- Propaganda, 1928
To prove his point about the danger of alternating current, Thomas Edison electrocuted Topsy the elephant in 1903.
Your past actions are the best predictor of your future decisions. That's
why data about your buying decisions and demographic is so valuable: it enables
companies to know what and when you'll buy. Marketing has focused on influencing
your future decisions because changing your past actions, or the memory of them,
has seemed impossible. You can't change the past. That's no longer true.
Marketers now have the technology to meddle with your memories. To find out how,
let's first step back to old-school product placement.
Dr Pepper comes
to mind when I hear the word " Spider-Man". In the film, as Peter Parker learns
to use his powers, he spies a can of Dr Pepper across the room and, after a few
tries, gets to enjoy drinking the cold beverage that had been out of reach.
Mass-media product placement of this kind works by association and memory. But
this is a last-century technique. The goods and services famous people consume
will continue to wriggle into our subconscious, but increasingly we live in a
world where there isn't one source of truth. The internet has diversified our
communication channels. Narrowcasting is replacing broadcasting; our friends are
In this new world of narrowcasting, product
placement is about to get uncomfortably personal. This is how it is going to
happen: each of our worlds is the sum of our experiences. Our memories help
define who we are. We document and share that world through our status updates
and photo albums. What we share creates the documentary of our lives. The online
presence of your friends and family -- their e-autobiography -- is becoming your
source of truth about their lives. The value of the trust we place in our
friends and the ease with which our autobiographies can be modified will not go
The goal is digital revisionist history -- products
injected into our memories. Tweaking photos on Flickr and Facebook to change the
drink we are holding to a can of Budweiser, the billboard in the background to
Samsung's, your friend's T-shirt to Abercrombie. It might be Facebook's next
billion-dollar business model. And it might not always be so inane as infecting
your buying habits -- it may include your political views.
psychology has shown that our memories are predictably fallible -- reconstructed
from bare-bone frameworks, not remembered in high resolution. Psychologist
Elizabeth Loftus has proved that eyewitness reports are easily manipulated via
the "misinformation effect": leading questions or misleading information can
change critical details of memories. In studies, Loftus and others found that
after a single session they could implant a detailed false memory into one in
four people. In a recent study at University of California Irvine, published in
Applied Cognitive Psychology, researchers were able to change participants'
understanding of famous events by showing them doctored photos. Memory is easily
As you look back at your photos from a year ago, you get the
subliminal message: "I did have a great time at that party and, yes, I guess I
was drinking Budweiser." Your memory has been hijacked. If you don't consciously
remember or don't know which photos have been tampered with, the heist is
flawless. Even if you do remember, your friends probably won't know any
different. Budweiser has just exploited their trust in you. Next time they go
shopping, that little memory does its brand-affinity magic and changes their
But why would you let anyone manipulate your pictures and
hijack your memory? Perhaps a company might offer to touch up your pictures --
remove spots, make you look thinner -- in exchange for product placement. You
get benefit, companies get value and you'll rarely know which photos have had
what added to them. Your memory, your past, is now monetisable. You can generate
value just from having lived.
Our memories are still pristine, but not
for long. We know that the best predictor of our future decisions is our past
actions. With digital revisionist history, those past actions aren't immutable
and marketers will be writing our personal histories. The question is: how can
we stop it?
It's recommended that you watch this video twice. The first time, do as you're instructed and don't take your eyes off the cross in the center. The second time, however, look directly at the faces flashing in quick succession on either side of the screen. If you're like most people, you'll notice that the women you thought had hideous deformities while looking at the center of the screen are actually completely normal looking.
Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia are calling this the "flashed face effect." How it works is that your brain focuses in on the main differences in each juxtaposition, thereby augmenting that difference to grotesque proportions. "If someone has a large jaw, it looks almost ogre-like," write the scientists. "If they have an especially large forehead, then it looks particularly bulbous."
The researchers say they don't yet know why the effect occurs, but they're attempting to find out now. In the meantime, hard as it may be, remember not to always trust your brain and eyes.
