Monday, April 9, 2007

Context is King: The Stradivarius and The Garbage Can

Joshua Bell is world renowned violinist that plays a $3.5 million Stradivarius made in 1713. The Washington Post performed a test with Joshua. They placed him next to a garbage can in the Washington D.C subway and had him play. Of course they secretly recorded it on video (check it out and scroll down to the video where he is recognized).

Outside of the candid camera theatrics of this stunt, I thought how this was a great example of how if you place something important out of context, people don’t get it. Even a world famous violinist. Take him off of the stage you pay hundreds of dollars for and everyone but 7 out of 1,097 people walk right by. That’s a pretty low click-through rate. Put anything next to something people don’t care about and you’ll get that same result too in your designs.


adooma said...

There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog:
She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters... I thought you might find it interesting.

Michael Grossman said...

adooma, thanks for the link. I hadn't heard of the term 'busking' before. This experiment begs for insight from different angles. Since posting this I keep thinking of the cultural part of it. We dislike Paris-Hilton-bubble-gum banality yet we don't recognize the virtuoso voilinist on the street (although there are some who view some of the younger virtuosos like Joshua as too commerical).