Tag Archives: Douglas Rushkoff

Edge: Jaron Lanier – The Local-Global Flip

Via Edge:

We used to think that information is power and that the personal computer enabled lives. But, according to Jaron Lanier, things changed about ten years ago. He cites Apple, Google, and Walmart as some of the reasons.

In a freewheeling hour-long conversation, Lanier touches on, and goes beyond the themes he launched in his influential 2006 Edge essay “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism.” What he terms “The Local-Global Flip” might be better expressed as “The Lanier Effect“.

Some excerpts from the transcript:

“The Apple idea is that instead of the personal computer model where people own their own information, and everybody can be cheap ray bans a creator as well as a consumer, we’re moving towards this iPad, iPhone model where it’s not as adequate for media creation as the real media creation tools, and even though you can become a seller over the network, you have to pass through Apple’s gate to accept what you do, and your chances of doing well are very small, and it’s not a person to person thing, it’s a business through a hub, through Apple to others, custom jerseys and it doesn’t create a middle class, it creates a new kind of upper class. … Google has done something that might even be more destructive of the middle class, which is they’ve said, “Well, since Moore’s law makes computation really cheap, let’s just give away the computation, but keep the data.” And that’s a disaster.

… If we enter into the kind of world that Google likes, the world that Google wants, it’s a world where information is copied so much on the Internet that nobody knows where it came from anymore, so there can’t be any rights of authorship. However, you need a big search engine to even figure out what it is or find it. They want a lot of chaos that they can have an ability to undo. … when you have copying on a network, you throw out information because you lose the provenance, and then you need a search engine to figure it out again. That’s part of why Google can exist. Ah, the perversity of it all just gets to me.

… What Wal-Mart recognized is that information is power, and by using network information, you could consolidate extraordinary power, and so have information about what could be made where, when, what could be moved where, when, who would buy what, when for how much? By coalescing all of that, and reducing the unknowns, they were able to globalize their point of view so they were no longer a local player, but they essentially became their own market, and that’s what information can do. The use of networks can turn you from a local player in a larger system into your own global system.

… The reason this breaks is that there’s a local-global flip that happens. When Cheap Jerseys you start to use an information network to concentrate information and therefore power, you benefit from a first arrival effect, and from some other common network effects that make it very hard for other people to come and grab your position. And this gets a little detailed, but it was very hard for somebody else to copy Wal-Mart once Wal-Mart had gathered all the information, because once they have the whole world aligned by the information in their server, they created essentially an expense or a risk for anybody to jump out of that system. That was very hard. … Checkout In a similar way, once you are a customer of Google’s ad network, the moment that you stop bidding for your keyword, you’re guaranteeing that your closest competitor will get it. It’s no longer just, “Well, I don’t know if I want this slot in the abstract, and who knows if a competitor or some entirely unrelated party will get it.” Instead, you have to hold on to your ground because suddenly every decision becomes strategic for you, and immediately. It creates a new kind of glue, or a new kind of stickiness achat cialis ordonnance.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

… It Cheap Jerseys From China can become such a bizarre system. What you have now is a system in which the Internet user becomes the product that is being sold to others, and what the product is, is the ability to be manipulated. It’s an anti-liberty system, and I know that the rhetoric around it is very contrary to that.

Visit the Edge site to read a response by Douglas Rushkoff.
Rushkoff also has a related piece at CNN: Are jobs obsolete?

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PBS Frontline: The Persuaders

A worthwhile episode of PBS Frontline from 2004 (video at the end):

In “The Persuaders,” Frontline explores how the cultures of marketing and advertising have come to influence not only what Americans buy, but also how they view themselves and the world around them. The 90-minute documentary draws on a range of experts and observers of the advertising/marketing world, to examine how, in the words of one on-camera commentator, “the principal of democracy yields to the practice of demography,” as highly customized messages are delivered to a smaller segment of the market.

Each year, legions of ad people, copywriters, market researchers, pollsters, consultants, and even linguists—most of whom work for one of six giant companies—spend billions of dollars and millions of man-hours trying to determine how to persuade consumers what to buy, whom to trust, and what to think. Increasingly, these techniques are migrating to the high-stakes arena of politics, shaping policy and influencing how Americans choose their leaders.

Take the 2004 presidential sweepstakes for example. Both the Republicans and the Democrats were prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to custom craft their messages. “What politicians do is tailor their message to each demographic group,” says Peter Swire, professor of law at Ohio State University and an expert on Internet policy. “That means Americans will live in different virtual universes. What’s wrong with living in different universes? You never confront the other side. You don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable facts that go against your worldview… It hardens the partisanship that’s been such a feature of recent American politics.” The program analyzes the 2004 campaign where, for the first time, the latest techniques in narrowcasting were put into effect. The antithesis of traditional broadcasting, narrowcasting involves crafting and delivering tailored messages to individual voters based on their demographic profiles.