Green Tunnel of Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho, Porto Alegre. The city declared it an environmental heritage site . Photo: Ricardo Stricher/PMPA.
Prior to the JKA's founding, keirin races were overseen by the Nihon Jitensha Shinkōkai (日本自転車振興会?, lit. Japan Bicycle Promotion Association), or Japan Keirin Association, often abbreviated NJS. Today the present JKA is responsible for fostering Japan's bicycle industry and regulating keirin racing in Japan.
In addition to licensing keirin racers, the association sets specifications for frames and parts such as wheel size, spoke count, frame geometry, and even weight and material of components. These requirements were established in 1957 in an attempt to prevent any racers from having equipment-related advantages.
Because the foundation's main objective is supporting the Japanese cycling market, its bureaucracy is notoriously critical of foreign manufacturers attempting to enter the Japanese market. The Italian cycling equipment manufacturer Campagnolo has, though, received keirin racing certification.
A common misconception regarding certification is that it is a mark of quality, when in fact it is simply a mark of standardization; parts stamped with the NJS logo have become fashionable in recent years with some Western cyclists.
It flew 33 missions since its first launch in 1985, spending over 300 days in space and making nearly 5000 orbits of the Earth. It visited Mir, the ISS, and even Hubble.
With this landing, the Era of the Shuttle is over. But our presence in space is not. NASA still has working rockets that can carry machines into space, and is working on developing a new rocket system. Private companies are gathering the capability to go to space and to low-Earth orbit. Other countries still have the ability to take humans into space as well. As Americans we pride ourselves on our history of exploration and being the first. For now, that pride may have to wait.
But I’ll note that after Apollo 17, the last Moon landing, it was 8 years before the first Shuttle launch. I’m hoping the current gap that began this morning will last much less than that. I wish there were no gap at all, but here we are. The status of manned spaceflight could be a lot better right now, but things could also be worse.
And don’t forget that the House of Representatives is planning on gutting NASA, canceling the James Webb Space Telescope, and more. If the last flight of the Shuttle makes you sad, I suggest you channel that energy and use it to contact your Representative and Senator.
The Shuttle may now be Earthbound, but that is no reason for us to be.
Chinese counterfeiters have a long history of cloning hardware from major tech manufacturers, but now they're going a step further by cloning entire stores.
A US blogger living in Kunming in Southwest China noticed what appeared to be an Apple store pop up in her town, complete with the store's trademark spacious, airy interior, blue-shirted staff, products to play with, and upstairs seating area.
"We proceeded to place a bet on whether or not this was a genuine Apple store or just the best rip-off we had ever seen," said the blogger, who hasn't disclosed her identity but goes under the pseudonym BirdAbroad. It turned out to be the latter -- a quick glance at Apple's website shows that there are only stores in Beijing and Shanghai in China.
Even more curiously, the staff believed they genuinely were working for Apple. "I tried to imagine the training that they went to when they were hired," says the blogger, "in which they were pitched some big speech about how they were working for this innovative, global company -- when really they're just filling the pockets of some shyster living in a prefab mansion outside the city by standing around a fake store disinterestedly selling what may or may not be actual Apple products that fell off the back of a truck somewhere."
There is some debate as to whether the store in question is a "Premium Reseller" taking the job far too seriously. (Not any more there isn't. See the above update.) The blog's author addresses this in the comments, adding: "What these stores are doing is clearly different -- they are trying to trick people into thinking this is an actual Apple store. The employees all think they actually work for the American company Apple, when they plainly do not."
You can see plenty of images of the store on BirdAbroad's blog, along with discussion in the comments.
It isn't the first time cloning of this scale has been claimed. In 2006, for example, it was reported the whole of NEC, the electronics firm, was cloned.
(I lined this up a few days ago, but just noticed it's in the Metro today.)
Paul Ford's wonderful essay on Facebook and narrative and the old media machine is so wonderful that I copied in the whole thing from The New York for you. I particularly like his jabs at Franzen, one of the New York Jonathans. Really a proper delight to read.
