- POPULAR CULTURE
- MENTAL HEALTH
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
- APPLIED SCIENCES
- PRINT & MEDIA
GOOGLE: SOME THOUGHTS
The following is a review which appeared in the London Review of Books in October 2011. It is a review of these three books: (i) The Googlisation of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) by Siva Vaidhyanathan(California, 265 pages, 2011; (ii) BuyIn the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy(Simon and Schuster, 424 pages, 2011; and (iii) I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards(Allen Lane, 416 pages, 2011) The review begins as follows:
"This spring, the billionaire Eric Schmidt announced that there were only four really significant technology companies: Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google, the company he had until recently been running. People believed him. What distinguished his new ‘gang of four’ from the generation it had superseded with its companies like: Intel, Microsoft, Dell and Cisco, which mostly existed to sell gizmos and gadgets and innumerable hours of expensive support services to corporate clients, was that the newcomers sold their products and services to ordinary people. Since there are more ordinary people in the world than there are businesses, and since there’s nothing that ordinary people don’t want or need, or can’t be persuaded to want or need when it flashes up alluringly on their screens, the money to be made from them is virtually limitless.
Together, Schmidt’s four companies are worth more than half a trillion dollars. The technology sector isn’t as big as, say, oil, but it’s growing, as more and more traditional industries like: advertising, travel, real estate, used cars, new cars, porn, television, film, music, publishing, news---are subsumed into the digital economy. Schmidt who, as the ex-CEO of a multibillion-dollar corporation, had learned to take the long view, warned that not all four of his disruptive gang could survive. So – as they all converge from their various beginnings to compete in the same area, the place usually referred to as ‘the cloud’, a place where everything that matters is online – the question is: who will be the first to blink?"
The review continues: "If the company that falters is Google, it won’t be because it didn’t see the future coming. Of Schmidt’s four technology juggernauts, Google has always been the most ambitious, and the most committed to getting everything possible onto the internet, its mission being ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. Its ubiquitous search box has changed the way information can be got at to such an extent that ten years after most people first learned of its existence you wouldn’t think of trying to find out anything without typing it into Google first. Searching on Google is automatic, a reflex, just part of what we do. But an insufficiently thought-about fact is that in order to organise the world’s information Google first has to get hold of the stuff. And in the long run ‘the world’s information’ means much more than anyone would ever have imagined it could."
The phrase 'the world's information' means, of course, the totality of the information contained on the World Wide Web, or the contents of more than a trillion webpages. It was a trillion at the last count, in 2008. Six years later, at the start of 2014, such a number would be meaningless. But that much goes without saying, since indexing and ranking webpages is where Google began when it got going as a research project at Stanford in 1996, just five years after the web itself was invented, and three years before I took an early retirement after a 50 year student-and-paid-employment-life: 1949 to 1999. 'The world's information' means, or would mean if lawyers let Google have its way, the complete contents of every one of the more than 33 million books in the Library of Congress. If you include slightly varying editions and pamphlets and other ephemera, the contents of the approximately 129,864,880 books published in every recorded language since printing was invented. It means every video uploaded to the public internet, a quantity – if you take the Google-owned YouTube alone – that is increasing at the rate of nearly an hour of video every second." For more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n19/daniel-soar/it-knows
ADVERTISING: AN OVERVIEW
Advertising, or advertizing in business, is a form of marketing communication used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience. That audience can be: viewers, readers, listeners, or any combination of these three. Sometimes that audience is a specific group. The aim involves having that audience take or continue to take some action. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common. This type of work belongs to a category called affective labor. The literature on this subject is vast. To start go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising
ADVERTISING: A VAST LITERATURE and ANALYSIS
North American culture has come to present itself at every level as an endless series of promotional messages; that advertising, besides having become a most powerful institution in its own right, has been effectively universalised as a signifying mode; and that this development goes far to explain such characteristic features of the contemporary ("post-modern") cultural field as its pre-occupation with style, its self-referentialism, its ahistoricity, and its vacuous blend of nihilism and good cheer.
So totalistic a formulation, in line with the exhausted character of our age, may seem to imply historical closure. If so, that is not my intent, which is simply to disentangle one aspect of modern society's culturo-economic logic, and, for the moment, leave other levels of determination (and contradiction) to one side. Even in itself, moreover, the rise of a promotionally dominated culture has not been exactly conflict free. As the "ideological" revolt of the sixties attests, the structural shift in the relation of culture to economy with which the rise of promotion has been associated has brought new tensions and, indeed, new opportunities for the formation of an emancipatory will. It would be wrong, at the same time, to overcorrect.
In contemporary usage, "advertising," "publicity," and "promotion" have become virtually interchangeable. But, if their referents are the same, their ways of grasping the concepts are not, and for our present purposes, as the title of this piece indicates, I have a marked preference for the latter of these terms. Modern usage has stretched "promotion" to cover not just ads as such but the whole field of public relations, including religious and political propaganda, as well as the more informal kinds of boosterism practiced in everyday life.
In an analysis concerned with stressing the growth of salesmanship not just within but beyond the strictly commercial sphere, this greater generality provides a second ground of choice. The enlarged referential meaning of "promotion" corresponds, in short, to the phenomenon's real expansion in the world, which in turn corresponds to "the penetrative powers of the price-system" and to the spread of analogous relations into every aspect of social life . The end result has been the emergence of an all-pervasive configuration. that might fittingly be called promotional culture. In posing the question of this complex's meaning, logic, and constitutive power let me now retrace the movement that brought it into being, along with the ever more convoluted forms of expression to which the extensions of promotion have cumulatively given rise.
Part 3: Commodities and Communication
The spectacular development of advertising as a distinct apparatus, and the wider permeation of culture by promotion ultimately derive from the primordial characteristic of commodity that its classical theorists, from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, tended to overlook: the dependence of any money-mediated market on a functionally specific type ofcommunication. For goods and money to exchange, information must also be exchanged. Buyers must know what is for sale, when, where, and at what price, and sellers must know what goods can be marketed and on what terms. In the pre-capitalist case, where production and distribution were local and communication is face-to-face, this double exchange of commodities and information took place all at once, at the point of sale.
The designated site for such activity was: the Roman forum, the Turkish bazaar, the Medieval fair, among a host of other locations across the nations and civilizations of the world in world history. Each site typically had the added character of a public institution for general social intercourse. But this coincidence of functions should not be misread. Whether it is street vendors crying their wares or ancient textile traders haggling over price and supply, the informational aspect of the market always had its own modalities and represented a form of social practice in itself. Multiplied a million-fold and considered at the level of the whole culturescape, the effect has not only been our ubiquitous encirclement by messages enjoining us to buy, but our sensory involvement in a fantastic web of signification which, before our eyes, duplicates & reduplicates the very commodities it presents for sale .
