Category Archives: Theory

The work of art in…

The Joseph Sullivan at the NYTimes Book Design Review is running his annual book cover Top 10 for 2008. Noteworthy that 2 old media studies favourites are there in spiffing new covers, Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical¬†Reproduction and McLuhan’s The Medium is the Message.

Both texts enjoy heavy resonance for the age of the Interweb and good to see them treated well by today’s web-savvy generation of cover designers.¬†

Dumb down, deeper and down?

Quick on the tail of the, erm Long Tail, The Register now takes a new pot shot at Malcom Gladwell, author of Tipping Point: “The dumb, dumb world of Malcolm Gladwell. Subtitled “A guru for the brain dead”, Andrew Orlowski’s article is a stiff piece of polemic, while also taking nifty side-wipes at Britain’s liberal intelligentsia (there must be a neologism lurking there) and at Corporateville, identifying what he calls the ‘Vertical Marketing Bureaucrat’. The common factor between these bureaucrats and their counterpart in the Public Sector is for Orlowski, their fondness for monitoring and measurement.

Now maybe I’m a bit too biased, but I’m not so sure that measurement itself is a bad thang. Vertical marketing is like horizontal collaboration, it very much depends on the depends – get it wrong and it’s tars and feather, get it right and it’s stars and stripes. In terms of measurement itself, the key factor is what’s measured. A common misery here (or at least as we’re told by those that lament as such), is that the measurements desired by New Labour Bureaucracies are simply not quite right – the targets are not bull’s eyes but emanate from the other end of the bovine equation.

But getting back to Orlowski’s piece, I wonder if what we’re seeing here is the start of a trend to demand the hard facts – in God we trust and all that. For long the Environmentalist lobby has proclaimed the supremacy of hard data against those that doubt their prognosis (too much to close down the chatter some say). Are we though seeing others begin to demand the same scrutiny? The Register is on a mission and then we have Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” hitting the window-displays for Xmas, plus “Street Science” a new series from Radio 4 that promises/threatens to look at GM crops and Human-Animal hybrid research with an open eye, or should that be ear?

Good news for Science perchance. Except that is that Gladwell says his work isn’t even that:

I like to think of it as an intellectual adventure story. […] I think it will appeal to anyone who wants to understand the world around them in a different way. I think it can give the reader an advantage–a new set of tools. Of course, I also think they’ll be in for a very fun ride.

Dash it, so we’ve been taken for a ride and we’re just back to storytelling after all…

Post Warholism 1

I like the concept of Warholism. The term draws on Andy’s dictum that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”and I guess we’re now living in the future.¬† One area that intrigues me is the extent and the way that Creatives such as Warhol and PK Dick, plus Theorists such as Baudrillard, Debord and Lyotard foresaw Today, the contemporary world of Postmodern Capitalism. What gets me, is when I experience something, and I think the tendency for this to happen is increased by working in Tech, and realising that this is something I’ve read about previously, that this has been predicted.andy warhol marilyn

A lot of this is synthesised in the concept of the Celebrity. In the world of our nows, everyone is indeed a 15 minute famer. This concept has repercussions – what happens afterwards? Take for example this quote from Trendhunter:

“I believe that our youth are a generation who believe that they will indeed have their 15 minutes of fame. Reality TV, print ad campaigns, and even Myspace have all played their part in making this possible.”

What will happen when this generation of Mimis (spelt Mimi, pronounced Me-Me!) grow up? (or will they ever grow up?). We can perhaps glimpse what this is all about by looking at ‘those what have made it’ and the spectacles they haunt. In the UK, a man who cannot dance becomes more famous for this than his legitimate and somewhat more skilled ‘real job’. And then of course we have the other endless parades of TV-reality, where A-List slebs mix with has-beans and seemingly random members of the public to create an endless PK-Dickean panto of the absurd.

dancing1For instances such as Sargeant’s there’s a good deal of over-salted postmodern irony at play. What then, when it comes to more premeditated valence? Take Paris Hilton.

According to Trendhunter again, Paris engineered her celebrity status. She did this however in a very 2.0 way:

“She never really talked about herself. She talked about other people. She would mention the designers of her clothes, the club she was going to, who made the sweater for her dog, all without any guarantee of any return. She just threw out links.”

& thus they flocked. This is of course now a largely historical narrative. I think there’s an unsaid that it is unsustainable. Paris as performance can only endorse so many shows.

So what next, do we face endless Devolution? In the next post on this topic I’ll muse on the possibilities. What I’m wondering around is the possiblities and identities of a knowing social media, one which has re-established itself, so that we’re no longer on a journey without blogs, but one where, as Lilia Efimova notes, at least some of the directions have already been recorded.