I do not enjoy Facebook — I find it cloying and impossible — but I am there every day. Last year I watched a friend struggle through breast cancer treatment in front of hundreds of friends. She broadcast her news with caution, training her crowd in how to react: no drama, please; good vibes; videos with puppies or kittens welcomed. I watched two men grieve for lost children — one man I've only met online, whose daughter choked to death; one an old friend, whose infant son and daughter, and his wife and mother-in-law, died in an auto accident.
I watched in real time as these people reconstructed themselves in the wake of events — altering their avatars, committing to new causes, liking and linking, boiling over in anger at dumb comments, eventually posting jokes again, or uploading new photos. Learning to take the measure of the world with new eyes. No other medium has shown me this in the same way. Even the most personal literary memoir has more distance, more compression, than these status updates.
In the world of social media, it can feel bizarre that potent evidence of grieving from one friend is followed so quickly by pictures of oven-fresh cookies from another. But Facebook is generated by algorithms without feelings. It's not a narrative: The breast cancer went into remission, but the stories of the radiation treatment continue; the lost children remain as photos, woven into the threads of hundreds of lives. The details of everyday life begin to fill in around those threads. The tide brings in status updates; the tide takes them out.
Social media has no understanding of anything aside from the connections between individuals and the ceaseless flow of time: No beginnings, and no endings. These disparate threads of human existence alternately fascinate and horrify that part of the media world that grew up on topic sentences and strong conclusions. This world of old media is like a giant steampunk machine that organizes time into stories. I call it the Epiphanator, and it has always known the value of a meaningful conclusion. The Epiphanator sits in midtown Manhattan and clunks along, at Condé Nast and at the Times and in Rockefeller Center. Once a day it makes a terrible grinding noise and spits out newspapers and TV shows. Once a week it spits out weeklies and more TV shows. Once a month it produces glossy magazines. All too often it makes movies, and novels.
At the end of every magazine article, before the "■," is the quote from the general in Afghanistan that ties everything together. The evening news segment concludes by showing the secretary of State getting back onto her helicopter. There's the kiss, the kicker, the snappy comeback, the defused bomb. The Epiphanator transmits them all. It promises that things are orderly. It insists that life makes sense, that there is an underlying logic.
To defend its realm, this machine sends its finest knights to crusade against this kraken rising from a sea of status updates. Zadie Smith, in The New York Review of Books: "When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced ... Our denuded networked selves don't look more free, they just look more owned."
"I have a lot of opinions on social media that make me sound like a grumpy old man sitting on the porch yelling at kids," said Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin recently. "There's no depth. Life is complicated. You need to be able to explain complexity."
Outgoing Times executive editor Bill Keller:The shortcomings of social media would not bother me awfully if I did not suspect that Facebook friendship and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg's device displaced remembering.
"Real rapport," "real conversation," "complexity," and "depth," could be code words for "an appropriate level of respect." Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci disputed Keller's claim that time spent on social networking comes at the expense of "in person," backed it up with links to research — and did it on Twitter.
The Epiphanator's most recent broadside appeared on a recent Sunday when the Times published Jonathan Franzen's commencement speech at Kenyon College. The title, damning in itself, was "Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts" — a variation on Keller's theme of genuineness. But far, far more likely to induce rage.
There should be a word for that feeling you get when an older person — and not much older, so quickly are things changing — shames him or herself by telling young people how to live. I'd vote for Bedeutungslosigkeitschmach, or "irrelevance shame," (made up with the help of Google translate) or perhaps Rünschmerz, the horrifying gut pain one experiences watching Andy Rooney. Whatever it's called, Franzen brought it in buckets.
He took us to task for "liking" but not loving. He questioned all the devices that command our affection. "Good people of Kenyon and the Sunday Times," he cried, "Return to your woodsy cottages and take pleasure in honest things: The bark of a fox; the nose of unspiced wine; the honest friendship of Alice Sebold; and a gristly, capital-L-Love-LOVE, honest and true with a great deal of hair and stink."
