Be aware; this article is not a light-hearted one. This is a confrontation with one of the most dangerous trends within the UT, which only seems to be getting stronger.
During my time in the Hybrid Worlds project, I had to review the planning and project specification of another project group. But what was most staggering was the lack of potency in the complete project. Another VR environment, yet only being programmed by 2 persons in this 10+ persons group.
What would all the others do? Marketing. The one thing that absolutely doesn’t even matter during the project.
Even though this planning wasn’t finished, the interview we had later did not convince me. More importantly, it made me realise the different thinking patterns students may have about their UT projects. Some see them as educational achievements, other see them as personal marketing opportunities for themselves.
There’s things to be said about both, since your online portfolio is in the end most important in a creative industry. But there’s a nasty trend where priorities seem to be mixed up.
Obviously a new financial method is crowdfunding. But this is also creating a huge PR-bubble, making promises of products that demand fulfilment. So far however, not a lot of CreaTe startups have actually been doing the latter part. Take voice-controlled domotics with faulty voice recognition, or foam darts falling apart on impact.
The best thing about ‘new’ media is that there’s much more freedom in who makes content. The bad thing about this obviously is that anyone can make content, while people deem them reliable. Take Student Report; the propagandising marketing funded UT YouTube channel. But also for instance Kickstarters having even worse intentions. Take for instance one of the most extreme cases; the Peachy Printer, where the actual funding was used by the ‘entrepreneur’ to build a new home for himself.
There’s of course the less extreme cases of unsuccessful crowdfunding projects. Some only after being in-business for a while. There’s actually an entire subreddit dedicated to this.
But people believed in these companies that never were. And now people are losing any form of trust in a crowdfunding platform because of all these ambitious, yet rubbish, projects; that just cannot deliver while poorly communicating with their backers. The economist could also call this a case of information asymmetry. One has richer information than the other. Or in a more realistic way; the backers are being kept dumb, even though they will find out sooner or later.
Fake it till you make it?
It’s also about prestige. The UT has a very good case in this, with a Starbucks in the Educafe placed last year, with new plans for a Subway. It does not make any sense why overpriced American tax-evading fast-food industries benefit social-class living students. Nor does the way TEM and Vision2020 being pushed onto students benefit them.
And every time there are more and more entrepreneurial events and organisations in Enschede. There’s Hardstart, famous of the terrible portrait mugshots and cringy event names. There’s the first edition of the Entrepreneurial Challenge. And there’s the one and only Dutch Student Investment Fund, which is only applicable for UT/Saxion students. Hence the name.
But for some reason, this has become socially acceptable. Even in our study programme. Because your projects need posters and videos. Fake it till you make it; a mentality that’s excellent for your in-programme prototypes, but something that will cost you your head in the real world(well, not literally).
But they’re all about pitching and selling, while most importantly; don’t forget your roots! If you do a Kickstarter, you do it to (further) develop your product. If you are a student, you do your projects for educational sake.
There’s nothing wrong with having ambitions, far from it actually. It’s something that should always be stimulated, but in a realistic way. Because our idols Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn’t make it their early years by only doing clever marketing. Instead, it was Bill Gates who wrote that extremely infamous Open Letter to Hobbyists; something the PR-people wouldn’t allow any new start-up nowadays. But he’s still one of the richest men on Earth. For a final kick in the Apple nuts; it was Gates’ company that pulled it away from going completely bankrupt.