involved hand-crossing pieces to the “lavishly ornamented slow movements.” The platform on which Levit was seated slowly rotated in a circle, and as it did, the horizon line of light was reflected along the piano’s curves, creating an additional dynamic and subtly beautiful focal point.

The pianist finished by repeating the first variation and upon its completion, the audience broke into a thunderous applause. Finally free to do something other than listen. It was a transformative moment, like waking up from a nap in which everything in the world somehow becomes aligned and there is clarity where there wasn’t before.

After the performance, my friend and I were sharing our thoughts on the experience. I knew he had his eyes closed during the Abramovic Method part, and, not wanting to disturb his meditation, I didn’t nudge him to watch Levit’s journey to the center. He responded by saying, “Next time a musical prodigy is floating down the middle of a monumental art space in what appears to be an inexplicable moment of anxious freak out and tremendous build-up…And I have my eyes closed deep in nirvana…Wake me up!!!”

All in all, Goldberg is a masterwork in experiencing classical music, which Abramovic believes is the “most immaterial form of art.”

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Clay Time with Nicholas Newcomb

The talented ceramicist, Nicholas Newcomb, recently invited me and a group of friends to his pottery studio in Brooklyn to learn the fine art of ceramics. Through Nic’s teaching, I came away from our “clay time” session with a deeper appreciation of ceramics as well as great admiration for Nic’s work.

Nicholas NewcombNic studied fine art at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, where he apprenticed with renowned ceramics artist Toshiko Takaezu. He has also worked with highly acclaimed artists, sculptors, and designers such as Leslie Ferst, Regis Brodie, William Hardy, and Christopher Spitzmiller. Now in his eponymous shop, Nic creates a variety of works including minimal, nature-inspired dinnerware, drinkware, serveware, and cachepots; organic lamps and air pod plant holders; and free-form sculptures. Nic’s collections mimic his laid back vibes and his thoughtfulness.

Nicholas NewcombNic’s also a great teacher. In addition to teaching the techniques involved in ceramics, he taught the philosophies behind it too. I learned to let the imperfections go and to embrace the mistakes. Plus we had a great time making our own little objects whether they were functional or purely aesthetic.

Nic Newcomb Clay Time

All in all, I thank Nic for sharing his knowledge and insight. I am excited to continue following Nic’s career.

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My day in Wallace, Idaho

Road TripThis summer, I spent a week traveling across the northwestern part of the United States. My brother, his fiancée, and I rented a car and drove from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Occidental, California, stopping along the way in Grand Teton National Park; Yellowstone National Park; Butte, Montana; Anaconda, Montana; Wallace, Idaho; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Walla Walla, Washington; and Portland, Oregon. Of all those amazing and distinctly unique places, our favorite was Wallace, Idaho.

IdahoOur journey in Wallace began with a bike tour on the Hiawatha Trail. We crossed the border from Montana into Idaho, picked up our mountain bikes, hitched them to the back of our Volkswagon, Passat, and then drove back over the border into Montana. We parked at the entrance to the trail, tested our brakes, flashlights, and then entered into the tunnel. It was absolutely pitch black, cold, damp, windy, and with no sign of when it would end. Pedaling slowly and clutching the handlebars with my frozen hands, I finally emerged from the tunnel two miles later, grateful to see the sun.

Hiawatha TrailThe trail then wound through the mountains on the states’ border. We rode over train trellises and through smaller tunnels, making our way 13 miles to the valley floor. After the fear of being forever lost in a tunnel or sliding down the side of the mountain wore off, I felt the exhilaration of riding through this historic trail. After an hour and a half of riding, a shuttle bus brought us back to the car and we once again crossed back into Idaho to find the town of Wallace.

Wallace IdahoThe tiny Wallace used to be a major silver mining hub located in what is known as “Silver Valley.” Now it is mostly a tourist destination.

Lola Red Light GarageWe arrived in time for happy hour, grabbing a flight of beers at Wallace Brewing. Then we had dinner at Red Light Garage – a restaurant with a unique decor and the perfect amount of charm. Lola served us an amazing meal topped off with a huckleberry shake.

Wallace Brewing CompanyLola recommended that we then go to the Wallace Brewing Company on the “outskirts” of town, just on the other side of the highway which passed overhead. We headed over there and grabbed another flight of beers as well as some huckleberry lemonade. The owner of the brewery invited us to take a look at the tanks in the back. Everyone in Wallace was so friendly.

Metals BarWe ended the night at Metals Bar where we encountered the heart of America and were presented with the most moving rendition of God Bless the USA sung on the karaoke stage in the back.

The next morning, crunched for time, we learned about three different industries in the span of two hours.