That's my version. What he actually wrote was: "To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that's indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self."
He tells the Kenyon 21-year-olds, who were likely texting throughout the ceremony, that they need more love. If the sub-30-year-olds with whom I've worked are typical, these young men and women love — each other, or bands, or ideas — too much, they love too often, with a feral intensity and with the constant assistance of mobile devices. Maybe what he was telling them is that they should be more old.
Franzen's speech recalls another, very different commencement speech, by Apple CEO Steven Jobs to the 2005 class of Stanford. Jobs is the embodiment of California, all gold rush, less city-on-hill. At Stanford he invoked the Whole Earth Catalog as "one of the bibles of my generation" — its cut-and-paste aesthetic, hippie cheer, and promise of access to information a balm for his late-adolescent soul. The Whole Earth Catalog was a DIY-bible assembled by former Merry Prankster Stewart Brand, far from the clanking Epiphanator. "We are as gods," reads the preface, "and we might as well get good at it."
The Whole Earth Catalog's descendants include, in strange but real ways, the entire computer and Internet industries. Creating tools to give regular people godlike powers is exactly what Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee, Mark Zuckerberg, and a host of others have done, starting with cheap computer hardware and shrink-wrapped software, then via the web and on social networks. We've reached a point where anyone with an SMS card or access to an Internet café can potentially be heard by billions of people. What could be more godlike — or more foreign to the Epiphinator — than that?
And how do the Whole Earth heirs of Silicon Valley stand today compared to their financially bereft Epiphonatorian counterparts? Apple couldn't get much bigger without selling oil, while the media industry has been reduced to dime-size buttons that show up on iPhone screens. Google regularly announces initiatives to "save" the newspaper and book industries — like a modern-day hunter who proclaims himself a conservationist. And Facebook, having already swallowed up enormous chunks of discretionary media consumption time, has its old-school media counterparts chasing after "Likes" as if they were cocaine being dispensed in a lab rat's cage.
So it would be easy to think that the Whole Earthers are winning and the Epiphinators are losing. But this isn't a war as much as a trade dispute. Most people never chose a side; they just chose to participate. No one joined Facebook in the hope of destroying the publishing industry.
As someone with Franzendentalist roots and Epiphinator tendencies, who consumes too many hours of social media, I keep sensing some serious hurt feelings from the older-media side — "Why would you love that thing instead of me?" They act like my wife would if I brought home a RealDoll. But it's not like that. I don't think people love Twitter or Facebook in the same way they might love Parks and Recreation or Twilight. Rather, we like the beer and tolerate the bottle. And even if we have those other browser tabs open, we're still hungry for endings.
Obviously, the Epiphinator will need to slim down in order to thrive, but a careful study of history shows how impossible it is to determine whether it can return to both power and glory, or whether its demise is imminent.
The phonograph killed the player piano; radio, newspapers, and TV happily co-existed for generations. When did you last think fondly on the DuMont television network, or smile in recall of Friendster? This moment of anxiety and fear will pass; future generations (there's now one every three or four years) will have no idea what they missed, and yet they will go on, marry, divorce, and own pets.
They may even work in journalism, not in the old dusty career paths, but in the new jobs and niches carved out by some of the people New York has selected for its New Media Innovators list. Viral meme tracker, slideshow specialist, headline optimizer — these are jobs that didn't exist a few years ago, and while they may seem a million miles from journalism as we know it, they will be components of the future Epiphinator.
We'll still need professionals to organize the events of the world into narratives, and our story-craving brains will still need the narrative hooks, the cold opens, the dramatic climaxes, and that all-important "■" to help us make sense of the great glut of recent history that is dumped over us every morning. No matter what comes along streams, feeds, and walls, we will still have need of an ending.
I was following the Culture Committee hearing on the Guardian website and realised how strange, in terms of nomenclature that we have a thing that is a Culture Committee hearing. Such a curious term, that if used in the light of some dystopian totalitarian future a la 1984, would probably be read as sinister and threatening but under the whole torrent of impotence and cluelessness that our leaders insist on showing reads as pathetic. Graham Lineham wrote on Twitter a while back that Twitter was the Press Complaints Commission Complaints Commission - the alleged injustice committed by the committees whose role it is to meter out justice to the unjust can only be battled out through hyperbole and near-anonymous name-slinging on blogs and social networks.