Political marketers are just now discovering new ways to use the techniques that have long been employed by the private sector. Frontline visits Acxiom, the largest data mining company in the world, where vast farms of computers hold detailed information about nearly every adult in America. Data mining, a practice that predicts likely behavior based on factors such as age, income, and shopping habits, has been the gold standard of commercial advertisers. Acxiom promises its clients a better way to target their messages to individual consumers.
Douglas Rushkoff (wikimedia)
“There is an age-old anxiety among advertisers that they are wasting their money, that they cannot know whom they are reaching and with what impact,” says Douglas Rushkoff, who collaborated with Dretzin and Goodman on Frontline’s “The Merchants of Cool,” which examined the process by which corporate conglomerates have co-opted teen culture in order to capture the multibillion-dollar adolescent market. But Rushkoff predicts, “Anxiety is giving way to a confidence that they will soon have access to the core emotional needs of nearly every American shopper and voter.”

There is, however, a paradox. While the techniques of the persuaders have become more sophisticated, consumers have never been more resistant to marketing messages. Yet today, advertisements fill up nearly every available inch of the landscape.

“You cannot walk down the street without being bombarded,” advertising writer Bob Garfield says. “You go to fill your gas tank and you look at the pump and you’re seeing news headlines in advertising. You go into the bathroom and you look in the urinal and you’re staring at an ad. You look up at the sky and there’s skywriting.” This clutter creates a dilemma for advertisers, Garfield observes. “The advertisers know they need to have more and more advertising to get an ever narrower slice of your attention,” he says. “And that means we are going to be ever more inundated. And then of course ever more resistant, requiring ever more advertising, making us ever more resistant and so on.”

But clever marketers have found ways of overcoming the clutter conundrum. As television viewers have found ways of avoiding ads by using personal video recorders like Tivo, advertisers have responded by becoming a part of the program through sophisticated product placement. The documentary follows this new trend in advertising known as “branded entertainment.” Rather than marketing products around a TV show or other entertainment vehicle, industry insiders predict the future will bring a seamless blend of marketing and entertainment. Producers are already moving in that direction.

Some industry leaders claim that such tactics have evolved in response to consumer preference. But others worry that as advertising becomes more deeply integrated into television, movies, and music, those cultural forms will become ever more homogenous. “The worry is not so much that the actual ads themselves will become ubiquitous,” says media critic Mark Crispin Miller. “Rather, it’s that advertising desires for itself a background that will not contradict it… The aim here is not so much to find a show that people like and then get your ads on it. The aim here is for the advertisers to create a show that is itself an extended ad.”

As consumers grow more cynical toward marketing claims, the persuasion industries are developing and refining techniques to reinforce an emotional attachment between Americans and the brands they buy. “What consumers want now is an emotional connection—they want to be able to connect with what’s behind the brand, what’s behind the promise,” says Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising. “The brands that can move to that emotional level, that can create loyalty beyond reason, are going to be the brands where premium profits lie.”

Douglas Atkin, a partner at advertising agency Merkley + Partners, goes even further, comparing the brand loyalty that companies are trying to create to the passionate zeal once enjoyed only by cultists and religious fanatics. “I’ve interviewed people who are brand loyalists of Saturn Car Company,” Atkin says, “and they will use the same vocabulary as someone who is a cult member of Hare Krishna. They will say that other car users need to be `saved,’ or that they are part of the `Saturn family’ with no hint of irony. [They] absolutely and completely believe it.”

Although some brands have been more successful than others in making the magic connection to consumers, the techniques the marketers are developing are startling and include the hiring of anthropologists, ethnographers, linguists, and brain researchers to plumb our unconscious desires and urges so as to better influence our decision making.

But there is reason to wonder if these emotional connections are real. Says author Naomi Klein, “When you listen to brand managers talk, you can get quite carried away in this idea that they actually are fulfilling these needs that we have for community and narrative and transcendence. But in the end it is…a laptop and a pair of running shoes. And they might be great, but they’re not actually going to fulfill those needs.”

Correspondent Rushkoff observes: “We Americans value our freedom of choice—choice in the marketplace of goods, and choice in what has become a marketplace of ideas. When the same persuasion industry is engaged to influence these very different kinds of decision-making, it’s easy for our roles as consumers and our roles as citizens to get blurred. By revealing some of the most effective practices of the persuasion business, we may better understand our choices and perhaps make wiser ones.”

The video below streams from archive.org. Another way to watch is via the PBS link at the start.

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Update: Superbrands’ success fuelled by sex, religion and gossip (BBC News)

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Clash of Clans Online Hack and Cheat

The Internet And Politics

A couple of weeks ago Edge started an interesting discussion on the possible effects of the internet on politics, both in democracies as well as authoritarian regimes, called “Digital Power and its Discontents“. The theme is summarized as follows:

The dreams of network utopians vs. the realists. Is the Internet is a medium of emancipation and of revolution — or a tool of control and repression? Did Twitter and Facebook help stoke the flames of rebellion in Iran, or did they help the authorities unmask the rebels?

Commentators include Evgeny Morozov, Clay Shirky, Jaron Lanier, Douglas Rushkoff, George Dyson, Nicholas Carr and Rebecca Mackinnon.

The discussion seems especially relevant with the recent controversy with regards to Facebook privacy which grabbed the attention of some politicians. The other day Edge added some more reactions to the discourse on its site.

Update20101026: Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted (The New Yorker)