Tag Archives: London

Transparency, International: Five Reasons Why Monocle’s Annual Soft Power Survey Needs Reexamining

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Firmly entrenched as we now are in the era of emergent big data, barely a week seems to pass without some kind of new rankings list – in areas from academic attainment to public transportation system safety – being published. Many of these are indubitably worthy, but one of the great recent additions to this panoply is Monocle’s Soft Power Survey (‘MSPS’). The MSPS orders countries by their performance in the arena of soft power, a concept that encompasses fields such as culture, education and innovation, and which deserves far greater prominence, particularly when contrasted with its costly and increasingly insane military counterpart.

This being said, for any index to carry a high level of authority, its rankings have to be both comprehensible and justifiable; on reading its latest iteration (Power Play, 12/16-01/17), we at Mediolana – after some contemplation – think there are at least five reasons why Monocle’s Soft Power Survey desperately requires reexamination (and quite possibly recalibrating):

  1. We’re Number One. The United States (position: 1) has been placed at the pinnacle of the index after a year in which its political system has – after decades of decline – well-and-truly jumped the shark, with much of the rest of the world looking on in much the same way as observers to a car crash. This choice alone jeopardises the value of the entire index, and begs the question: what exactly would the US have to do to rank poorly? In truth, Brand America has arguably never quite recovered from the humanitarian and fiscal sinkhole of the present series of Middle Eastern conflicts; how Monocle can attribute more weight to a Beyoncé album than to (unmentioned) deep structural problems is a genuine mystery.
  2. Oh, Those Russians. Almost as baffling as America’s ascension to the top of the MSPS is Russia’s non-placement – it does not make the cut of 25 ranked nations. Again, this seems scarcely credible: the Russian Federation has won the hosting rights for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, arguably the most potent soft power event of all; moreover, the nation clearly punches above its weight in the news media sector, even if not all its organs are necessarily outlets of record. And in sectors as diverse as fashion (think: Irina Shayk) and education (where there is a serious, long-term plan to propel its HE sector into the elite category), Russia is enough of a player to make its exclusion from a soft power index difficult to understand.
  3. Blood on the Beachfront. Similar to the United States, Brazil (19) enjoys an augmented ranking in this year’s survey – and only Monocle knows why. 2016 saw its elected president removed from office in a manner which can charitably be described as eyebrow-raising; correspondingly massive and bitter protests; and no end in sight to the plague of senseless urban violence which casts a huge shadow over this undeniably beautiful country – and which means that Brazil at ‘peace’ rivals war-torn Syria when it comes to its annual tally of civilian murders. The ‘games’ element in the bread and games formula – soap operas, footballers and an invidious Summer Olympics – cannot paper over these these chasms.
  4. Soft Power ≠ Skiing. Austria (21) is many things – tidy, well-administered, efficient – but twenty-first century soft power giant it is not. A generally stable and functional political system aside, it is in fact a real struggle to think of any heavyweight soft power assets in this Alpine nation’s possession, so its inclusion in the MSPS – just behind China (20), but ahead of India (24) – does little to dispel the idea that this index is, at least in places, borderline arbitrary.
  5. Our Absent Friends. As well as Russia, there are other absentees from the Soft Power Survey which do not inspire confidence in the index’s criteria. Unlike Brazil (with which it shares a number of similarities), Mexico is a rapidly-developing culinary superpower; unlike Portugal (15), Turkey has both a twenty-four hour English-language international news network and a world-class airline; and unlike Poland (25), the United Arab Emirates is a country that connects the planet via Emirates and Etihad, and also contains no less than three global or regional hubs: Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Basic computational errors such as these must be remedied if the MSPS – which surely merits a much, much wider audience – is to reach its full potential.

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Making Relationships Great Again: From Disenchantment to Magic via Game Theory

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Notwithstanding the tumultuous socio-psychological state of today’s world, there is actually surprisingly little which keeps our Creative Director & CSO awake at night. One of the exceptions to this rule is the seemingly relentless march – particularly, though by far from exclusively, in technology-defined cities such as London – towards a post-human society in which human beings are increasingly perceived as disposable. Within the job market, robots are unquestioningly viewed as superior replacements; within wider society, immigrants and other out-groups are libellously demonised in a way that even two years ago would have seemed almost unthinkable.

The dating scene is not immune to this logic. People – real people with feelings, emotions, sensibilities and fragilities – are now routinely dismissed with not so much as a left swipe on a screen. And for those people who do get dates, the shadow of ritual humiliation is rarely too far from the surface.

In recent years, much of the analysis of post-modern dating’s sub-optimal outcomes has focused on this topic from male perspectives; while this is in some ways entirely understandable, these narratives have tended to marginalise or even ignore a genuinely disturbing phenomenon: that of women in consenting relationships being starved of affection, used and then unceremoniously discarded by men who seem incapable of forming attachments – or beyond this, even basic empathy.

