Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day 25: Looking through my coursework for favorites!

Most often than not, I end up spending a lot of time at work (off late). I'm usually zapped and totally drained by the time I am back home. I struggle to get my thoughts lined up and write a good topic here on my page. There are some days, where I even struggle to find a topic. Well, so I decided to base the school as my larger context and seek inspiration for a topic today.

After some thought, this is what I have decided to write- the top 3 courses that I loved taking from my college (in specific). It is actually hard to just say only these three helped, but I am not talking about my cognate classes and just focusing from among those that was offered in my college.

1. A Theory Class by Dr. T: I must say, I was blessed to find this professor. Even though my area of research is not directly related to his research interests, he is so very knowledgable that he can always find a way to help you look at the bigger picture. Theoretical classes, as you guessed, are usually boring. A doctoral level class tends to be for a longer period and with a lot of dense reading too. However, Dr. T being a wonderful teacher, made it one of the best ever. Even though we had students who were from varied disciplines and different levels in the program, it was perfect for each one of us. How amazing right? I never thought I would appreciate theories (which I never did ) so much. Even now, I am not a big fan, but I am not as bad I was before. His assignments were very interesting, even when it was tough. It surely made us go bonkers thinking about the ways we could address our assignments but at the same time, the sense of satisfaction we got, when we completed it and found we actually understood it was great. In fact, the last time this class was offered, one of my other friends from grad school took it and she could not stop raving about it either! This will remain one of my favorite classes ever.

2. Advertising and Society by Dr. H: Another grad level class, where it takes your through the 'institution' of advertising and how that changes the way advertising and marketing (overall) plays a role in the society. It is a subject that can be easily made as boring and need not be appreciated by all. Even when we had grad students, mostly very young and sometimes international students. The readings were dense and hard. However, by the time we were done with the class, he made sure each of us appreciated it and understood the way the institution is set up. The assignments were brilliant Surely, yet another best. It changed how I looked at the world.

3. Advertising Theory and Message Strategies by Dr. T- They tell you that sometimes, just meeting a person once is enough to tell you a lot about how wonderful or horrible they are. This is one of the first classes I took with Dr. T as soon as I joined my program. It was the time, when I could hardly understand the 'accent' here and I was still struggling with the overwhelming load of readings and information (assignments, of course). When I was just mid way through this class, I decided, Dr. T will be my advisor, no matter what my topic is going to be. I think, that is the best decision I have taken so far. He is extremely scholarly and he has a knack to bring even the most complex and sometimes not so interesting topics with such beautiful ease and make it one of our favorites. As always, his assignments were great and he did have a knack to make them hard but interesting. I'm glad I started with this class, because, I am sure, if I did not have this class on my first Fall calendar, I would have probably quit doing my PhD even in the first semester. 

I have one more class to tie to the third spot- Advanced Research Methods Class by Dr. H. This was a smaller class than usual, as I had not many from my cohort who were interested in this methodology and hence, I was the only one who took it then. It was easily boring - in terms of the readings, but the class was something we could look forward too and my base for choosing and appreciating this methodology was because of this class. Dr. H is a talented professor. I have heard he is an excellent singer, actor, playwright and an artist. He is also a teacher par excellence.

So, that is the list of my top 3 from my college. There are other course that I loved but they were from a different college, but relevant to my interest. I see a pattern in what I love. I love the concept of marketing and in specific the larger picture of brands and consumer culture. This is one of the reasons why I decided to pursue this interest. I'm glad, I did. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 23: Wordless Wednesday!

People say that a picture speaks a thousand words. I do not know if words would be enough to describe the beauty of this lovely one, I shot sometime back (no editing done). Let this be my post for  a Wordless Wednesday! 

Picture Courtesy : ©Meena Arvind Photography 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 22: What i share online is not mine!

Picture Courtesy: Google Images
I am sure most of you I know (and don't know) own  at least one or more online profile. It could be a page like this, or a social networking site-FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and what not. As a marketer and a digital media, technology buff, I have always had a curiosity to understand this 'fantasy world'. I may not actually post much, but I have (or had) accounts on most sites. I created accounts on these to understand how that platform worked and so on. Well, as of now, I have a FB, Twitter, Pinterest account (besides other niche ones). I started Pinterest to do a research (it is still in the work-in-progress stage) on brands. Twitter was just to see if I can survive the 140 character writing feat (I cannot do that!). FB was for fun and then it became "the way" to connect to old folks and the new. I am right now on a detox mode and so, have deactivated my page.

I have evolved over time and even though I have always been careful about how and what I posted on these social media pages, I have become extra cautious in the recent times. Particularly, photos of self, loved ones or location disclosure. I have tried to be minimal with the personal information I have shared and, most often, it would be after a long thought process. If I say that social media has taken control of our lives, then that is a cliche. I don't think it has taken control, it is just that we live in a different world where social media operates a lot of things around us and that makes it easy for us to feel we belong by being a part of that huge bubble.