Everyday life, without the exertion that a trip to the stores would normally involve, has in this way come to resemble one long & semi continuous round of window-gazing. Overall, to use Situationist phraseology, advanced capitalism has given rise to a "society of the spectacle," culturally constituted by that "immense flotation of signs" which the machinery of commercial promotion has been driven to generate and set into general circulation.' The signs which so circulate, be it noted, are themselves signs of signs. For the commodity which industrial promotion insistently represents as the image of a myth becomes mythic in the actually imagined relation the purchasing consumer has with it. The interdependence, at once technological and financial, between advertising and popular culture has changed the character of both, most importantly, by dissolving the boundary between promotion and the wider world of expressive communication. Through this breach, which coincided with the rise of the mass media, advertising message: have swirled into every corner of commercialised culture, transforming the latter, as a more or less integrated totality of ads, entertainment, and news, into one gigantic promotional vehicle. For more of this analysis go to: http://ctheory.net/library/volumes/Vol%2012%20No%201%20-%202/VOL12_NOS1-2_3.pdf
260 BILLION A YEAR
One of the many amazing things about advertising is that even lousy ads work! If even the lousy ads work, what hope do most people have of not being affected by them, especially since we are exposed to so many print ads and radio commercials and television commercials in the course of a given day. It’s a 260 billion dollar a year business in the USA alone. Most of the companies keep advertising because they hope that one day, somehow, they will get an agency to create a blockbuster ad for them that will turn everyone on. It’s like playing the lottery. Some companies are often concerned about the amount of money they spend on trivia, like corned beef sandwiches, on the shoot for some commercial being made for them, but don't think twice about signing the related media bill for perhaps ten million dollars worth of air time.
Some teenagers were asked by a researcher whether they were affected by advertising. “No,” most of them said. “We’re aware of advertising but we’re not affected by it.” Being deluded about one’s behavior is not unique to teenagers, but the idea that teenagers aren’t affected by advertising is similar, as far as truth values are concerned, to saying the earth is flat! Teenagers have hundreds of billions of dollars of discretionary income, and the advertising agencies make sure, as best they can, that teenagers and their money are soon parted. For more on this theme go to an online article by Arthur Berger entitled "Writing Myself Into Existence: A Writer's Odyssey in the Form of an Abecedarian of Sorts" in the January 2012 issue of Enculturation: A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing and Culture.
ADVERTISING THE SELF
The leopard, the giraffe and the macaw follow no fashion – they are born elegant and appropriately insulated. They cannot, season by season, startle with new patterns of fur or feathers. People can. We may, snake-like, shed worn-out clothes; we may become bored, disgusted or embarrassed by the way we look. Or, better, we may decide to be inventive, emulative and playful. But whether new clothes are a response to frayed cloth or booty from a shopping spree, once they are on your back they are not neutral decoration any more than the spots on a pelt which mimic dappled shade are neutral, or the bright, incommoding tails evolved by birds to attract mates. They signal moods, intentions and desires; they identify and camouflage. Fading into the crowd or standing out from it, saying ‘this is who I am,’ ‘come on’ or ‘back off’: these things are managed or implied by fashion choices. Not to choose and not to care is to conform by default – which is the most insidious choice of all, and self-defeating.
The look of a giraffe or macaw is evidence of breeding success in the generations of ancestors through which the species wandered to achieve drabness or splendour. Although our fashions evolve year by year, rather than over millennia – and are an aspect of social, not physical change – their effect, too, depends, very often, on basic appetites. We can advertise differences by modulating the way those appetites are addressed. ‘Good taste’ is the most divisive, or at least most curious, modulation of all. Almost by definition, it is invisible to (or beyond the means of) those who have not got it. What animal skin is designed to have a meaning for only a few members of the species? For more on this subject go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n22/peter-campbell/on-the-catwalk
ADVERTISING: several contexts
The content of ads as semiological, as symbolic, constructs works against the grain of the modern subject, the modern person, in many ways. Commercials attach signifiers to signifieds, words and images to meanings. They do this in a manner at odds, in some ways, with the language of everyday life. Motivated to sell commodities, advertisers strive to transform the mundane pleasures of the product into more profoundly gratifying experiences. Ordinary objects are invested with desirable attributes that otherwise have no obvious relation to them. What could not be said about a product in face-to-face contact, at least with a straight face, could be said in all sorts of ways in the small space of the television screen.
TV ads incited desire and solicited the viewer to a process of identification with the brand and the model, while simultaneously interpellating the subject as consumer. The culture of simulations emerged in the privacy of the home, and helped everyone think that they were safe and clean, middle-class and American, white and God-fearing. Behind the back of the threat of communism, the modern subject was infiltrated by a postmodern culture of language and desire even more effectively than by Bolshevism which, by the 1970s and 1980s, millions knew nothing about. If world politics were stabilized in detente, arms race, and Cold War, culture was being revolutionized in the micro-politics of the home.
During the 1960s and 1970s when I was leaving the family nest, finishing my formal education, beginning my career in the teaching profession and my married life, the public sphere was animated by a new set of conflicts and challenges. The civil rights movement had challenged racism; the anti-war movement challenged U.S. imperialism; the feminist movement challenged patriarchy and sexism; the ecology movement challenged the wastefulness of producers and consumers; the counter-culture challenged suburban utopias; the gay and lesbian movement challenged heterosexism. Altogether these new social movements brought an anti-authoritarian mood into the forefront of American political life. By the early 1970s, when I was settling into life in Australia, modern culture, the society in which I was immersed, was being reinvigorated by this frenzy of what could be called "leftist activism." This was part of the core-conext in which advertising came into my life.
It appeared that history again was moving in a progressive direction, or so it could be both argued and experienced, in spite of a range of conflicts and forms of violence that were part of the post-war culture I grew-up in and became an adult. The structures of domination in the West were being contested, structures that previously had occupied center stage in the political arena. It was possible to find personal coherence in job and family, in political-agency and leisure-time. In short, it was possible to see that history made sense and, if not history, at least a person's personal life could be carved-out and made meaningful. That was certainly true of me as I graduated from university and as my career advanced. After the collapse of my first marriage, a second marriage unfolded and helped give a stable centre to my life trajectory by the late 1970s. A host of ideologies emerged which promoted the democratizing positions, and the democratic process. These were bolstered by the progress of decolonization and by the spread of socialist regimes in many parts of the world.
