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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Yeah, I know, the usual freakshow stuff, but can't resist the child bodybuilder website. You've got to wonder about his parents...
Outrageous! Someone's stolen our blogname for an Amazon.com article!

"Strangely, no one has yet used memetic theory to describe the way ideas, images, links, phrases, or jokes propagate through the Net" she says.

What about us?
Kitsch ephemera goes digital with Lileks
Mr Brain's Pork Faggots chose the Doodys as the real-life family to represent their pork faggots. No kidding
At the gym yesterday evening, with MTV on in the changing room (hey, we've got to have images everywhere, the immediate environment just isn't interesting enough) to find a new concept: 'I Want My MTV'. How it works is, you get to choose which show is on next: will it be manufactured pop-babe A (male) showing us around his NY penthouse, manufactured pop-babe B (female) showing us around her LA penthouse, or manufactured extreme-sports babe C (gender indeterminate) performing ritualised acts of well-rehearsed daring? You choose!

Presumably, when you choose, you get to choose for the price of a premium-rate text, phone call or whatever. Why else would they offer MTV viewers a 'choice'?

I don't believe it's a choice at all, though. Firstly, because MTV viewers are slack-jawed, drooling, reactive media sponges to begin with, and secondly because having paid the agent money to gain access to manufactured pob babes A, B and C, they're not going to waste it by never broadcasting the footage. So what 'I Want My MTV' delivers is the illusion of control, perhaps designed to reassure those slack-jawed, drooling, reactive intellectual blancmanges in front of the screen that they're in fact as mentally athletic as extreme-sports babe C is physically.

An interesting article by Terry Heaton, on TVSPY.com, comments on the difference between TV and the Internet:

"Broadcasters are used to having it their way. They determine what people watch, when they watch it, the number of commercials they have to endure, and so forth. Broadcasters originally denied the influence of remote control devices only to learn that a great many people click the moment their program goes to a commercial break. I know many people who watch several programs at once by simply switching back and forth during commercials. The control an Internet user has is far, far greater than one equipped merely with a remote.

None of the fundamental assumptions of broadcasting apply with the Internet. It's a completely different communications medium."

Go have a look at the article.

I guess in quoting this I'm kind of preaching to the converted, but it leads into an area which interests me (sorry, P, I mean us) namely devolution, decentralisation or open-sourcing of content, such as is not possible on TV. Witness the already paid-for programmes on MTV, that have to be shown for budgetary reasons. Arguably, the viewer empowerment enabled by the Internet is another reason why MTV might attempt to give its viewers an illusion of choice: otherwise they'd just switch off and log on.

Open-sourcing, content-submission by all and sundry, is fundamental to the internet. See, for example, redpaper.com, an open-source newspaper that enables individuals to sell stories they think are of interest. Not quite the same as a blog, I suppose, but deeply at odds with the image we all have of a bunch of suits in a boardroom somewhere, determining editorial policy, spiking stories, or (as was recently the case) lying and lying again about Alastair Campbell and the 'sexed up' WMD report. A good deal of Net content is a load of crap, as we all know, but it's not as if you have to read it. And in its own way, the Net is a much purer expression of market forces, in that the best content gets circulated and re-circulated, copied into emails, linked from blogs and so on, and the mud just sinks to the bottom. Unlike TV, indeed, where the mud gets dredged up for Christmas retrospective specials.

Personally, I hope TV dies the death. A gossip and society substitute for people with no life. It's no coincidence that soap operas began to take off at about the same time as antidepressants, and the modern epidemic of loneliness: it's designed as a palliative measure to ease the discomfort of cube-farm info-drone living.

The only question: is the Internet any better? Consider bloodninja's mock-up cybersex. Is it a cruel mockery of saddos who can't get laid in real life, or a trenchant satire on foolish fantasists, or just funny? I guess all I'm trying to say is that blogging is probably an alienated act in its own right...

It's got to be better than manufactured MTV morons though.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Irony is the modern condition. Paul de Man reckons it's inseparable from the process of individuation, itself one of the conditions of existence of contemporary culture and capitalism. Here, some of the more ephemeral output of said contemporary bladebla goes through a patented re-ironisation process, and (frankly) comes out much the better for it.
Digital art does things that can't be replicated in flat prints. The mouse confers a sense of instant power. You love it, don't you?

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Someone asked me just now if I was a Linux geek, because I'd linked them to a 'Linux for Lesbians' site. I'm not. And the site itself is actually quite underwhelming.