However, a lot of times, people forget and do not pay attention to what it says about privacy. There are many youngsters who have no clue about what is being done with the information you post. By youngsters, I mean undergrads or high school students. Most times, teenagers create accounts much earlier than the set age limit by showing fake year of birth. The reason I say, teenagers and young adults, is because a lot of research shows how they do not understand the term privacy and do not know what they should and should not share online as a public post. In fact, there are clean up workshops offered in most university career centers as that dictates their job opportunities. That said, even adults are not far behind in their lack of clarity on what privacy is on social media.

Just like how we say that everything in life has to be in moderation (balance or moderation is a subjective term, it depends on the person and their circumstances), the presence on social media and what is being shared there must be also in moderation. Social Media has been associated with negatives and positives. There are positive aspects and side to it. It helps in sharing knowledge, co-creation, collaborative space and even creating change waves across the globe.  On the other hand, there is data that shows how social media sites, in particular,  FB creates issues such as depression and low self-esteem. I wrote a poem on FB some time back. It was a take on these issues of feeling low and how, despite all that, it is addictive.

Now, coming back to privacy issues, have we ever thought of what will happen to those pictures or posts? In fact, as I was trying to deactivate my account a few weeks ago, I came across the link on FB settings that asked me to choose a friend to take care of my account after my death! Well, it is almost like writing a will and leaving it. This link about transfer of property must have been there for long, but I noticed it only recently. The reason, I am talking about these issues is because, I read a very interesting news just today on how a guy named Richard Prince is minting money by selling the artsy pictures of women who had posted their pictures on Instagram as a public post. Most pictures he had used had a slight sexual touch to the posing or the looks of the person in the photo. What he has done is that he took screenshots of those pictures and then deleted their captions and finally took a blown up picture. This display of art is called New Portraits at New York art gallery. The news says over $90,000 per picture, but I am not without doubt on if he made so much.

Apparently, none of us have any right to contradict him. I wonder how is it that possible. I think they are just looking at this from a copyright law point. They have no other hold to fight this.  I thought that these pictures were under the Instagram's copyright (the public images) and they might have a say on this.Richard, in fact has an Instagram account and has a huge follower base. However, he has been clever enough to not post anything.  He has been doing this for a while by using the photographs in magazines and retaking them and selling them artsy mode. That is why we say law always has loopholes and one thing we need to know is to know which ones we can use to escape or turn to our favor.

What is scary is how these laws and policies change and most times, we do not pay attention especially when we see the long document. These accounts collect information about everything you browse and there are ways in which marketers and others try to reach you. I am sure you must have observed a strange coincidence in the ads you come across on various sites, it would have been. I thought I will change my profile picture on my google plus today but decided against after I saw this news. Maybe I will be okay with the change of pictures, soon enough.  Soon after I forget this news! :)

Anyways, sharing the link of that news article. Please go through here. And, remember, be careful about what you share out there, especially, if it is something about your child/children.

Good night! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 21: Messed up Health care in India -Important

Picture Courtesy: Google Images 
This week's news article on "The Hindu" is alarming. It talks about the splurge of unapproved combination drugs available in India. It is horrifying to see that among the three therapeutic conditions - analgesia, depression and psychosis, there are a huge number of unapproved fixed dose combination drugs, also called FDC. This means, there are two drugs that are combined (in a specific or fixed ratio) to form a single-dose drug. Now, these combinations will have to be tested - both clinically run to test its safety and efficacy and also approved by the authorities. The authority to approve is CDSCO - Central Drugs Standard Control Organization.

What makes it frightening is the fact, there are many drugs which are used in this combination form which are not even approved to be sold internationally. Why then use it in India? Pharma companies make a lot of money (which is shown in this report) and of course, one can smell chicanery from them even from afar. Pharmaceutical companies use unscrupulous means to make sure these are in the market even before approval. The sales figures you see quoted will prove that to you. As for these FDC drugs, if they are used in a wrong combination dose, they can be even fatal. Please read this article here. This article elaborates the details of this empirical study. This is one of the first empirical study conducted in India. I sometimes wonder, if that is all people value about other lives. 

I am also glad that at least, India does not allow advertisements for prescription drugs. In a country like the US (NZ is the only other place where it is allowed), where there are many regulations and the FDA keeps tab on these, it is still manipulated by the advertisers. In fact, there is a huge difference in how the message is framed. It also creates a huge health disparity by only providing the message for a specific group of people. I am at least thankful that India does not allow advertising to consumers (DTC- direct-to-consumers). Imagine the state of India, if there is going to be DTC ads along with these unapproved products! 