The 1970s also saw the development of expansive theories of culture that were not limitated of the dominant liberal frameworks of the 1950s and 1960s. This sharp break with the ideas and trends of the earlier decades was due to younger, less established, people who had experienced the heady politics of the New Left. I was one such individual during the four years of my post-secondary education and training in the 1960s. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, European theory in the fields of sociology and politics, became available for the first time since World War II. It was brought to the United States and Canada, and then Australia, by graduate students and young academics in journals and book translations. For people with an interest in politics and sociology, society and social analysis, the intellectual world was transformed. The theoretical scene was enriched by major works from the Frankfurt school and French neo-Marxists, structuralists, and poststructuralists. Most people, of course, had no contact with these works from the social sciences. Sport and gardening, having fun and finding a good job, marital life and the media, leisure-time and family life kept most of the people I came to know in either my family, or in the wider society, fully occupied with daily life & consumerism, popular culture and popular fiction.
Martin Jay(1944-) is a good example of a writer in fields that I came to take an interest due to my responsibilities in the teaching profession. Jay was the Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He was, and is, a renowned intellectual historian and his research interests have been groundbreaking in connecting history with other academic & intellectual activities. These activities included the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, other figures and methods in continental social theory, cultural criticism, and historiography, among others.
Jay received his B.A from Union College in 1965. In 1971, he completed his Ph.D. in History at Harvard under the tutelage of H. Stuart Hughes. His dissertation was later revised into the book The Dialectical Imagination, which covers the history of the Frankfurt School from 1923-1950. I mention Jay here since he got his B.A., did his under-graduate studies, at the same time I did. He also had an interest in the Frankfurt School which paralleled my interest from the 1970s until the present. While Jay was conducting research for his dissertation, he established a correspondence and friendship with many of the members of the Frankfurt School. He was closest to Leo Löwenthal who had provided him with access to personal letters and documents that were crucial to Jay's research. Löwenthal would later chair the sociology department at Berkeley. His book is considered one of the most influential works in exposing the American Academy to the theoretical insight of the Frankfurt School. His work since then continued to explore the many nuances of Marxism/socialism, as well as exploring new territory in historiography and cultural criticism, visual culture, and the place of post-structuralism/post-modernism in European intellectual history. His current research is nominalism and photography. He is a recipient of the 2010/2011 Berlin Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin.
Jay's books and essays: (i) Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-50(1973); (ii) "The Concept of Totality in Lukács and Adorno”, Telos, Summer 1977, New York: Telos Press; and (iii) 1984 Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas, among other works, gave overviews of perspectives on politics, society, and culture that initiated broad interest in continental thought. My exposure to this thought was in bits-and-pieces, occasional studies from the 1970s to the present.
A rich debate began in the United States about contemporary culture in which French and German thinkers were combined, such as Habermas and Baudrillard on communication theory. It was a mixture that did not exist on the continent, where the Rhine was an unsurpassable boundary. In this intellectual context a new type of thinking, “critical theory,” was born, which contributed greatly to opening new perspectives on culture and technology. At the same time British thought entered the American discussion most notably through the journal New Left Review, eventually introducing a left theory of the popular known as “cultural studies.” By the mid-1980s, cultural studies and critical theory combined with feminist, queer, and postcolonial theory into a complex articulation of approaches to culture. As I say, for most people, all of this was completely outside their reading and their interests. But I was caught-up in it due to my teaching in post-secondary schools, universities and colleges, in Australia.
For more on these themes go to:http://www.uiowa.edu/~ijcs/mediation/poster.htm
ADVERTISING AND GRAPHIC DESIGN
These words, in the following two paragraphs, first appeared more than 25 years ago in 1988. Do they still apply? I leave this to readers. These words which follow come from a review in the London Review of Books. The review is of: (i) The Graphic Language of Neville Brody by Jon Wozencroft(Thames and Hudson, 160 pages, 1988); and (ii) The Making of the ‘Independent’ by Michael Crozier(Gordon Fraser, 128 pages, 1988)
The review begins: "Neville Brody is advertised as the most influential graphic designer of his generation. This means something in a Britain where graphic design has at last found what it's chief purpose is, what it is really good at. That purpose is charming money out of members of the general population. If appetites are not refreshed, if the clothes are not racked, and if the produce is not tumbling from supermarket horns of plenty, will there be food for the moth and the worm. When the words and images which sharpen desire themselves need sharpening, the graphic artist, or the copywriter, or the director, is called-in to examine the entrails for signs of which dreams will ring tills. If you are losing the style wars, and the true guerrillas of graphics are unwilling to rally to the flag, you can at least borrow their tactics."
Brody's launch-pad was the independent fringe of the record business and his orbiting vehicle was the fashion, art, interview magazine The Face. He found his recipes borrowed and his mannerisms aped in work with which he had no sympathy. His revolutionary war-cries and banners were misunderstood and plagiarised at the same time. Jon Wozencroft describes Brody’s work and how The Face ‘combined pop consumerism with a critique of its culture. Brody both questioned and celebrated the growing profusion of styles in the same breath. He questioned the worst effects of “Style Culture” in the same issue that included items on “radical footwear” & “travelling hats”.
The ambivalence this description identifies shows up in Brody’s comments on the place of design in communication. Both The Graphic Language of Neville Brody and The Making of the ‘Independent’ cast light on the relationship between writing & the medium of print. The magazines Brody has designed and the Independent are at opposite ends of the spectrum of style, but in both cases graphic design allows scanning as against reading. Graphic design also allows those buyers who read very little of the continuous text to feel that they have had their money’s worth from the paper. For more go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v10/n11/peter-campbell/new-looks-new-newspapers
ADVERTISING in AN AGE OF CHAOS and AT THE EDGE OF MEANING
In a review by Donald F. Theall in the Canadian Journal of Communication, Vol 26, No 3, 2001, of The Media Symplex: At the Edge of Meaning in the Age of Chaos by Frank Zingrone, we read the following:
"In The Media Symplex the preconscious is a crucial concept, a version developed from Schelling's, Fichte's, and Freud's use of an analogy with the photograph in explaining the relation between the unconscious and the preconscious. The preconscious plays a central role as the source of suppressed materials or peripherally remembered events such as those experienced in dreams. But it also operates in the interests of inhibition, serving as a repository for that which is being suppressed. Zingrone illustrates the negative operation of the preconscious through advertising."
"Advertising is already in preconscious form," continues the review. "So it is possible to conclude that advertising for all its entertainment value is mainly the pseudo-ideational, pseudo-symbolic presentation of pseudo-events. The only way out of the contemporary dilemma is to bring the unconscious, the preconscious, and the conscious mind together in active interplay, a function which Zingrone argues is best achieved by poetry & music. This is an argument that McLuhan would have endorsed, says Zingrone."
