Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The hyperlocal: On white squirrels and related playlists

In the personal stock market of my life, I announce today that blogging output has been significantly down in Q2 2015. This is owing largely to the fact I’m currently teaching and, and, as adult life dictates from time to time, work must come first.

But today that all changes...for a brief moment at least. And it’s all because of a white squirrel, featured prominently in an ad for Spotify that I saw recently outside of Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park. Shortly after relocating to the city I learned of this strange species of white squirrel when the local papers reported that one of these rare rodents was found “alarmingly stiff” and “dangling over a footpath” in the area.

That was last summer and since then I’ve come to learn that there are only a handful of these pale little creatures in the city and that they are so beloved, if not mythologized, that a coffee shop in the area bears their name. After all, not many have actually seen a white squirrel in the park, so the next best thing is the tribute coffee shop I guess.

Bonus Points: For those who want to regale co-workers with the depth of their white squirrel knowledge I recommend this video:

But back to the Spotify squirrel ad.

Upon seeing it, and then snapping a picture with my phone, it struck me that this thing referred to as 'mixed reality', the blending of the digital and the physical, is now, in its most basic form, just a taken for granted, everyday occurrence. Armed with phones that have more computing power than all of NASA had in 1969 we’re all participating in media consumption, pretty much all the time, and as a default setting. It is both opt-in and built in. There if you want it, and capable of being ignored if you don’t. 

And this is the genius of the Spotify poster. It combines the hyperlocal message of the legend of the Trinity Bellwoods white squirrel with a soundtrack especially crafted for squirrel spotting. Is the soundtrack squirrel-themed? Or walk in the park themed? Not at all.

But what Spotify is saying is that wherever you go, they’re there too. And they’re also letting you know that they’re hip to the local lore. This isn’t the local radio station running an ad reminding you to tune in for that wacky morning crew on weekday mornings from 6 a.m. or for ‘no repeat workdays’. This is a global brand demonstrating not only its knowledge of the community but also giving you the whimsical gift of a playlist, especially created for your day in the park.

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