It would truly be a dystopian society if justice was metered by the inflamed mass of seething reactivity that the anonymous webiverse represents. It's the same herd, driving people to victimise and bully that fuelled the tabloids on the first place, and it's the same mentality that keeps Melanie Phillips in a job.
I like the fact that we can apply rules to culture, such an esoteric and undefinable thing, and that hearings are required for those that break them. Of course a code of conduct is important, and that is essentially what the hearing is about - whether the Murdoch press is guilty of breaking the journalists code of conduct and whether he is 'fit and proper' to own as much media as he would like to.
Ilana Fox has an interesting article about hacking on the FutureBook website. FutureBook is generally a bit of a wet blanket it when it comes to embracing the future of text and books. It tends to act as a stalwart defence of the current form, occasionally spreading panic around the bookselling industry when innovtion strikes a brilliant individual outside the fold. Occasionally however, it looks to the future and invites speculation on board.
Fox writes of a future where electronic books fall victim to the trappings of other digital media, they can be hacked.
Imagine that at some point in next couple of years HarperCollins (ifShe's referring, of course, to the hacking of the Sun's landing page by hackers from Lulzsec. For half an hour or so it showed a fictional story of Rupert Murdoch's suicide. So what if novels became open to the democratic principles that lead the open-sourced and crowd-edited end of the internet? Lulzsec demonstrated the principle of hacking the news - they didn't change the medium, merely the broadcast itself. but in doing so changed the role of the medium. The Sun website became a stage for the mockery of News International. What if authors wrote books under the guidance of a crowd, or worse, their books were hacked further down the line by individuals unhappy with their content or their subject or ideology?
they’re still around) decide to publish a memoir of a News International
executive’s account of 2011. Even now, while we’re right in the middle of it, we
know this will always be a sensitive subject... It’s probably painful enough –
and anti-establishment enough - for hackers to want to take a stand like they
did with The Sun last night. Could hackers infiltrate the words of a book and
deface them like they did to the News International websites last night?
And yet … we pretty much see novels as art form, don’t we? Once they’re done, they’re done – they’re open to interpretation and review, but the original words should never change. We wouldn’t dream of going to a gallery and taking out a felt-tip pen to improve a Picasso, for example, so why should it be different with books? Could it ever be? Should it be?It's an interesting point but she over-simplifies her analogy. People may not 'hack' paintings, the aura they have and their setting forbids it. But architecture is hacked all the time, from graffiti to planning applications. And what about defacing public advertising or murals? Some of the work on the Conservative election campaign provides a stellar example of this.
And, at times, text is hacked for the, so far, nefarious and illicit ends of it's hackers. Wikipedia undergoes constant, repeated 'hackings' under the guise of edits over minor details, particularly from pedantic grammarists. And what about governments and ruling bodies who censure scientific texts in countries as democratic and highly-educated as the US? So it doesn't seem that far off for fiction to be hacked. Myths and legends are derivative, hacked together from folklore and contemporary scientific understanding and there already intersting authoship projects encouraging input from potential readers such as Unbound, where readers sponsor an author to write a book in return for perks. It's not a far leap to imagine anonymous web readers suggesting ideas for content with the author becoming a curator of content rather than a creator.
Biggles taking a quick spin on the Gayas. His first go at riding fixed.
Lots of last minute MaxMSPing as chaps were struggling to get programs running propely right up until the last minute.
The catalogues came in pieces and a lot still have to be assembled, I hand folded like 400 of them.
This weekend was the Dunwich Dynamo, my inaugural, but hopefully the first of many such occasions. It's a 120 mile ride from Hackney to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast, near Southwold, where I holidayed as a teen. It was something I almost did last year, but a lot of fellow riders backed out before I could fully commit. I was so determined to do it this year though, that after reading many articles and much forum chatter, even if I knew not another soul there, I'd do it. Turned out a handful of folk got bikes together in time and showed up, and I even ran into some chaps that I didn't know were doing it at all.
