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By (February 1, 2009) ()

This was a tough one for me to think of a good example.  Advertising uses a lot of persuasive techniques, but they follow enough well-known models that it’s generally somewhat transparent to anyone who is familiar with modern media and marketing – whether it’s things like product placement, branding, associations, etc, or offers such as discounts, trials, etc. All it takes to expose it is a little awareness and skepticism.

One situation that I’ve been following was in Oakland, CA on New Year’s Day (http://www.sfgate.com/bartshoot/) – one of the transit police shot and killed a unarmed, compliant passenger in the middle of an arrest. I’m sure the officer would have claimed that the passenger was resisting and the officer shot in self-defense, but there were other passengers on the train who caught the incident with their cell-phone video cameras, preventing the deception/persuasion before it could happen. I think there have been experimental projects in some cities or states where cameras are mounted in police cars or otherwise follow the officers, which are used both for documenting the criminal activity and for preventing police misconduct.

Another interesting technique (that wasn’t directed at me) was reported in the New York Times this week: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/31/science/earth/31compete.html. To get people to use less electricity, the utility published customers’ usage relative to their neighbors, in hopes that they would try to “compete” to get their usage lower. The technique has seemed to work, to some degree (consumption went down about 2%), even though it was probably clear to the targeted population that it was a persuasive technique, and what its intention was.

February 1, 2009

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