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Program on Information Resources Policy

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A local shop is part of an ecosystem — here in England we call it the High Street. The owner of a local shop generally has no ambition to become a Tesco or WalMart. She’d rather experience steady growth, building relationships with customers who value what she brings to the community.

People often mourn the disappearance of their “local shops.” I’m sure it is the same in many parts of the world. Large chains move in, and the small local businesses, unable to compete on price, close. As the local shops disappear, customers win on price, but they are losing on personal service.

At local shops, they know their customers by name, remember the usual order of a familiar face, are happy to go the extra mile for a customer who will come through the door every week. It’s most often the business owner who is behind the counter filling bags and taking money.

This direct and personal relationship with the people that their business serves quite naturally provides the local shop with information to meet the needs of their customers. Customers come in and ask if they stock a certain product, one that they have seen advertised on TV; or that is required for a recipe on a recent episode of a cooking show. The local shop owner remembers that three people asked for that same thing this week, and adds it to their order. We’re not dealing with the careful analysis of data collected from thousands of customers here. The shop owner could name the customers that asked for that item — she will point out the new stock to them next time they come in.

One single store is unlikely to attract much footfall, so the business of one store relies on being part of a vibrant community. Within this community the local shops and tradespeople support each other. A customer pops into a store and mentions while paying that they are having trouble with their car; the shopkeeper recommends the garage down the road — “don’t forget to tell Jim that I sent you!”

As the co-owner of a bootstrapped digital product, I often feel like we are that local shop on the web. I know many of our customers by name, I know the sort of projects they use our software for. I follow many of them from my personal account on Twitter. I love the fact that they come to speak to me at conferences; that they feel they know us, Drew and Rachel from Perch. This familiarity means they tell us their ideas for the product, and share with us their frustrations in their work. We love being able to tell someone we’ve implemented their suggestions.

We’re also part of this ecosystem of small products. Unlike the village shops we are not bound together by location, but I think we are bound together by ethos. When selecting a tool or product to use in our business, I always prefer those by similar small businesses. I feel I can trust that the founders will know us by name, will care about our individual experience with their product. When I get in touch with a query I want to feel as if my issue is truly important to them, perhaps get a personal response from the founder rather than a cheery support representative quoting from a script.

This is business. We make a thing, and we sell it at a profit. The money we make enables us to continue to create something that people want, and to support our customers as they use our product. It also enables us to support other people who are running businesses in this digital high street we are part of, from the companies who provide the software we use for our help desk and our bug tracking system, right through to the freelancers who design for us.

I am happy with my small shopkeeper status. I talk and write about bootstrapping because I want to show other developers that there is a sane and achievable route to launching a product, a route that doesn’t involve chasing funding rounds or becoming beholden to a board of investors. I love the fact that decisions for my product can be made by the two of us, based on the discussions we have with our customers. If we had investors hoping for a return on their investment, it would be a very different product by now, and I don’t think a better one.

I think it is important for those of us succeeding at this to talk about it. As an industry we make a lot of noise about the startup that has just landed a huge funding round. We then bemoan the disappearance of products that we use and love, when the founder sells out to a Yahoo!, Twitter, or Google. Yet we don’t always make the connection between the two.

Small sustainable businesses rarely make headlines. So we, the local shopkeepers and tradespeople of the web, need to celebrate our own successes, build each other up, and support each other. I’d love there to be more ways to highlight the amazing products and services out there that are developed by individuals and tiny teams, to celebrate the local shops of the web. Let’s support those people who are crafting small, sustainable businesses—the people who know their customers and are not interested in chasing a lottery-winning dream of acquisition, but instead are happy to make a living making a good thing that other people love.

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burn magazine

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Ruth Prieto

Safe Heaven

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This work is the second chapter of a documentary project about Mexican immigrant women in New York. Some of them have indigenous backgrounds so that Spanish is not their first language. I decided to document their lives during their free time at their homes.

Homes have deep emotional meaning. Through their homes we get to know them, their motivations, their thoughts and aspirations along with the conditions they live in that reveal how much they have achieved and struggled. They have painted and decorated their rooms according to their own personal story and choice. I am exploring the notion of safety and confidence in relation to space. This project is a new interpretation of immigration using color as a unifying metaphor of diversity and acceptance. Each woman will be identified with a color palette so that a mosaic of color represents diversity and the beauty of it.

With these images I want to present different moments in what could be one person’s story. My motivation for this project is to create a dialogue about migration and xenophobia to develop solutions to related social issues. Through these images I go beyond the public scenario offering a deeper knowledge of the living conditions of one of the major labor forces in the US.

Furthermore I want to communicate in a level that is common to all: the bittersweet journey of life in which moments of struggle and joy take place.

This project is an extraordinary window to the live of Mexican immigrant women where they can be masters of their own world, where they can control their time and their choices, where they have a safe heaven.

 

Bio

Ruth Prieto Arenas was born and raised in Mexico City. She studied Communications and worked as a juniour account executive in visual media. Later on she worked in the film industry as a production manager and script supervisor. She was an intern in the cultural research department at Magnum photos in New York in 2011.