Wallace Train StationThe first business was the railroad. We visited the railroad museum located near the highway overpass. The station had to be moved 200 feet to make room for the highway. Wallace, once a center of industry and prosperity, depended on the railroad to transport goods. It was also a hub for businessmen. The main claim to fame of Wallace (aside from being featured in Dante’s Peak) is that President Teddy Roosevelt visited for one day in 1903. He came by railroad.

Bordello Museum Wallace IdahoThe second enterprise was prostitution. There was a bordello that successfully operated until 1987 when the madame got word that the state police were coming to investigate. The women fled and never returned, leaving the building in exactly the state they had left it. It remains in that state today.

Maria Kucinski Silver MineThe third industry was mining. We hopped on a trolley that took us to a nearby silver mine located in the mountains. A former miner took us into the mine showing us the quartz veins that indicate silver, the tools, the methods, and the way of life for a miner. We learned that the science of mining and the physical demands were not for the weak of heart or mind.

Wallace accordion paradeIn addition to these planned excursions, we also happened upon an accordion parade. It was the icing on the cake of our stay in Wallace.

Wallace IdahoAll in all, Wallace was a beautiful and quaint town full of history and culture. I definitely recommend visiting. Tell them Lola sent you.

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Alejo Musich

Working in a contemporary art gallery in New York, I have the opportunity to meet many artists. Each artist is unique, but there is no one quite like Alejo Musich.

Alejo MusichI met Alejo serendipitously at the PINTA NY art fair in November 2013 through my other artist friend, Tomas Rivas. The unassuming, slight, and Argentinian Alejo would become a great friend instantly.

A native Spanish speaker with perfect English grammar and a penchant for idioms and colloquialisms, Alejo has the desire to utilize and stretch language to the maximum. Each thought is exquisitely executed through syntax, intonation and conciseness.

When I asked him about the impending ArteBA fair in Buenos Aires in which his paintings would be shown by Miau Miau Gallery, this was his response:

right now they may be in another galaxy, setting everything up and with their minds flirting with breakdown. today’s the pre opening and it has been raining mad for two days now. anticlimatic. I live something like ten blocks away from the pavilion where all takes place, and in this rain I won’t go walking. imagine if to attend you have to leave your house in a leisure set of mind, you are a vip and you can just stay home with netflix, vogue italia, your afghan dogs, and just wait, maybe for tomorrow or next year. “We’ll always have Basel”, and ask someone for another coffee, and another someone to take de dogs about for a pipi.

In addition to the his language skills, Alejo is a very talented painter. He paints scenes from nature, some informed from Russian fairy tales, and others from his imagination. His brush strokes are textural and intentional. His color palette is deep with accents of pastel and neon integrating beautifully into the canvas. His paintings are full of mystery and tension.

Alejo Musich Sin Titulo (Zorro I)

Alejo Musich All your glory

Alejo Musich Melville, or, The Whale

Alejo Musich Sin título (Bosque 2014)

All in all, I am happy to be able to call this talented and spirited artist my friend.

Alejo Musich Maria Kucinski

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Reject Dance Theatre presents The Territory Suites

My dream of becoming a professional dancer has finally come true with the opportunity to collaborate with Reject Dance Theatre. My dear friend, Rebecca Hite Teicheira (here’s a post from her MFA Thesis), invited me to be a part of RDT’s first evening length piece, The Territory Suites presented at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, NY.

Reject Dance Theatre Rebecca Hite Teicheira Maria KucinskiAlong with the directors, Rebecca Hite Teicheira, Stephen Ursprung and Stephanie Simpson, I worked with Bridget Cronin, Jermaine Ellis, Cara Hoover, Rachel Pritzlaff, and Larissa Ursprung to explore the idea of territory through three distinct perspectives.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesIt was amazing to get back to work in the studio – conditioning my body, learning unique choreography and creating new movement. I forgot just how much I enjoyed dancing and the process of creating dance.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesWorking through the many details – from the concrete ones like choreography, spacing, timing, costuming, hair, makeup, and lighting, to the more intangible ones such as presence, interaction, and intention – re-energized me artistically. My favorite part of the process was examining the intention of every step, every movement in the piece, ensuring that there was a reason behind every action.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesThrough those intentions, we explored the notion of “territory,” investigating themes of gender identity, human relationships, and animal interactions through choreographic means of collaboration, partnering, and synchronization. The artistic vision of the three choreographers was distinct but centralized along this universal theme.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory SuitesIt was truly an honor to be a part of something very special for Reject Dance Theatre and its collaborators. I found that I forgot how much I enjoyed performing and am grateful for the opportunity to be on stage once again.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory Suites Rachel Pritzlaff Rebecca Hite TeicheiraAll in all, it was an inspiring experience to work with so many talented artists.

Reject Dance Theatre The Territory Suites Rachel Pritzlaff

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