With page after page of examples, The Media Symplex demonstrates that post-electric society is decadent. "The first sign of decadence in a culture is a decay of meaning", writes Zingrone. But such a situation also opens up the possibility, in fact the necessity, of making meaning anew, for the very radical diminution of all our perceptions by the continuous information of electric media battering all our senses paradoxically generates the potentiality for renewal. This opens up the chance to overcome "the new illiterate ... the one medium user". Karl Polanyi's concept of tacit knowledge in contradistinction to specialist knowledge is used extensively in arguing that "media simplexity" can be reversed if people will become frequent users of all media, while being well-grounded in language - the best strategy in a media-overloaded environment. Yet there is no simple optimism here, for it is still a battle. For more of this review go to:http://www.mcluhanonmaui.com/2011/07/don-theallss-review-of-frank-zingrones.html
ADVERTISING AND RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS
Secularization theory proposes that our society is becoming increasingly rational & scientific, hence it is distancing itself from a community based on religious beliefs and values. Stark and Iannaccone (1994), Stark and McCann (1993), and others maintain that secularization is falsely credited with the so-called downfall of religious influence. To the contrary, they argue that religion is enjoying an upturn in recent times. One way to test this assumption is to focus on one “slice” of everyday life. Television commercials afford that opportunity in a quantifiable medium. Similar to the original study (Maguire & Weatherby, 1998), the answers to two questions will be pursued: 1.) To what extent is religious symbolism used to sell products on television?; and 2.) If religion is indeed used rarely, is it because advertisers avoid the possible offense of mixing the sacred with the profane, or do they simply feel that religion fails to sell products? For more go to: http://www.scientificjournals.org/journals2008/articles/1344.pdf
THE MANUFACTURE OF WANTING
The Baha'i Faith in North America expanded & consolidated in an advertising age. The first Baha'is taught in Illinois in the mid-1890s; advertising had been part of the American way of life for thirty years, since at least the Civil War: 1861-1864. The approach of Christian evangelists, with their emphasis on redemption and the experience of grace, was transferred subtly and not-so-subtlety to the advertising world and its method of sale of patent medicines in the 1870s & 1880s. In the first three decades that the Baha'i Faith expanded in the USA, 1894 to 1924, the population of the USA expanded by twenty-five percent each year. This population was exposed to the magical promises and the philosophy of modern advertising.
By the time the first teaching Plan began in 1937, the golden age of radio had arrived and advertising found a new home in this medium. The same was true of TV where, after WW2, television brought advertising's pictures right into people's homes. In the late 1950s & 1960s advertising moved away from a conformist,sclerotic, mode, some would say military style and tone, to a reliance on the techniques of surprise, cleverness and creativity. The year I became a Baha'i, for example, in 1959, the Volkswagon Company developed an advertising campaign based around 'The Bug.' -Ron Price with thanks to ABC Radio National, "A History of Advertising," 1:00-2:00 pm, 2 August 2001.
Was He trying to block the air-waves,
trying to fog-up their oral/visual worlds,
trying to make it as difficult as possible
for them to get at all near, even close to,
this Most Great Ocean?
An increasingly dark incoherence
spoke across the American landscape,
advertising's endless jingle-jangle
told them again and again
the source of their current disturbances
could be found in the lack
of an equal distribution of wealth
and of indoor plumbing.
Was He simply giving them
ways of learning about
this Great River of Life:
millions of papers,
sounds floating through the air,
pictures right in their noses?
Yes, yes, but what a jungle
of sensation and triviality,
evanescence and idiocy:
the manufacture of wanting
everything but the Voice of Him
Who is the most manifest of the manifest
and the most hidden of the hidden.1
1 Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Prayers, USA, 1985, p.143.
2 August 2001
SINCERITY AND ADVERTISING
Advertising, by flaunting what we don’t have, is a major cause of malaise, argue some social scientists. Some of the most vivid examples come from the research at Duke University’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, & Marketing. Recurrent pitches, we are informed by the Hartman Centre, have insidious effects: “By saturating the public domain with false sincerity, advertising makes genuine sincerity more difficult. The hype, the endless play to enthusiasm, brightness & a kind of chirpy interpersonal style, has an affect on social relations. It injects a false enthusiasm into relationships between people, an enthusiasm which is not real. Affluence and the capacity to buy things, some studies have now shown, breeds impatience. More modest degrees of wealth foster reciprocity and commitment. Modern marriages are like products purchased at a mall: turn them in if they don’t work out. Using statistics from Nigeria and Lebanon, studies have now shown a link between low incomes and family bonds."
ADVERTISING: AN OVERVIEW
Advertising, or advertizing, is a form of communication for marketing. It is used to encourage or persuade an audience: viewers, readers or listeners, and sometimes a specific group. It aims at these people to continue what they are already doing, or to take some new action. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common. In Latin, ad vertere means "to turn the mind toward." For an excellent overview of the field go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising
Advertising delivered over the Internet by 2008, “online advertising", had become a significant source of revenue for web-based businesses. Fifty-six of the top 100 websites based on page views in February 2008 presented advertising; these 56 accounted for 86 percent of the total page views for these 100 sites. Twenty-six of these 56 sites, accounting for 77 percent of all page views for the top 100 sites, likely earn most of their revenue from selling advertising. Advertising is a significant source of revenue for many smaller websites. Online advertising is also central to the $34 billion—and rising—e-commerce economy: so we are informed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2008. Web-based sellers use online advertising to drive consumers directly to their sites where they can browse for goods and services and purchase them with a few clicks. Online advertising accounted for 8.8 percent of all advertising in the United States in 2008 (Hallerman, 2008), and that share is expected to grow over time.
Online advertising by 2011 was a burgeoning business and, in 2011, Internet advertising revenues in the United States surpassed those of cable television and nearly exceeded those of broadcast television. In 2012, Internet advertising revenues in the United States totaled $36.57 billion, a 15.2% increase over the $31.74 billion in revenues in 2011. Online advertising is widely used across virtually all industry sectors. For more on this subject go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_advertising
ADVERTISING AGE MAGAZINE
Advertising Age (or AdAge) is a magazine, delivering news, analysis and data on marketing & media. The magazine was started as a broadsheet newspaper in Chicago in 1930. Now, its content appears in a print weekly distributed around the world & on many electronic platforms, including: www.adage.com, daily e-mail newsletters called Ad Age Daily, Ad Age's Mediaworks and Ad Age Digital; weekly newsletters such as Madison & Vine (about branded entertainment) and Ad Age China; podcasts called Why It Matters and various videos. www.adage.com also features a bookstore and a number of blogs, some created by the publication's editorial team; others, such as Small Agency Diary are created by members of the Ad Age community. Among its notable columnists is Simon Dumenco as the "Media Guy". AdAge's parent company also publishes Creativity, about the creative process, which has its own website, www.creativity-online.com, featuring what its editors believe to be the best video, print and interactive ads. The site www.adcritic.com was acquired by The Ad Age Group in March 2002, and www.creativity-online.com is still reached by that domain. For more go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising_Age
MY LIFE WITH THE PRODUCTS OF THE PRINT AND ELECTRONIC MEDIA
Given the quantity of time in my life in which I have absorbed products from the print and electronic media: films and television, radios and newspapers, musak and hi-fi systems, casette tapes and videos, CDs and VCRs, DVDs and on and on goes the litany of sources---I would guesstimate a minimum of one-eighth of all the hours of my life and, perhaps, as much as a quarter---they really deserve a separate study of their own. At this website I give them that study within the limitations of space. This site has some 300 megabites of data and, if I pay more money, I can get another 100 megabites. Perhaps I will in the eighth decade of my life:2014-2024 as I feel the need to expand this site---should my readership grow.
