Liz: Rock, paper, scissors.
Ben: Okay, scissors cut paper. I'm Ben Klemens.
Liz: I'm Liz Landau
Ben: and this is
Both: Pod, Paper, Scissors.
Ben: OK Liz, I guess I'll start off. In fact, I'll ask you, have you ever been on a cruise?
Liz: You know, I've actually never been on a cruise. It's never really appealed to me. I just never thought I would have that much fun being trapped on a boat with a thousand strangers that I might not get along with. But you know there is one cruise that I would love to try out.
Ben: Okay, how were you sold?
Liz: This is called JoCo Cruise Crazy.
Ben: So that that's let me guess, that's The Jocular Corp.
Liz: Not quite. JoCo is one of my favorite musicians, Jonathan Coulton of "Code Monkey" fame.
Ben: He did some other things, right.
Liz: He's also on an NPR Game Show. And he wrote the theme song for the video game Portal.
Ben: That must have made him enough money to buy a cruise I guess.
Liz: But what's really awesome is that the JoCo Cruise is, in its essence the same as any other cruise. In fact, the first JoCo cruises were just part of a normal cruise. It was just that this contingent of people could have their own activities. And that contingent of people are the geeks.
Ben: The geeks.
Liz: The geeks, of which I am definitely one. So JoCo and his friends, who are Paul and Storm, and other fun geeky musicians, and comedians and other kinds of entertainers, they all host activities every night for the geeks on the cruise, like board games and karaoke and concerts. And so if you go, you're guaranteed to talk to people who have similar interests. So Ben, it's actually gotten so popular that now the JoCo cruise people take over an entire ship, like because they kept selling out they now actually can take over an entire Carnival Cruise ship.
Ben: And it's all geeks.
Ben: But fundamentally, you're on a cruise.
Liz: Yeah, you're either going to Caribbean islands or places on the Mexican Western coast, and you're getting expensive drinks, and there are pools there. It is the same ship that anyone else on the same cruise would be enjoying. It's just that you get your own tribe, if you will.
Ben: Okay, so what you're saying is that there are actually two factors involved in deciding whether to go on a cruise, there's first what the tourism literature calls the "taste type". So you have to actually want to be, have interest in being on the boat and going to these ports of call and competing with all of your fellow tourists once you get there, and so on. And then there's what the literature calls the "crowding type". And crowding type is kind of a kind of a misnomer. Because it's not about like, "Oh, I really want to be at Spring Break where I'm pressed against by the massive crowds" or "I want to be alone on the beach with no crowds". It's about more like the crowd that you talk about in high school, like, you know, do I want to be with the geeks, do I want to be with middle class folks with families? And so what's interesting about your situation, Liz, is that people decided—like these people could have taken a cruise any day, any day of the year, right. But they chose not to.
Liz: Right. They could have been on any cruise, there are thousands of cruises that depart every year.
Ben: And you know the non-geeks, I presume there isn't, like at the door, there isn't a password or you don't have—they're not like "Well, you've got to roll more than a seven on a 1d20, before we let you on the boat", right? So anybody could be taking that cruise. You don't have to be a geek.
But, did I tell you about Bats Day? This kind of reminds me of Bats Day. Disneyland runs this.
Liz: Is that a day where they let all the bats come in and fly around?
Ben: Only metaphorically. They let all the goths in.
Ben: Yes, there's a goth night at Disneyland.
Liz: Wait, what's a goth again?
Ben: I mean, like most subcultures, I mean, it's sort of a set of norms about being morose, and talking about death too much and, you know sort of media consumed. I mean, you already have an image of goths' dress. It's like a lot of black, shoot for some eyeliner, dye your hair black, even even if it's already black dye your hair black. A good set of music. Do you know Rainer Maria Rilke?
Liz: The bohemian poet?
Ben: Yeah, that one, whose full name by the way is Rainer Carl Wilhelm Johann Yosef Maria Rilke.
Liz: That's a lot of names.
Ben: It is and you know, he gets cooler with every name, I don't know. But, you know, if you were a proper goth, you'd be like, "Oh, yeah, Rilke, we go way back". You know, there are certain musical genres. And some of them are like, depressing and sad goth. And then there's also like, hardcore metal goth. But yeah, the point is, in that list of media, you don't have Disney princesses. It's sort of antithetical. And you know, part of gothdom is a disdain for, you know, sort of mainstream culture.
Liz: Wait, so you're saying, If I were a goth, I would not enjoy The Little Mermaid.
Ben: Maybe you would, but you wouldn't tell anyone about it.
Liz: I mean, look at Ursula. She's wearing a goth dress.
Ben: Yeah. And she's the bad guy.
Liz [singing]: Poor unfortunate souls.
Ben: So it's—
Liz [singing]: Poor unfortunate souls.