But Linux is cool and kind of funny in principle, especially as it attracts the kind of people who write fascist Linux websites. anything that brings out that kind of random devotion is endearing. but I know nothing about it except that Microsoft is on its way to running scared, having denied that Linux was a threat for a foolishly long period of time. Ha ha. MS deserve to squirm...

seriously, the open-source computing movement is symbolic of a wider paradigm shift in peoples' attitudes to culture, that interests me lots and lots. Yeah, I know it's just an operating system, but any kind of realisation that being arsy and selfish about intellectual property isn't the only way forward is a good thing in my book. So Linux kind of belongs in the same category as graffiti art and blogs, situationist performance art and that sort of thing. If that makes any sense.

pauly, anything to say about open-source? Surely not...

Spy Kids marketing, the relationship between computer games and Hollywood, and a nicenbitchy site. 3-D me up
Japanese Kabuki guys do Matrix ping-pong. No, seriously. Watch
Actually, talking of outsourced reading, the last thing P outsource to me was Jennifer Government, by Max Barry. One of the funniest takes on marketing I've seen in a while, and on free-market economics. All sorts of lovely details about Mattel and McDonald's schools, and a government that can't raise taxes, and hence can't prosecute or regulate anyone or anything unless privately funded.

Interestingly, though, (sorry, P, if this spoils the end for you) when John Nike tries to overthrow the government completely and usher in an age of unrestricted sales promotions with the help of a private army, some missiles and a hellishly gigantic loyalty scheme the other companies in the scheme eventually vote him down on the grounds that they don't want a totally unregulated marketplace. It's not exactly a happy ending, but there's something quite uplifting in the thought that, although strictly speaking free-market economics tends towards monopoly, in practice no-one wants that to happen.

Hence, I guess, the grumbles about outsourcing white-collar jobs to India (see ExpressIndia, or indeed the American Brotherhood of Engineers for details). No-one really wants unregulated markets, which begs the question of why the WTO insists on free trade and competition for everyone.

Anyway, read Jennifer Government, if only for a very endearing bunch of adbusters.

Seriously, though, I don't think (at least I hope not) that anticapitalists will be as marginalised in the future as they are in the book, because of changes like outsourcing protests. But then again, we all know what 'future' books are really about.
About six months ago, I wrote a piece (application for a broadsheet graduate recruitment thing) about how white-collar outsourcing might tip the anti-capitalism balance in some interesting directions, as increasing numbers of former proponents of cost-cutting and downsizing start to feel the pinch when their jobs go to India.

Anyway, I reckon it's beginning to happen now. The ole US of A, proponent of freemarketeconomicsforeveryoneelse and protectionismforus, is starting to get antsy about the sheer number of white-collar jobs going to India for a quarter of the price. Software development a boom trade there. See the Business Week website for details.

Talking of outsourcing, I wonder how long it'll be before we can outsource our personalities to someone else, maybe a repository made of rat neurons or something. Can't think of why yet, but I'm sure they can come up with reasons. After all, Paul here outsources his reading to me.

Trouble is, I keep violating basic SLAs and not reading the books he gives me. guess I'm not cut out for contract work.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Microsoft XP adbust in Shoreditch, London

Man, I'm up to the ears in publicity work for (whisper it) the great Satan at the moment. They're the biggest, most pointlessly anal f***ers about their branding. Get one trademark wrong, one descriptor (there's a whole table of them, covering first mention, second mention, rules as to possessives and versioning) and you've got the full weight of Corp down on you like a ton of bricks.

Every time the Powers that Be come back to me with yet another mind-numbingly pointless
change to another irrelevant document I question a) the role of marketing, b) the continuation of my will to live and c) the intrinsic value of the information society.

Incidentally, interesting article in yesterday's FT (28/07/03) about Microsoft hitting middle age. Says it's refused to admit the Linux threat until it's inevitable, has lost crucial reaction time in the process, and is now struggling to de-silo its product development for properly integrated products so as to maintain competitive advantage. Me, I say roll on the era of fascist Linux. Then we'll all be finished....

Saturday, July 19, 2003

We just finished reading William Gibson's latest book Pattern Recognition which features an advertising agency called Blue Ant - Whois doesn't tell who owns the domain (Sir Martin Sorrell? or someone faceless at Omnicom maybe? ) - one to keep an eye on. I wonder if they'll be recruiting soon?

Friday, July 18, 2003

Interesting article about puma and those infamous sex ads

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Introduction to memes: http://www.memecentral.com/

The best book on memetics is: "The Meme Machine" by Susan Blackmore and Richard Dawkins (who's first used the word meme in his book The Selfish Gene).

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