When one sleeps and rests in bed for 12 hours a day that only leaves 12 for other activities: 1/8th of those 12 hours is just 90 minutes a day and 1/4 is 3 hours a day. Looking as far back as 1948 and my first memories--I see my guesstimation of 90 to 240 minutes on average every day being occupied with these mediums for 65 years as a reasonable assessment. Film and video, radio and TV seem to have taken over from the written word. The written word is in the form of books and journal articles, newspapers and magazines. The visual and auditory media are now the preferred narrative and analytical vehicle of our time in most people's lives in the West. Still, I spend much of my own time with the written word, on average 6 to 8 hours most days and many of those I interact with on the internet are in this same category.
The movies I have seen are entertaining but not real or, to be more accurate, they are what some theorists call secondary reality. They are surreal, hyperreal, colourful, stimulating, but not life as I live it. The various forms of art are not life; they imitate life; they analyse life; they are things to occupy our time in the context of our life. What I am writing about here raises the question: "what is life?" The reality of life, as I say in many places at this site, is thought. This idea is strongly influenced by a verse in the Bible from the Book of Proverbs chapter 23 verse 7, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The full passage, taken from the King James Version, is as follows: "Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words."
The philosopher John Dewey in 1930 reproached the publicity agent, the public relations practitioner or ‘spin doctor’ as follows: "The publicity agent is perhaps the most significant symbol of our present social life. There are individuals who resist; but, for a time at least, sentiment can be manufactured by mass methods for almost any person or cause...I should suppose that the more intelligent of those who wield the publicity agencies which produce conformity would be disturbed at beholding their own success. (John Dewey, Individualism: Old and New, New York, Minton Balch, and Co., 1930, pp. 43-86.)
"Our emotional life," Dewey wrote about the American character as he saw it in the 1920s, "is quick, excitable, undiscriminating, lacking in individuality and in direction by intellectual life. Hence the “externality and superficiality of the American soul”; it has no ultimate inner unity and uniqueness---no true personality...I shall not deny the existence of these characteristics."(Dewey, 1931:pp. 25-27)
I have been putting up posters in shop windows for more than 50 years. I have designed posters and utilized those made by others. The poster-maker, the pamphleteer and the tagger aim to sway the popular heart and mind through visual public interventions. As new technologies rise, turning the public sphere into a transparent, ubiquitous communications medium and a global marketplace, is the privileged status of the poster doomed? Are we seeing that status transformed as part of a new wave of visual rhetoric? When the environment starts to become responsive to our very presence and aware of our individual nature what is the role of the 'traditional poster?' Is that role to deliver a classical rhetorical message? There is now a peer-reviewed journal which aims to lead the debate, the discussion about the Poster.
The Poster stands as a vehicle for the ideas of media theorists; scholars of cultural studies and cultural materialism; for social psychologists of visual communication, for architects and designers of wayfinding schemes; for philosophers of aesthetics and politics, society and linguistics; for social scientists, anthropologists and ethnographers; for political campaigners and artist activists; for communications researchers and visual communications practitioners.
So many changes have taken place both in public space and private thought that the world I stepped out into in 1962 as my pioneering-traveling life began has been transformed. One mundane and in some ways trivial example in public space is described by R. Shields: “Hyper-realities are found in malls, restaurants, hotels, theme parks; in self-contained fictional cities such as Disneyland, in California, Tokyo and Paris, and Disney World, in Florida; and in real cities such as Los Angeles and Miami. All are facades woven out of collective fantasy. The original for these, of course, is Disneyland, built in the mid-1960s. It is tempting to laugh-off all of this as an amusing curiosity, but shopping malls are the most frequented urban social spaces in North America now.” They play a pivotal position in the lives of billions of consumers and are a new focus of communities.” And as one writer put it: shopping is the most creative act western man performs.
In my fifty years of putting up posters, 1963-2013, I could always rely on the shopping mall to say no to my request to put up a poster. It was an out-of-bounds zone to any kind of political or religious activity. By the 1990s even those organizing local school fund-raisers, gardening and sport events by means of the poster were not allowed to utilize the shopping mall's public space at least here in Australia.
I have no intention or interest in describing my shopping activities in malls or, indeed, in any other commerical establishments over the years, although I must have put up several thousand posters in smaller shops: newsagents, florists, hardare stores, delis, restaurants, inter alia, and had light-hearted and easy-going relationships with many a shop-keeper. I’m sure I could write a small book on my experiences putting up all those posters. And in a society which is nothing, if not a consumer society, much could be said about my shopping experiences, even if they were minimal and occupied an essentially peripheral part of my life.
In the macro-political domain in the backdrop to my life--there were a core of events which took place in the more than half a century of my pioneering and travelling experience that affected the climate of western thought. One of the more recent was in 1989, two centuries after the French Revolution, which did more than merely terminate the bipolar balance of terror that had, in many ways, kept the peace, or at least kept the world from total destruction, for the post-WW2 years; the fall of the Berlin Wall brought to an end the older ideological equilibrium and the habit-encrusted formulation of issues which went with it. The concepts my generation used to describe the world after WW2 urgently needed to be reformulated after 1989. And they have been reformulated in the last quarter century, 1989-2013, in a much more complex global community. This is not to say, of course, that everything changed in 1989. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as they say in French: the more things change the more they stay the same.