Ben: But yeah, it's kind of like the JoCo cruise, that Disneyland created this option. I don't know if it was Disneyland or an outside organizer. But they got together, they created this option where you you have the choice to segregate. If you show up on Bats Day that means, yeah, you are actually enjoying Disneyland. You want to be on the teacup ride, even if even if it's ironically. On the taste type side, yeah, you know, the goths who show up are exactly in line with, you know, the average middle class families and their two kids that show up every other day of the week. And everybody has that option, right? Like you could you could bring your your two kids dressed up as the little mermaid and, I don't know, Cinderella to Bats Night. Why not? But evidently nobody does that. And you as a goth could go on, I don't know, on a Wednesday. And evidently, a lot of people prefer to not do that. So on the crowding type, people really do want to segregate.
I personally get the sense that people kind of deny how important crowding type is. In the JoCo cruise, and at Bats Day people had the option of segregating, and you know, they did, but normally, I feel like people say, "Oh, you know, I happen to be at a place where everybody looks like me, but that's just because we all have the same taste type. We're all interested in the same things. And it just so happens that we're all in the same crowding type as well."
Liz: Hey Ben, what does crowding type mean?
Ben: Perhaps it's a funny term. But yeah, this is a term in the literature, beginning with a paper off of the optimal taxation literature, believe it or not, so there are a lot of articles asking about how cities form and how people separate into different cities. So if everybody could vote with their feet, and go off to whatever city charges the tax level they want, provides the amenities they want, and so on, you wouldn't see total separation. And the example they give is, let's say you have a dance hall. And people have the same taste in music if they're all the same dance hall. But some people might be of the "male" type and some people might be of the "female" type. And you kind of expect a successful dance hall is going to have a mix of both.
Liz: Oh, this is like the silent disco I went to where there were three different DJs each of which was on a different channel on the headphones that you get, and you could basically pick between the oldies channel, the salsa/merengue channel, and the current hits channel. So the effect was that you had all of these people on one dance floor wearing these different headphones. And they were dancing very differently, depending on which channel they were listening to.
Ben: That's pretty high tech. And it solves this problem on the capitalist side of it might have that you want different tastes to show up taste types to show up at your dance, right. And so they found a way to do that.
So they came up with this term "crowding type" to describe the type of person you are. And that could be that could be class, the literature doesn't talk about race but I feel like race has to be in there. They do talk about age. And yeah, I mean, there's some correlation between your age and your taste type. But they're really separate things. They're really separate things and you know, Bats Day and the JoCo cruise kind of reveal that they're separate things. Because, you know, we have people who want to be on cruises, who want to go to Disneyland, and yet somehow given the choice to separate into different types, they jumped on it.
Liz: So Ben, what does this have to do with game theory?
Ben: So the game theory of it from the perspective of the individual is that they're looking for an equilibrium where they are surrounded by the type they want to be around. From the provider perspective, we can be sympathetic to poor Disney, a company valued at $0.2 trillion, about how they're going to get these people to come in. Next time, we might be able to talk about this more, perhaps in terms of going beyond companies to entire countries. Let's say you're running the tourism bureau at Mongolia. Liz, who do you picture, when you think about a tourist in Mongolia?
Liz: I think of somebody who is either making some kind of pilgrimage, or who is very self driven, very motivated to have an authentic experience, no tour bus, no pre-arranged hotels, maybe like a backpacker.
Ben: If I were running the Mongolian tourist bureau, that's what I don't want to hear. What you just said was, these are people who aren't spending money on tour packages, they aren't spending money on buses, they aren't spending money on... So they have this problem that they—let's say they're like "there seems to be an equilibrium where the crowding type, the type of person who shows up is the backpacker." But they also want the type of person who shows up who wants to stay at the expensive resort.
Liz: Well Ben, next week, we're gonna have Elizabeth Becker, author of _Overbooked_ to talk to us more about the history of tourism in countries like this.
Ben: That's great, I really look forward to hearing about how the tourist bureaus of the world solve this problem. Meanwhile, Liz, have you've been touring anywhere lately?
Liz: Well, Ben, since the pandemic began, I've only been able to drive or take trains, probably within a 300 mile radius of DC. But I did go to this place called Oxford, Maryland, which is a tiny seaside town with a historic inn and jellyfish.
Ben: That sounds...mostly great. Okay, so it's a seaside town, so I assume that there's port and there's, I don't know, fishermen coming through.
Liz: I didn't see a lot of fishermen, but I did rent a kayak. That was super fun. I got to kayak around people's mansions. So basically, you're paying for this experience of being around nautical themes, but not authentic nautical experiences. In fact, I wrote a song about it and I got 20 of my best friends to sing it with me.
Ben: Wow that's great, Liz. Hit it!
Oh have you heard the tale of a town called tweedom by the sea?
They renovated five years ago, so it looks like history.
The ships are rental kayaks and the anchors just for show.
O a place where it's rosé all day, yes that's the life I know.
I hang my hat in a B&B in tweedom by the sea.
Each morn a hearty sailor's fare of orange scones and tea.
We sell our junk to the general store and now it's called antique,
We call the housing rus-tic and we charge for each floor creak.
Na na na na na...
The tavern does brisk business with the craft brewery beer.
It was made in New York City, but we print the labels here.
We're a chilly Northern latitude where the bay water is still,
Yet every night the tavern band plays Margaritaville.
Na na na na na...
Little brats destroy the dunes, older men in pantaloons,
The silver spoons, the honeymoons, in tweedom by the seaaaaaaa.