Of course, I rode fixed, on 45/16 ratio, roughly 73 gear inches. Taking the Gayas wasn't a tough choice either, being the sturdiest of my stable as well as easily adaptable to a behind-the-seat bottle cage that was required.
I also felt ostracized for the jeans and t-shirt option I took. Despite being someone with a 150 mile-a-week average I don't own any lycra (apart from padded under bits.) I've never had a complaint and, unlike some folk I spoke to, believe that you should ride with things and in a way that you are comfortable and confident with. This was also the driving force behind my super-minimal packing ideology (top image.) 99% of rider had a backpack or panniers and a lot of the time, both, or more. I spent some time minimising all I would take, with only wishing I'd taken more and better food, I only rode without a jacket leaving London, and by that point had a hell of a lot of room in the saddle bag.
Getting out of London, incidentally, was tricky, with 1000 cyclists all trying to get through traffic, getting lost, stuck and confused, ultimately frustrated and then injured by each-other (including one particularly ugly crash just outside London;) it was worryingly difficult. There were many stops early on through Essex, which was predictably horrific with drunks playing chicken with us in the road and throwing things at us. Once through the forest all was beautiful, and quickly I was playing catchup with / wait for / stop with friends for the first 40 miles or so before deciding that I wanted a more meditative experience and hung-back to get some space.
I cruised on like that until the 'halfway' point at about 55 miles, where I stopped, looked around feeling confused and rode off, regretfully rejecting food in the faith that there was more further on. 10 miles later I realised I had deceived myself and stuffed down the two Double Deckers while in the saddle. Soon after, I could feel myself bonking (bike term for energy crashing NOT childish sex slang) and decided to pull over at the next village to sit down for 5 minutes. But I didn't, nor the next one, nor the next one. I rode a further 10 or so miles in constant deceleration, convinced that I had a flat, or something trapped in the Gayas' tight clearances before almost literally keeling over at a junction on the grass.
10 minutes later, after half a bottle of lucozade, I was whizzing along, leading a small cadre of roadies in full lycra. One of the only things frustrating me about the ride so far was the climbing speeds of geared riders (i.e everyone else.) Geared riders coast down hills then begin to grind up the other side on a spinny/climby gear. Being fixed, without the 'luxury' of gears, the only option is to tear down a hill as fast as possible, gain and preserve as much momentum as possible and burst up the other side. So, at about 4 in the morning, with the sky lightening and 30 odd miles to go, I let rip.
Having a dawning realisation that there was literally nothing else I was in the middle of the Suffolk countryside for than to ride my incredibly fast bicycle as fast as I could through an alien land with moonlight and sunrise fighting it out for shadows. I followed a team of roadies into a detour, and then realised that following people this late in the game, with everyone so spread out and the sunlight taking ground was a no-go. I whipped out the iPhone at every corner, checking the GPS and burning past groups of now-flagging early starters, downed all my lucozade, Pulled as much from every descent as possibly and skidded into the beach at about quarter to six.
Loss sets in at this point. I was here, the end of the line. I'd seen a handful of brave return riders coming at me in the last 5 miles or so and there were only a hundred or so folk at the end. I'd wobbled through the first quarter, meditated then burned like my legs were on fire for an hour and a half. I got a call from a friend, we grabbed tea and bacon sandwiches. Any conversations about the ride were null at this point. We talked about glasses, why we were drinking tea, plans for the week, brief trivia and the weather. Then I laid down on the beach for 4 hours.
photo credit - Owen Smith
Fiona choi / Unwanted change
Jimmy Irwin / Heritage
Kirsty Tizzard / Ghost Books
Tomomi Sayuda / iBum
Jenny Keuter / Imaginative Spaces
Jake Dowling / Desk
Jake Dowling / Know The Difference Between You're and Your
Kirsty Greig / Haptic