Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Position markers

There are markers everywhere that tell us about things.

There are markers on the highways that tell you how many miles this point on the Interstate is from its western or northern state border; there are markers that tell you "Houston 100" or "Austin City Limits".

There are markers on the oven dial to tell you what temperature you're setting; there's another "marker" called a timer that dings after a certain amount of time to tell you it's ready.

The major markers are "Milestones"; the original Milestones were exactly that; stones the Romans placed every mile to tell you where you were. Now we use that term to describe certain major markers: our 50th birthday, a Presidential Inaugural, etc. Some of them are important enough to be recognizable simply by the date itself: December 7, 1941; November 22, 1963; December 6, 1969; September 11, 2001.

Then there are the MINOR markers, the cultural ones. I have a theory (aren't you surprised?).

When a new thing is introduced, it goes through phases:

First, you have the early adopters---the brave ones on the cutting edge, who try some brave new technology or food or style.

Then (marker) the item is picked up by some news outlet or other, or just starts spreading through the population. This is when the item is still restricted to people who are innovative (though not crazy-try-anything, like the early adoptors.)

This is when the item is considered "COOL".

Now that it's "COOL", the early adopters begin dropping out, heading for the next new thing.

Then (marker) the item becomes widespread through the population, and "COOLNESS" begins to wane a bit, while popularity is at an all-time high. SATURATION is reached and the "Cool kids" start heading for whatever the early adopters are doing NOW.

Finally, (GRAVE marker) the item arrives at Wal-Mart and/or the Manufactured Housing Association (nothing wrong with manufactured housing, just saying...).

So, you'll have a certain, say, style of furniture. The early adopters start it (they're in Architectural Digest). It's picked up by the "Cool Kids", and suddenly there are spreads on it in the newspapers or the magazines and it's carried by your local Haverty's.

Finally, the style shows up in the furniture section of Wal-Mart and in mobile homes. It's at that marker that you know: the style is DEAD DEAD DEAD.


What's the point of this little exercise?


It started out as JUST college kids FOR college kids (it replaced the Freshman Annual, for those of us old enough to remember those) at one or two campuses. They were early adopters and it rocked.

Then it went widespread on all the college campuses and it was COOL.

Now it's at mass-market stage. You can tell because all of my age group has discovered it.

It's one foot out of the grave! ;-)

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