Many aspects of the world in the years 1945 to 1989 have in fact remained the same, but the tendencies in the pre-1989 years became exacerbated in the post-1989 years. One such tendency has affected shopping and shopping malls and that is the fact that: “The wealthiest and poorest people,” according to a U.N. Human Development Report of 1996, ““are living in increasingly separate worlds.” The three billion in 1945 has become seven+ billion as I write this in 2013. The hostile camps of WW2 have changed their complexions, their names, their features. There is now an increasingly large middle class that goes to shopping malls and, in the next 50 years, say, 2013 to 2063, according to some of the more optimistic prognosticators drawing on developments in China and India, the shopping mall's history has just begun to take off.-Ron Price, Tasmania
THE SEMBLANCE OF REALITY
Consequently, I am plunged into and forged by a sea of signifiers which, while stimulating my sensory and intellectual emporium, ultimately signify something approaching nothing. So much of life is like a vapour in the desert which the thirsty dreams to be water but, when he comes upon it and tries to drink of it, he finds it to be mere illusion. I am conscious of body image, but I get little sense of identity, little that I am aware of anyway, from my body. My psyche, to the extent that it is filled with electronic media products, is a void because that environment of media seems, as I gaze back on its consumption over nearly 70 years, like an abyss. My inner life, my inner world of thought and feeling, my inner narration, my inner introspection, which is created in part by that outer world, is---as Socrates said some 2500 years ago---what is worth living. For it is the examined life.
The stuff on the outside of life must be sifted through the matrix of inner thought to find out if what is taking place there is "worth living and doing." So much of it, this outside stuff is, although entertaining and occupies our time pleasantly, is like that vapour in the dsert which only looks like water, but is, in reality, depleted of significance and depth. I do not measure my life in terms of movies consumed, documentaries viewed, clothes and food purchased, although they are all part of my external life. They bring pleasure and learning, but they do not represent landmarks, turning points, significations. In a strange, somewhat sad, way, they represent points, episodes in time which occupy time, and which rest my spirit and body, provide a recoup, a retank, so that I can get on with living as I define it. We each define our lives in different ways. I do not expect all those who read this to define their lives the way I do here. To each their own---to end this theme here.
LIFE AND FOOD
I’ve never had an obsession with food, but it certainly has been a central way for me to socialize with others, to comfort friends and family and strangers, as I’m sure is the case for millions of others. I don’t want to get into the hundreds of possible stories about food: my favorites, its role in my marriages and in the Baha’i community, its preparation, inter alia. As much as I enjoy food it is not my desire to occupy this narrative with the subject of food. Recently on television one can watch, in the average year should one want to, literally hundreds of programs about food. Advertising plays a big part in determing people's eating over their life-narrative and, at a future time, i will say more on that subject here.
I would, though, like to make a very general comment on that great institution 'the family meal.' The family meal could be given an essay all to itself. But I will say one or two things about it in my life. Eating together in my family died by insensible degrees in the years before I went north of Capricorn in 1982. I have memories of the family meal for some 30 years: 1952-1982. After that time TV provided the matrix, the milieux, for eating. By 2002, the nest was empty and only my wife and I ate together and it was with the television providing a strong element of the social context. By the time I was 60 I had come to prefer the TV as context for most of my meals.
"In the factory we make cosmetics," Charles Revson of Revlon, Inc. said, "in the store we sell hope." So begins Michael Schudson's (1984), "An Anthropology of Goods," in the book Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion(New York: Basic Books, pp. 129-146). He continues: "An advertising executive told me, "We've convinced the mothers of America that they're not good mothers if they don't serve Minute Maid." Another executive, referring to AT&T's "Reach Out and Touch Someone" campaign said, "Advertising turned that instrument, a physical inanimate object, into an instrument of the heart." These are the sorts of statements, no matter how hyperbolic or self-serving, that critics of advertising seize on as the inner worm of truth in the apple of the ad industry. As I have argued, advertising as a business tool is more complicated than such claims suggest and people are more simple, and sturdy, than these visions imply. If one is to arrive at an understanding of the modern passion for goods, an examination of advertising is an essential step but it is not the first step—as marketers know very well and as social critics should learn.
The first step, it seems to me, is to gain an understanding of the role material possessions play in human lives not just in advertising-saturated societies but in any society. The next step is to try to understand the social forces that gathered in the past one hundred years to produce both the advertising industry itself and the infrastructure of a consumer society that called for and supported new attitudes toward goods and a new receptivity to advertising. Only then can advertising's role as a specific goad to sales and a general cultural encouragement toward materialism be viewed in its proper context. For more of this article go to:http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/asr/v007/7.1schudson.html
CONSUMERISM: AN OVERVIEW
Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-greater amounts. Early criticisms of consumerism are present in the works of sociologist Thorstein Veblen (1899). Veblen's subject of examination, the newly emergent middle class arising at the turn of the twentieth century, comes to fruition by the end of the twentieth century through the process of globalization. In this sense, consumerism is usually considered a part of media culture. As one popularizer of the consumer society put it, millions now get a good slice of their sense of identity from what they buy: consumero ergo sum; I buy, therefore, I am.For more of this useful overview of the subject of consumerism go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumerism
MATERIAL GOODS AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
The problem of materialism is widely recognized as a source of dissatisfaction in industrial civilization. At the same time, mass production and modern technology are also acknowledged as providing desirable standards of health, education, and physical comfort. The challenge is to develop creative, satisfying ways to live within mass production/mass consumption society. Learning to deal appropriately with material goods is important to living in accordance with Bahá’í principles of individual spiritual growth. Understanding the symbolic dimension of goods, through insights from anthropology and psychology, provides us with a way to manage our use of possessions towards this end. Objectification—the process through which physical things are imbued with meaning in a specific sociocultural context—is a key concept in this understanding. Objectification can produce alienation, in the Marxian sense; but, used properly, the capacity of things to carry meaning has the potential to assist individuals in their personal growth. Recognition of the symbolic dimension of objects is particularly critical in enabling individuals to strive for detachment in highly materialistic societies. For more of this essay go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/1.3-Poyer.pdf
"When I enter a cafe," wrote Jean-Paul Sartre, "the first thing I perceive are implements. Not things, not raw matter, but utensils: tables, seats, mirrors, glasses and saucers. Taken as a whole, they belong to an obvious order. The meaning of this ordering is an end---an end that is myself, or rather, the man in me, the consumer that I am. Such is the surface appearance of the human world." Sartre then went on to describe the cafe topsy-turvy.-Ron Price with thanks to Jean-Paul Sartre in The Café Irreal, Issue 20.
"When I enter a café, as I do several cafes once a month; and when I enter chemists, bakeries, hair-dressers, delis and a wide assortment of commercial and business establishments also on a monthly basis, the first thing I perceive is a very general scene, not things but some arrangement, some order, a sort of framework of colour and form--taken as a whole. The end of the exercise that entering these establishments is a part of is not myself, is not a consumer wanting to buy an item in the shop but, rather, a connection with the shop-keeper or shop-assistant in such a way that they accept from me a poster. The surface appearance of the human world, as it exists when I am putting up my posters, is like a dream, a computer game, a vapour in the desert, an illusion of material forms, through which I move and which I could describe in detail, somewhat topsy-turvy should I desire.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 29 November 2006
There's a topsy-turvyness to it all.
