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Super-Sizing IP Values

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  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    “The irony of Sunder’s book is that, having shown so well the problems with one-way cultural media, some (many?) of her solutions would rely on the very same mechanisms of one-way cultural media.”: Well, maybe the book’s treatment of GIs isn’t so much an irony as an indication that one’s attitude toward “one-way cultural media” shouldn’t be so Manichean. It could be a matter of degree — even assuming that the “one-way” characterization is correct.

    E.g., one of my clients is a small city in northern Japan. They have a national, even Asian regional, reputation as a ski resort. The city owns a source of spring water and has a bottling facility; their idea is to sell the water and to use the proceeds for municipal activities. Is it some kind of tragedy, or sell-out of ideals, would I wring my hands in anguish, if they advertise their water? Market it in posh Tokyo restaurants? Try to get it into vending machines in Tokyo? (Better that than the imported Evian, priced below local waters.) Market it to health-conscious rich people in Shanghai? Within some limits, I wouldn’t worry about any of these activities, nor think that they will be destroying culture. OTOH some extreme kinds of tasteless and/or big-budget campaign might be too much, as would sales in volumes that could be environmentally deleterious or that could distract the city government from its main task of governing.

    Incidentally, their label has a picture of the tallest peak in Iwate Prefecture, Iwate-san, in whose shadow they are situated. What kinds of associations does that make? And how? There are many who hold that brands need the mental participation and imagination of consumers — that brands are in some way two-party constructs. See, e.g., Franck Cochoy, Une sociologie du packaging, ou l’âne de Buridan face au marché (Paris : PUF 2002) and the article “Trade marks as property: a philosophical perspective” by D. Scott, A. Oliver and M. Ley-Pineda in Trade Marks and Brands: An Interdisciplinary Critique, edited by Bently & al. (CUP 2008) .

    I’m less troubled by whether GIs are one-way cultural media than I am about the extent to which they may create competition, rather than cooperation, between local areas. As pointed out by Alberto Magnaghi, a professor of land use planning at the University of Florence, the usual growth-oriented model of regional development conceives of localities as containing resources for consumption in a global market. In that model, each area does need a megaphone, as you suggest. Instead, Magnaghi proposes that a locality focus first on what it should preserve, and then on cooperating with its neighbors, and only then on some type of broader-scale marketing — provided it doesn’t conflict with those other, higher priorities. See Alberto Magnaghi, Il progetto locale: Verso la coscienza di luogo, Nuova ed. (Bollati Boringhieri 2010); available in English translation of the first (2000) edition as The Urban Village (Zed 2005).