Radio’s Evolution

One of the most influential inventions of the twentieth century was the development of radio technology for home and personal use. For the first time in history people could have wireless transmissions of news reports, entertainment shows, music specials and other programs streaming live into their homes. Radio has become a mainstay of households and cars since its initial inauguration, but the technology has changed so much since then. 

While traditional AM and FM radio stations are still very much a common thing in the everyday lives of most people, with the introduction of the internet, so too came the introduction of internet radio. AM and FM stations provide a nice variety of different station genres and show types, but there is only so many stations that can be provided to the people, and the airwaves only extend so far away from their source. Traditional radio is still often many peoples choice for a source of entertainment in cars, myself included. Just press the button for whatever station you want, or scan the airwaves to see if something sounds good. Its extremely simple, and that’s why many people like it so much.

The problem for the traditional format is that where it used to do so well, it has now been taken over by the new age of internet radio. People love being able to make choices and listen to exactly what kind of music their in the mood for. At home listening is dominated by the internet radio market at this point, and its easy to see why. For every FM station available in someone’s area, there are probably two or three or ten times more internet outlets available for listening. And with internet radio, you get to choose the exact type of music you want to listen to. With Pandora, you can make playlists based off songs, artists, albums, or genres. On Spotify, you can listen to entire discographies of thousands of bands. And instead of being bombarded with seven or eight straight minutes of advertisements, on both of these platforms you listen to one or two 30 second commercials and then carry on with the next four or five songs. Songs may even be skipped if they don’t satisfy your ears. The one real weakness of internet radio is that while it is free, often providers withhold a lot of their features unless you pay a monthly subscription fee. Spotify doesn’t allow its users to take advantage of the mobile app unless users pay around 10 bucks a month, meaning free users can only take advantage of this with a computer.

While the subscriptions are a cheap way for the providers to steal some of the consumers money, internet radio has helped blast radio back into the spotlight, and helped it transition into the new age of technology we currently find ourselves in. The advancements have made it extremely easy for any listener to listen to their favorites while exploring new music all in the same. As much as I love the traditional AM/FM platform, I don’t think ill be giving up internet radio any time soon.

Tim Pickel

Finding Fantasy Themes and Symbolic Convergence in the Real World

Fantasy Theme Analysis and Symbolic Convergence Theory deal with the creation of fantasy themes that put forward stories that, while they themselves might not be true, the themes and symbols in them contain truth. Stories can be created to express thoughts and ideas in an indirect way to attract an audience to certain opinions that they may not have held in high regard beforehand, or that they would have shunned and never listened to. Often symbols are presented as general truths like “good vs. evil.” This theme is one of the most popular to be played out in fantasy stories throughout time, and still is as equally relevant today.

One such instance popped into my head from my childhood TV watching days while analyzing this theory. Steak n’ Shake, a sit down restaurant that is popular in St. Louis and a few other cities, used to run ads from the early 1990’s to the late 2000’s that used to depict “scenes from a workaurant.” One of the most popular ones (link below) depicted two aggravating fantasies that many fast food goers can relate to.

The first half of the commercial shows a person struggling with pumping the ketchup dispenser, trying two or three times to get anything to come out before it just explodes all over him and everything else on the counter. This is probably a fantasy to almost any viewer that sees this commercial, as the explosion is pretty over-exaggerated, but the viewer can still relate. Most people who have tried to deal with those dispensers have probably run into a problem or two trying to get the condiments out of them. Clearly portraying that as the evil anecdote, the camera then switches to a Steak n’ Shake waitress holding a glass bottle of ketchup. She looks right at the camera and says something about Steak n’ Shake always having a bottle on the table. Steak n’ Shake is playing themselves as the good guy, coming in to save the day from the wretched messes that fast food restaurants can expose you to. 

The second half is more of the same, but with a bit of the twist. On the top half of the screen is a montage of the process of making a shake from scratch, and on the bottom is a still frame of an assembly line of shake cups being filled with a processed mixture. At the end the same waitress from before comes back, saying how Steak n’ Shake probably doesn’t make shakes as efficiently as they could. The kicker is her last line though, when she says “but when’s the last time you sipped a shake and said ‘mmmm……that’s efficient’.” It’s Steak n’ Shake’s way of saying that while they might take more time, they care about the customer and the quality of the good they are putting out. It’s pinning themselves as the good guys and the competition as evil. 

There are more commercials in the series as those types of ads ran for almost twenty years and the whole lot of them follow the same theme. It pins fast food restaurants as establishments that want you to work for them by waiting in line, carrying your own food, getting your own drinks, finding your own seat, etc. Then it flips it right around fifteen seconds later and states how at Steak n’ Shake, the employees work for the consumer, and put the workload on their own backs. It was a very solid ad campaign that did an effective job of creating these fantasy skits that presented themes and occurrences people could converge into their own lives and relate to their real life “workaurant” experiences 

Hopefully next weeks post won’t be as brutal to analyze. I’d kill for a steakburger and fries right now. Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now.

Hasta la vista,

Tim Pickel

Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation Theory in Real Life

Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation Theory, or FIRO for short, is a theory that states that humans have certain interpersonal needs that need to be met in their lives. Inclusion, Control, and Affection all play significant roles in human lives. We feel the need to be included and to participate actively in others lives and for them to do the same to ours. We feel the need to either have control of our lives, or have our lives controlled by others. We also have the desire to be loved or to spread our love and affection to others.

FIRO can be applied to social media very well. Websites like Facebook and Twitter provide a great service in connecting all the corners of the world to one another. The newest fads and happenings are kept track of through hashtags and trending keywords. When things start to blow up on the internet, most everyone tends to want a piece of the cake.

Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for example: one man, diagnosed with ALS in his 20’s, decided he wanted to leave a mark with his short time left on earth, and try to start a fundraising boom for a disease that’s been around since Lou Gehrig, and yet has no foreseeable cure. So what does he do? Starts a simple trend using #IceBucketChallenge and watches unfold into a worldwide phenomenon.

This wouldn’t have happened without peoples desire for the three fundamental personal relations. The early goers in the trend felt the need to participate in the activities of others. Getting nominated to do a simple task to promote a good cause is a very good tactic to get more people to want to be included. The movement really took off on Facebook, where people would post videos of them getting ice water dumped on them (inclusion), and then go ahead and nominate more of their friends and family (control), giving them the ultimatum of donating or participating in the fun. Affection factors in through both the act and the response. Many people took the challenge and still donated, showing the affection and care they have about the disease and finding a cure. As with every social media site, however, there were people who probably did the video more for the affection they would receive from their friends and family more than for the cause itself.

Social Media Networks are great places to look for the applications of the FIRO theory, as they bring strangers together in a common ground. Social Movements and other things are becoming more and more common in today’s world and the relevance can be seen.

To end this post, I’d like to share my favorite ice bucket challenge video:

till next week,

Tim Pickel