Ruth graduated from the program in Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at the International Center of Photography in 2012.

She has published her work at Picnic, Ojo de Pez (to be published in summer 2013) and in the book New York Stories a collaboration between the International Center of Photography, and Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie in Berlin.

I began this project with the curiosity to understand the process that Mexican migrants go through when crossing the border. Being Mexican myself, allowed me to form a bond with my subjects so that we could build a connection that translates into the intimacy of my images. I am focused on women because of their central role in the development of the Mexican family and because I look at them as icons of identity and culture. Moreover, I think it is important to create projects that motivate a dialogue about migration and xenophobia to develop solutions to current social related issues.

Currently I am still working on this project with the great support of the Magnum Foundation’s Emergency Fund.

 

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Ruth Prieto

 

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burn magazine

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Irina Werning

Back To The Future 2

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I love old photos. I know I’m a nosy photographer. As soon as I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for those old photos. Most of us are fascinated by their retro look but to me it’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today…  a few years ago, I decided to actually do this. So, with my camera, I started inviting people to go back to their future.

Back to the Future won the Burn Emerging Photographer Fund  2011. The EPF grant allowed Irina Werning to extend and finish the project. For Back to the Future, she shot 250 pictures in 32 countries.

 

Bio

• Born in Buenos Aires

• BA Economics, Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, 1997

• MA History, Universidad Di Tella, Buenos Aires, 1999

• MA Photographic Journalism, Westminster University, London, 2006

• Winner Ian Parry Scholarship 2006

• Gordon Foundation Grant 2006

• Selected for the Joop Swart Masterclass (World Press Photo Organization), 2007

• Flash Forward, The Magenta Foundation, Canada 2011

• Winner Fine Art Portraits, SONY World Photography Awards 2012

 

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Irina Werning

 

 

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Aurich Lawson

One of the great untold stories in science is the process of science itself. I don't mean stories about what scientists have discovered and what that discovery tells us; we (and many others) cover those every day. I also don't mean stories about the pure joy of discovery and the excitement of finding out that everything you thought you understood was total bollocks. We cover that here at Ars occasionally, and there are plenty of books on it if you're hungry for more.

What's missing is the background for these stories of discovery. How do you take an idea from its very beginning as a casual musing through to an actual research program? What's involved in that process? How do you sort out good ideas from bad and choose what to pursue and what to abandon? That is the story that I want to tell.

Since this is the story of science-as-a-process rather than science-as-a-result, I will be using myself as an example. I am, as some of you may know, a tenure track faculty member at a research institute in the Netherlands. Being a researcher in the Netherlands is not that different from being a researcher anywhere else, so a lot of what I discuss will be familiar to scientists everywhere. Since I recently hopped on the tenure track, I have the next few years to prove that I am able to not only carry out research, but to start and manage entire research programs. And, as yet, I have no research program to manage.

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Andrei Becheru

The Fountain

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I think you come to grasp a place better when you spend a considerable amount of time there; by seeing and listening to everything around you, you develop a constant connection, you react to it, and then, in the end, you distil everything; in my case, with images.

But, first of all, it needs to be a place where everything is found in abundance. It must be a wild territory. A piece of land with a vast history, a land that still bears the mark of past colonizations. A land battered by the tumultuous feet of several generations who lived, fought and died in this place.

When I started (around 2009), I did not view this material in the form of a project. I was traveling in the South of the country where I live, Romania, I had been exploring photography for two years already when I begun to gradually discover this place called Dobruja.

I had read some material, I had seen some documentaries about the Danube Delta, about the hardships which the people inhabiting this area have become accustomed to, or not. I came to know the story of a mining town built in Romania’s Communist era, hidden behind sedimented hills used for copper extractions.

It is difficult to approach the topic surrounding the prosperity of this mining town in the Socialist era, at this point, but one can track down the drastic consequences brought about by the Post-Communist period, consequences mirrored in the people who remained here, on this land ravaged by the effects of industrialization.

After more than a year of exploring this place and starting from a few “trigger” images which illustrate this scenery, I had the impression that I was beginning to discover and approach different subjects. I thought that these images made up a beginning of something that might subsequently crystallize into individual projects. I continued to photograph the day to day life in this scenery. I was conscious of the diversity of the images gathered, but I could not contain them; I felt the need to spread them out.

 

Bio

I, Andrei Becheru, was born in 1984 in Bucharest, Romania.

From early on I chose drawing and painting as means of expression. I completed my studies in the field of design at the National University of Fine Arts of Bucharest in 2007. Absorbed by a past aspiration, which, in the meantime, had become an inner necessity, I started taking photographs three years ago, first on film, and then adopting the digital medium.

One year into digital photography, I nostalgically returned to images on photographic film that had marked my memory.

Presently, I work as an art director for an online fashion store. In parallel with film photography, I began experimenting with moving pictures using an old video camera.

 

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