Thursday, April 11, 2002

A couple of reasons

Well, I was away at NAB this week, hence my relative silence. Also, it is Tax deadline day on Monday for those of us privileged to work in the USA (or to work overseas and pay US taxes).
As a tea-drinking Englishman in the US who can't vote, the cry of 'no taxation without representation' comes to mind at this time of year...

Great Gonzo reading in an article that shows how you can model human behaviour with the right assumptions (people are different; they have disparate friendship groups).

Gonzo Comment

I sure hope this blog is getting read, because while Gonzo Marketing surely struck a chord with most here, it still needs explication in the world beyond. To wit - I don't seem to have gotten the whole church-and-state, renaissance guild, "Slate" concept across to TCS columnist James Miller with this post (the earliest on 4/10; see his comment). Anyone who feels like chiming in is most welcome. (And, anyone who feels like giving me a clue as to why my permalinks still point to several posts at at time, instead of just one - even though I've applied Phil Ringnalda's fix - gets a virtual hug.)

I'm no fan

Hey Tom--good post. I've found that talk is thin everywhere this week. It's spring break here in GA--maybe other places too? We gotta come up with a gonzo publicity stunt or something.

As for Office Depot, I hate them for another reason. I once ordered two printer cartridges from their online store (is that still in biz?) that they never delivered, that showed a deliver status on their site of "On the Truck" for more than four months, and that they NEVER credited me for. So I can't take my business anywhere else because I already have. See ya at Staples!


Bye Bye Office Depot

Is anybody reading this blog anymore?

I wanted to broadcast my bitch against the office supply giant to a wider audience than that of my personal blog, but judging from the paucity of posts here lately, I'm wondering if this an exercise in futility. My initial thought was that maybe everyone had defected to blogtank, but the discussion's been almost as thin over there. Maybe everybody's on spring break, or recovering therefrom?

Anyway, to anyone who might still be out there, here is my Office Depot rant:

If you enjoy the new, highly intelligent, quality cop show--The Shield--on FX, you might want to join me in withdrawing your patronage of Office Depot--in the event you're a customer. I've been buying from them for years and it pains me to change my habits. But I feel that I have no choice when they've been so stupid and prudish as to have withdrawn their advertising from such an outstanding show.

If young children were their target, I could accept it. But what's more adult than office supplies? Bye, Bye. See you at Staples

if you'd like to express your displeasure at their stupid move, you can write to the following:

Jocelyn Carter-Miller
Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Bruce Nelson

Office Depot Corporate Support Center
2200 Old Germantown Road
Delray Beach, FL 33445

Sunday, April 07, 2002

We create the possibility of community simply by calling it thus.

It is an act of assertion, as much as the assertion of equal rights (of equality under God or the Law) is an act of assertion. To declare oneself a sovereign individual is an act of assertion.

Whenever we say "we" then we create the possibility of community.

Paradoxically, only an *I* can say "we" - but this I won't let that stop us. For in the agreement, in the answering "oui", the "we" is made real. And only two are required to form an agreement.

All of language is about agreement, the symbols must have common meaning to be honestly useful.

One can declare oneself responsible but only in agreement with others can one be made accountable. Only in agreement with others on fundamental symbols can the declaration of responsibility have any meaning beyond the individual, i.e. have communal meaning. This is a necessary antecedent.

Perhaps the most visceral objection to much of what passes for marketing is the abuse of established symbols to convey errant (and often enough deliberately so) meanings:

"Buy our minty fresh toothpaste and you'll get screwed!"

This is of course the formula for most advertising: "Buy product-X" and "You'll get screwed!" are conveyed as Cause and Effect.

This is why BMW sponsors James Bond movies.

The unintended honesty of the formula (the secondary meaning of "getting screwed") is simply one of lifes little ironies.

"Voice" as I see it used here is a synonym for honest communication, speech without hidden agenda or antagonistic interest in a particular outcome. It is communication that one trusts to use agreed symbols honestly, and thus it is speech that reveals our commonality, which is our humanity and all that this entails. It must do, since we are human and if we communicate honestly this will be revealed in our voices.

It is a glaring contrast to the attempts of artifical legal constructs through marketing to presume to human qualities which they not only do not and can not possess but to which they are often in direct opposition.

It stands in similar contrast against individuals who make pretense (deliberate deceit, again) of having inhuman qualities of inerrancy, of goodness, of infallibility, or perfection. Some of our current crop of politicians spring to mind. (Why should that be so? Could it be that marketing and politics are becoming the same cynical practice of deliberate deceit?)

Although Gonzo Marketing may be completely wrong about communities and their effects on marketing as an art and a science, it is equally possible that the practitioners of traditional marketing methods and measures may also be completely wrong about the longevity and significance of communities.

I could care less about their simplifying assumptions; I value the communities I've become part of on the 'net, and I know what I spend on them in terms of time, effort, intelligence, emotion, and yes, money, and whatever else you want to mention or measure.

President Gas is up for President - The Psychedelic Furs in prophetic mode, 80's style.
(I've been taking the advice of my memetic cleansing advisor.)

Tom does it again

Tom, this is a beautiful look at a well-thought-out piece by Shirky. I never made it a secret that I think Clay and the gonzo believers approach things from different points in the universe--him from the outside in and us from the inside out. That analysis doesn't lend answers to all of the questions and unknown potential of the net drives Clay into deeper analysis, where he seeks answers to unfathomable quandries, while we, on the other hand, tumble within the vastness and connectedness of the net, open to and welcoming to a reality skewed.

So, Tom, in addition to saying you offer an amazing take on this topic, I also say to you, thank you for finally giving some meaning to the allied title of my blog:

"There are souls in the world whom one will never meet or know, but to whom one - we - are allied by something far more binding than overt modes of human interaction, or possibly even common ties of language, country, or religion."

Yah, that's what I meant when I named it.

coup de des

Dave Rogers points to a new piece by Clay Shirky that addresses some of the issues bandied about a while ago on this blog when Clay was still in evidence. But he takes a somewhat different tack, beginning from some math models to distinguish his notion of community from passive, anonymous large audences.

Shirky is pretty adamantly convinced that there is a numerical death sentence upon the life of a community - which he defines as groups whose members actively communicate with one another. He also appears to think that viral communication occurs not within or between communities themselves, but flow from communities to mass media back to communities. He therefore does not see the phenomenon of blogging as a means of overcoming the "great divide" between communities and audience.

I think any effort to understand changes to mass media resulting from technology needs to get past Clay, who stands like Cerberus at hell's door, wagging his three heads, two of them filled with math and frightfully excellent logic. The third head might be his heel of Achilles, as it were. It's where he seems immune to the possibility that something other than active connectedness is necessary for full-fledged community. There are souls in the world whom one will never meet or know, but to whom one - we - are allied by something far more binding than overt modes of human interaction, or possibly even common ties of language, country, or religion. The wild-ass wager of gonzo might just be that "we" create communities through "voice" and that these ties do create possibilities of large-scale social networks that defy the very high odds he lays out for us so well.