Stay Free! | August 12, 2003
stay.free at verizon.net
Tue Aug 12 23:23:05 EDT 2003
It's been ages since I did an update so here are some things I've
been thinking about when I'm not thinking of the new Stay Free...
From the Wall Street Journal:
"Six Degrees of Exploitation? New Programs Help Companies 'Mine'
It's the evil anti-Friendster! New software allows companies to
harvest the personal relationships of their employees, using
Orwellian-sounding tools like the "Relationship Mining Engine." I
suppose it was inevitable. I've always been a little suspicious of
the academic study of social networking for this very reason. Many
scholars who analyze email forwards and web log files have only the
best intentions: to help indie media spread "virally." Still, this
kind of knowledge may ultimately be more beneficial to businesses
than do-gooders for the simple fact that businesses are more likely
to find more uses for it, uses that aren't hindered by a concern with
their effect on people.
There's been lots of press lately about flash mobs, those organized
efforts to get masses of people to meet for a few minutes in a
designated public location for no reason at all. My friend Bill
organized the first flash mob here in New York, but there are plenty
of precedents. For example, the Cacophony Society (in various
incarnations) amasses huge crowds of people dressed as brides to
parade through cities across the US.
The Madagascar Institute recently organized a two-minute musical in
front of the New York Public Library; participants conspired to meet
on the street and, at a precise time, erupted "spontaneously" into
song. And then there's Chenguin, an enormous creature--half chicken,
half penguin--occasionally summoned to appear with a large posse in
busy NYC intersections.
Personally, I'd much rather happen across Chenguin or his cousin
Chixon (half chicken, half Richard Nixon) than a flash mob. I've seen
more than my share of mobs, thank you. Inexplicable crowds are
generally not something that gives one pause in New York. (Bill is
quite savvy about this and, as his MOB Project has grown, his
original concept has grown and become much more elaborate.) But
what's interesting about flash mobs is not the events themselves but
their extraordinary popularity. Since launching in New York last
June, mob projects have spread across North America to Italy,
Germany, and beyond. "The latest craze from the United States has hit
Europe with (random) vengeance," writes the EU Observer.
So why have simple flash mobs exploded virally, unlike the more
ambitious projects? The fact that tons of media people participated
in the first mob certainly didn't hurt. But my guess is that flash
mobs took off precisely because they're less ambitious; they take
less effort. But who knows. I'll leave this for the contagious media
experts to analyze.
Comrade Alexandra sent me this LA Times Magazine article over a year
ago about America's supersizing of everything from meals to sports
heroes to cars and homes. An excellent historical overview of
Here's a fine article based on Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber's
great new book, _Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in
Bush's War on Iraq_:
"Trading on fear: From the start, the invasion of Iraq was seen in
the US as a marketing project. Selling 'Brand America' abroad was an
abject failure; but at home, it worked...."
Editor, Stay Free!
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