I wonder, how the objectives of these pharmaceutical companies shape their agenda and that in turn, helps them frame their message. I wish, this article gets maximum shares and the information is circulated. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day 20: Picture 'Perfect' Post

Picture Courtesy: Meena Arvind 

The quote says it all. Life is like a bicycle. Well, it sure is. Yes, we can probably have more analogies too (there is always more to life). However, if we look at this quote, it does make a lot of sense. After I began my grad program, I believe in this quote more than ever. To keep me sane, I have to keep working. For you to reach a goal, you gotta always move forward, even if it is slow. Even when I do not understand any word of what I read, I just continue. It always works wonders. As you keep reading, you might struggle a little bit less the second time and then you might see a lot of improvement the third time and so on. In fact, for a few, the nth time, it will just be like that "Eureka" moment. It will be a magic. It will just work.  So, when we think of riding a bike, that is how it works. It is also the beauty of riding a bicycle. I clicked this pic at my favorite store- B&N. It was actually on a cover page of a journal, if I remember right. I clicked this to remind myself about just moving forward. Life is a journey that we can enjoy only when we keep moving  forward- physically, mentally and spiritually, in short, evolving the right way. 
Good night y'all!
Good luck on your ride! 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day 19: The Chipmunk and I

Thought of this little poem, as I saw a pic of my notebook and this little buddy ! Read it with a sing-song tune, like a happy poem!

Picture Courtesy: ©Meena Arvind Photography
The Chipmunk and I

I sat down to study,
with my MacBook and buddy.

I was looking at some papers, 
and scrolling down the page.

There came a small pop-up 
to make me lose my 'pace'. 

I moved over to the next tab 
to read about that gossip.

I  was squandering my time, 
with pics of those movie stars 
and then, caught up with some
news, of good old politics. 

Then came this lil guy,
who stood up on my Mac. 
He gave me a stare, 
to go read some JCR*! 

©Copyright Meena Arvind 

*JCR- Journal of Consumer Research

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 18: What makes writing so special?

Calvin and Hobbes- Picture Courtesy: Google Image
I am not a good writer. I am just a very average writer. I struggle everyday, to pen just a few words. I smile with joy and of course, a little envy when I see beautiful writing. Yes, probably, my writing is grammatically correct. But, does that alone make it a good writing, or say, great writing ? Not at all.It is like the creative advertisements you see or the movies you get to watch. There are so many ads around us, that follow the definition of what an advertisement should be like. There are movies that get released all over the world (probably, Saudi is an exception:)). But are they all persuasive? Do you find that connection with everything? Of course, not. That is the same with writing. Most people follow the rules of grammar, but that does that make them a great writer. A great writing is one that can bring a smile on your face, tears down your cheek, the spirit to get up and succeed, to laugh from your heart, to cuddle next to your loved one, to contemplate, or to feel connected with the greater good. In short, it should awe you and inspire you. Not every writing does that.  That is why I said, I am just an average writer. However, it does not really mean, I will stay here that same way. I want to and I hope to improve and be better every day. You know, in my program, I believe in one thing, go one day at a time. Yes, I am probably a little nervous and trying to prepare, but I only worry or think about the day ahead. It is hard to follow that, but I manage (or try to manage) most often. That is the same way with writing. It is one day at a time. As I write every day on my blog (and at work), I think, I am becoming more conscious about it and hopefully by day 365,  I hope to make at least some progress.

The reason for this post is because, as I was driving back from work, I kept thinking of ways in which I could frame my answer to a problem (something related to my coursework). I was thinking, why did they want me to write it down for them, I will surely do a better job of presenting the whole idea. As I thought of this, it made me wonder, what makes writing so special?

Even though, I know I am an average writer, I remember being excited about books and notebooks ever since I was little. I have always enjoyed writing.

From the good old times, we have always communicated with each other. The only things that have changed over decades are the font, the content, the style and the medium. Writing has evolved and is a great way to document content and information, shape new laws, share and co-create knowledge. It is actually an incredible way to help build mental health (yeah, I agree. Sometimes, a stress factor too). However, it shapes our malleable brains and gives us more strength than we can fathom. You must have heard of Paul Kalanithi, the very young neurosurgeon from Stanford, who died recently. In fact, he was diagnosed with cancer at its later stage and he found that he had a very short time to live. He was a prolific writer and wrote some wonderful pieces. I have tagged his name to one of his writings. I quote him,  "Words don't cure, but they can calm and connect people, and even heal."

Well, that is what I want to do too. Make that 'special' connection. Writing is all about that magical net you cast to help people travel, your way.

Anyways, will write more tomorrow.  Till then see y'all and good night!