I remember the first time back in,
what was it, '64, '65 or even '66?
That's forty years of running about
from shop to shop and mail-box to
mail-box. There'll be no celebration,
no party for the 40 years, no one
will pat me on the back, but they
might think me a bit odd, curious.
One does a lot of walking and talking
going in and out, along and around.
Conversations get struck-up like the
drop of a hat and words fall like rain
all over town.....I tell you---it creates
quite a storm once a month: hundreds
of dollars worth of advertising for free.
There must be 10,000 posters & fliers
spread across two continents in the
first half century of the tenth stage
of history in which I have lived, and
moved and had my being in my young,
middle and late adulthood: a thread of
growing old & leaving traces which shall
last forever: I trust, so I believe, such is
my assumption as I pass this way-Earth.
29 November 2006 to 22 December 2011
ADVERTISING AND OUR PERSONAL LIFE-NARRATIVES
Writing in the mid-1990s, Smith and Watson(1) address the prevalence of personal narratives in everyday life. Advertising aims to get inside our personal narratives, to become part of our personal life stories. The products of adverting are communicated via diverse means: on the body, on the air, in music, in print and electronic media, at meetings: the venues have become multiple. While emphasizing that occasions for confessional storytelling are multiple, Smith and Watson argue that narrators create historically specific personal histories by assembling fragments of the identities and narrative forms that the culture makes available. Smith and Watson concentrate on how consumers from all strata of American culture are eager both to construct their own narratives and to learn about the life stories that other people tell. Smith and Watson argue that postmodern America is culturally obsessed with getting a life, with sharing it and advertising it to others, with consuming the lives of others.
The lives we consume from the print and electronic media and from other people we know in our personal lives, these writers argue, are translated into our own lives, into story, into some personal narrative that is our own. One of the characteristics of much of postmodern literature, and this is certainly true of this autobiographical piece I am writing here, is the complex relationship between the author and his/her main character. Readers, therefore, who want to translate this work into their own lives may find the process somewhat complex.
Smith and Watson also discuss the contrast between ‘official’ autobiographies and ‘personal’ versions that subvert or contradict the authorized versions. This enables consumers, say Smith and Watson, "to align the privatized consciousness” of autobiographers, conveyed in those narratives with the identities of those same autobiographers created and experienced in the public sphere. These disparate personal histories with their contradictions and misalignments are part of the storyteller's attempt to "get a life,” part of autobiographical narrators positioning themselves as the agents of the stories they tell. Post-modernism in its various forms developed in the last century tends to ask: "What is the point of trying to decipher the book of life when there is no longer any authorised version? Who needs to set out on life’s journey if the very idea of progress has already been shown up as a fraud? How much easier it is to select an off the identity-peg from your local cultural supermarket, than undergo the laborious task of learning a new role or writing a new script." I think we are all caught up in this movement of post-modernism. The Baha'i does have some identity-pegs to give him or her a broad framework and the notion of progress is certainly central to any authorized version of life.
THE INTEGRATION OF OUR LIFE-NARRATIVE
The canonical form of the post-modernist life story is the TV chat show or even radio interview. The subjects' achievements are briefly summarised and a few flattering and sometimes unflattering questions are asked. The personality in question takes centre stage to hold forth about their latest projects and the meaning of life in a lot of well-chosen sometimes clichéd phrases, sometimes entertaining words, sometimes quite amazing lives. This is do-it-yourself-hagiography inflated for a mass audience, with the interviewer as a willing accomplice. Even the This is Your Life programme with its genuflections towards the book of life and a bildungsroman follows essentially the same lines.
What the post-modernisers are in fact proposing is not so much life as a movie, but as a TV soap opera. In the soap opera we have a number of highly condensed narratives which develop simultaneously and are only externally and contingently related by the dramatic unities of place and time. The model points us towards a life world composed of a shifting mosaic of fragmentary selves linked by ever-changing and transient configurations of meaning. However tragic the situations or outcomes the conflicts which engender them are only temporality resolved because there is never any ending. There is no basis, no code, from which the disparate elements of a life history could be integrated, evaluated or measured, except some broad plurlaisitic and humanistic secularism. We are presented with an image of life as a series of loose ends, but only to tantalise us and tie us in knots around the expectation of a final denouement which never comes. The message at the end of every episode is simply to be continued next week. The show, like life, must go on.
FRAMING MY LIFE-NARRATIVE
There is an element of personal control that often appeals to speakers who have stories to share, but would be impossible to convey, would be considered culturally unspeakable, for a host of reasons. In the telling of unrecited and unrecitable narratives such as histories of child abuse, spouse battering, interracial marriage, homosexuality, alcoholism, mental illness, and disability, inter alia, the narrators, as witnesses, reframe what is regarded as unspeakable or simply too difficult to speak about and open up new ways to speak about their personal battles.
Autobiographical narrators, whatever their stories, often connect with others in new ways as well, especially when their stories resonate with the stories of people in a comparable and compatible group or what might be called a “community of secret knowers.” In these ways, Smith and Watson contend, narratives provide a way to intervene in postmodern life, and the narrators "can facilitate changes in the mapping of knowledge and ignorance, of what is speakable or unspeakable, of what is disclosed or masked, alienating or communally bonding.” Perhaps we need to look as closely as we can at the sheer variety of ways lives are told and lived.
The most important accomplishments, the saddest or most tragic experiences, the happiest periods in my life, the how I survived stories, the most revealing sequences, the most funny anecdotes, all of these litter the pages of autobiographies, some like trophies, some like confessionals, some to entertain. I’m not sure I could list any of my experiences in the top ten. I think what surprises me most about it all is that I am here to tell the story. What surprises me, too, because I forget its reality is that we do not have direct access to the thoughts of other people. We have to infer the working of other minds from surface phenomena such as speech, body language, behavior, and action. R. D. Laing put the point vividly: “your experience of me is invisible to me and my experience of you is invisible to you. I cannot experience your experience. You cannot experience my experience. We are both invisible men. All men are invisible to one another. Experience is man’s invisibility to man.” Autobiography takes down the wall of invisibility, at least partly.
(1) Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001.
THE SENSE OF CERTITUDE
By the time I graduated from university in 1966 at the age of 21 I owned two LP albums. One was given to me by my mother after my father’s death in May 1965. The LP was Handel ’s Messiah. That LP was symbolic of the classical music influences from my parents in the years of my life from 1944 to 1966. The other LP I bought in the late summer of 1965 or early autumn, the first weeks of my final year at university in an honours sociology course. The album was Barrie McGuire’s The Eve of Destruction. On 25 September 1965 the song went to #1 on the charts while the LP topped at #37.
