Sun May 29, 2005
I’ve written about Open Source Politics, Open Source Activism, and Open Source Journalism. Open Source software is taking over our desktops at the expense of monopolistic Microsoft (get Firefox!). Television is getting in on the act. Shows like American Idol let the public be the judges, not three has-beens sitting on a judge’s table. Al Gore’s new network, Current, is predicated heavily on an open source model — with a great deal of programming produced by its viewers.And corporate America is catching on.
The world’s largest athletic shoemaker has relaunched a Web site where shoppers design their own shoes, choosing everything from the color of the famous Nike swoosh to personalizing the tongue with a word or phrase.The bid to target shoppers who want to stand out marks part of a growing trend toward customization in retail that analysts see as a way for companies to charge a premium for self-styled products.Customization also connects shoppers more closely with a brand and helps companies attract fickle but lucrative young shoppers by giving them the power to put their personal stamp on everything from sneakers to jeans to digital music players.
Whether it’s a cell phone ring tone of a favorite song, a faux-fur skin for an iPod, or a pair of ice pink and black Nikes, young shoppers see customization as a way to express themselves and build on what they like about certain brands.
“It is really a democratic desire,” said Sharon Lee, co-founder of Los Angeles-based consumer research and trend consulting company Look-Look Inc. “Every person wants to say this is much more me and I’m not part of this kind of mass culture.”
You want something less Big Corporation? Threadless.comis an open source t-shirt retailer, selling designs submitted by users (I bought six tees last week). Why hire a handful of graphic designers to design your tees if you can employ an army?Once upon a time, we were expected to screw two bolts on the assembly line. Obedience and strict adherence to The Rules were valued traits.
But in the post-industrial world, “yes-men” are no longer as valued. We are now expected to show initiative, be proactive. We demand to think for ourselves, and are learning to reject what corporate America shoves down our throats (which is usually crap designed for the lowest common denominator).
So corporations like Nike are hoping to catch a bit of that magic by allowing consumer personalization of their products. It’d be easy to be cynical about such things, but I’m not. Anything that allows us to break free from the tenets of comformity is cause for celebration.
Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun May 29, 2005 at 09:30 AM PDT.