It was therefore with great relief that we at Mediolana came across a recent item at FASHIONARTISTA – a beauty industry/lifestyle blog with a burgeoning and richly-merited following – which addresses this issue head-on. In Why We Are Losing Our Charm And How To Get It Back, game theory is used to great effect in illustrating how the dynamics of male-female dating interactions can be tipped back towards sanity by the latter adopting a classic ‘less skin, more charm’ strategy.

By metaphorically augmenting one’s character with a layer of mystery (and perhaps literally adding a layer of clothing to the evening brand), the terrain of the dating game can be changed from one which is primarily about sex to one which is about the quality of the human being you are having dinner with; sex does not disappear, but instead has a chance to occur at such a time when it can possess some metaphysical significance – and with this, a corresponding leap in quality and connection.

So far, so logical – but what if adoption of this strategy still ends in rejection? After some contemplation, this is where – at least for us at Mediolana – ‘less skin, more charm’ comes into its own. If a young lady is following the rest of the advice given at FASHIONARTISTA’s blog – which can best be summarised as counsel on the art of being more graceful – and there are still no takers in her social circle or dating market, then the course of action is clear. Change your social circle, change your location, change the religion and/or weltanschauung of the people you date (or even your own). Refuse to be stuck in a cycle of second-rate relationships – go to where the great guys are and be appreciated for being you in all your glory. Numbering the days of the disposable society requires nothing less.

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New + Improved: 2017 Imminence ‘Inspires Mystery Makeover’!

As 2016 hurtles insanely towards its inevitable end, we at Mediolana are looking to the future – but with a bit of a twist. Our latest social media header is not only stylistically different from anything we have previously produced, but there is no customary advertising message – just a notation signifying the first half of next year in true corporate convention. H1/2017 may already be a meme worthy of its own fashion label, but what does it actually stand for? As usual, all will ultimately be revealed. Stay tuned!

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This Is Not Fare: Conductors Eliminated From London’s Bus Network!

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Eclipsing #London Fashion Week? A New Season Brings a New Digital Header!

As wet turns to wetter in what is still something of a global hub, we at Mediolana’s London HQ thought that it was high time to mark this seasonal switch with a new and glorious social media header. (The uninitiated can see it on our Twitter and Facebook pages, too.) It serves as a neat reminder that while the world may change beyond recognition, some constants remain – including that element of mystery. Let us know your thoughts via the usual channels. Forza!

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Footnotes in Islington: A Conversation About Brexit

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Determined to get himself at least some semblance of sun, our Creative Director & CSO (‘CD&CSO’) recently found himself in Islington, which while not exactly rivaling Bodrum was nevertheless in the midst of a mini-heatwave. After a leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood (helped by not knowing his precise coordinates), he was gently accosted by a lady handing out leaflets by Angel’s fabled Tube station.

Because he was feeling particularly relaxed, our CD&CSO held out his hand for the literature. It turned out to be a flyer promoting the latest March for Europe (3rd September 2016).

‘We’ll be assembling here on Saturday at 10.30.’
‘Ah. I don’t actually live around here.’
‘Oh. If you did, then there’s an event being given by a leading journalist next week…’

And so the conversation developed. The female activist was unfailingly polite, and obviously deeply affected by the result of the European Union referendum (23rd June 2016). Our Creative Director & CSO mentioned a recent study he had come across detailing just how psychologically detrimental consumption of television news is; the activist concurred. He then noted the irony of how regions around the world – ASEAN, Mercosur, et al – are desperately trying to copy the EU model at the same time that we voted to reject it. In turn, she asked him if he had heard what a controversial US presidential candidate had same that morning; realising he probably didn’t watch the news very much, she referred to said candidate’s previous statements, of which he was indeed aware.

Realising that his first meeting of the day was about to kick-off across town, our CD&CSO shook the young lady’s hand and headed down into the Tube. But reflecting on their conversation in the subsequent days, he was unable to dispel a central sensation.

The activist was clearly upset about the state of the world today, and he too had serious misgivings about our planetary trajectory, particularly in the context of vacuous ideological posturing. Yet large parts of the general public may dismiss them as nothing more than a couple of sexy media types – her the multilingual Europhile, him the unlikely überflâneur – without any reference to the actual quality of their ideas.

In recent months, forests have been sacrificed towards the promulgation of a ‘new era’ of ‘post-factual’ and ‘post-truth’ politics. But what this actually means in practice remains ill-defined. As things stand, it may ultimately represent the cynical manipulation of large numbers of people by the toxic combination of insinuation, misleading labelling, and sheer intellectual laziness and mendacity; the net effect of this is to take real people – with their hopes, dreams and lives – and reduce them to mere footnotes in an onward march towards an anti-climatic implosion.

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Media Literate: Mediolana.com’s Media Section is Now Up and Running!

Our media section – at media.mediolana.com, naturally – is now live! Check out the first article – on the topical matter of language schools and integration – by clicking this media-education-type-link!

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