Tonight, in the last hour of the year 2007, I heard some of this song as part of an ABC TV special California Dreamin’: The Songs of the Mamas and the Papas. I got a hit of nostalgia or perhaps more accurately an excitation of the nerves, a movement, an awakening, an increase of feelings in my heart1 and so wrote this prose-poem. -Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV: 10:50-11:45 p.m. 31/12/’07, California Dreamin’: The Songs of the Mamas and the Papas; and 1Shoghi Effendi, Letter to an Individual Believer,” 4 November 1937 in Baha’i Writings on Music: A Compilation, Baha’i Publishing Trust, Oakham, England.
All these songs lingered
on the edges of my life
and even penetrated into
the core from time to time
from those halcyon days
of the fifties to the seventies.
Clive James and Peter Porter, in their discussion of 'books of the forties and fifties,’ talked about music, classical and other, taking over from literature in the last half of the twentieth century in providing that sense of certitude, although irrational and essentially appealing to the emotions, that people felt a need for in their lives. Among the many topics they talked about relevant to music and poetry--my own interests--was the decline of ideology after WW2 and into the 1950s as well as the role that Alexander Solzenitsyn's books played in the fifties, sixties and seventies in providing an important ingredient in the residue of ideology insofar as the Left was concerned, as fascism had done insofar as the Right was concerned in the two previous decades.
A reservoir of skepticism in the west, and especially in England, returned the centre of poetry to the individual and away from its expression and interest in the general society in those same years. I have often thought with some other analysts of poetry that advertising and sociology became in the post-WW2 period new forms of poetry. -Ron Price with thanks to "Clive James and Peter Porter," Sunday Special, ABC Radio, 5:30-6:00 p.m., 2 December, 2001.
As ideology wound down in the fifties,
the sixties and seventies, we began to
grow and grow all over, unobtrusively.
So it is that I've spent my adult life
with people who have no ideology,
plenty of convictions and passionate
intensity all too much of it, but no
ideological centre—the centre did
not hold and that mere anarchy was
loosed upon the land as well as that
blood-dimmed tide drowning that1
ceremony of innocence, if innocence
it was, if innocence it be, back then.
People made homes for their minds—
reading novels, listening to music,
watching TV, working in the garden,
absolutely no interest in going to meetings--
except to learn macrame, lead lighting and--
inevitable work-associated special planning
sessions at 8 p.m. or 8 am or noon instead of
lunch--or a new course, or something at uni,
or a movie, or a volunteer job where ideology
was not desired, contemplated or required.
For ideology did not grab anyone anymore
and religious ideology became the no-no
among no-no's--amidst endless subjectivity.
Superficial and not-so-superficial pragmatism
had made everyone into practical realists,
enjoying as far as they were able the complex
juxtapositions of pleasures and disenchantments
thrown up on the shore of their life-worlds.
And slowly, yes slowly, a new ideology,
a new dogma, grew until it came to manifest
an attractive form, a gentle beauty all around
the world with holy dust at the centre--and
a slow greening of people from that desolate
garden of arid and unholy disenchantment.2
1 From a poem by W. B. Yeats quoted in thousands of places.
2 The Baha'i Faith spread slowly, unobtrusively around the world as Barry McGuire and The Mamas and the Papas grew to young adulthood and finally into old age. Music helped, as Peter Porter and Clive James pointed out above in their discussion. I immensely enjoyed these musical artists; they enriched my centre—but they, nor music as an art form, were never the centre. Music, it seems to me, is essentially non-ideological. Of course, it can be used by ideology for its purposes and has been for millennia.
2 December 2001
FOUR BOOKS IN FOUR EPOCHS: ALL IN 1962.
The year I began my travelling-pioneering life and the year before I took my first course in sociology with its complex theories----sociologist and culture theorist, Jürgen Habermas published his The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere(1962). Habermas was, then, a student of the Frankfurt School of Social Research-which since the 1930s had been advancing a Marxist critique of western capitalism and its discontents. Habermas wrote The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962) to explore the status of public opinion in the practice of representative government in Western Europe. Habermas defined the public sphere as a virtual or imaginary community which does not necessarily exist in any identifiable space. In its ideal form, the public sphere is "made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state.” -Ron Price with appreciation to Jurgen Habermas, op.cit., p.176.
Through acts of assembly and dialogue, the public sphere generates opinions and attitudes which serve to affirm or challenge and, therefore to guide, the affairs of state. In ideal terms, the public sphere is the source of public opinion needed to "legitimate authority in any functioning democracy" -Ron Price with thanks to Paul Rutherford, Endless Propaganda: The Advertising of Public Good, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2000, p.18.
1962 WAS A BIG YEAR
In that same year, 1962, I was 18 and my family moved to a nearby town. I did my matriculation studies and Jacques Ellul echoed Habermas' concern in his Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes(1962). Ellul's term "the propaganda of integration" included biased newscasts, misinformation and political education which worked over time to shape the individual to suit the needs of social mechanisms. Ellul argued that propaganda is necessary in a democracy, even though it can create zombies of its citizens. "Propaganda is needed in the exercise of power for the simple reason that the masses have come to participate in political affairs."
In 1962 Herbert Marcuse was finishing his One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. This book analyzed the new "voice of command" used by managers, educators, experts, and politicians. This style of address, appropriated from advertising, had a hypnotic effect, argued Marcuse. The syntax of this speech and writing is abridged and condensed, giving the language more directness and assertiveness; it uses an emphatic concreteness, constant use of "you" and "your," and endlessly repeats images to fix them in people's minds. This style of rhetoric in Marcuse's terms creates the "one-dimensional" citizen, incapable of protest or refusal. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, April 7th 2006.
TEACHING AND STUDYING ADVERTISING
The theatre, advertising, media ownership, the study of news and the electronic media were aspects of media studies that were rarely an important part of any syllabi I taught. In the Media Studies courses I taught in Ballarat Australia at the then College of Advanced Education in the years 1976 to 1978, advertising and media ownership were important parts of the syllabi. This was also true in Perth Western Australia at a technical and further education college, now a polytechnic, in the Media Studies program I taught in the early 1990s. I kept some notes from both those courses. By 2014, some 20 years after I taught my last Media Studies course, most of the resources that I had acquired in my files, and that I had access to in the literature were obtained after I retired from teaching in 1999. They came from the internet.
During the years 1944 to 2014 technology had widened the visual and auditory experience. The resources provided by this technology on the topics of news and advertising, inter alia, is in some ways a celebration of those 70 years. The enrichment provided by the print and electronic media is incalculable. In some ways, too, an appreciation and understanding of advertising, without which much of the visual experience would not have been possible, is crucial.