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媒体与艺术 | culture | 미디어와 예술

Advertising Does Work

Reading Time: 2 minutes

ICA ticket - Paris is Burning ticket

I went to see Paris Is Burning at the ICA with my friend Taey. Paris is Burning is a documentary about the ballroom culture of the New York gay and transgender community. The documentary covered the history of balls, a gathering poor, usually black working-class gays, from a procession of drag queens aping showgirls and stars from the golden age of cinema. It then evolved with the mass media to copy popular soaps and the super model phenomena.

You could watch it four times and still see new material that you could be written about. The three things that stuck out at me from this showing:

Advertising does work

Anybody who doubts the power of traditional advertising cannot help but be swayed by the way that fashion magazine print advertisements were fetishcised and copied by ball attendees.

Television: the drug of the nation

I was amazed by how powerful soap operas were in creating an image of what these poor people thought was an ordinary life. I am not talking about EastEnders, but Dallas and Dynasty. They got their rules from watching Dynasty, they knew that a woman always take bags out with them when they are gong to dinner.

Cargo cults come West

The 1980s were all about materialism and money, but I was really struck by the ritualisation of consumer patterns with a gay man acting out a print Ralph Lauren ad, complete with riding hat, jodphurs and a tweed jacket reminded me of the Cargo Cults, just substitute Prince Phillip for Ralph Lauren or Christian Dior and the jungles of Papua New Guinea for tenements and project high-rise blocks in Harlem.

It wasn’t just adverts that were replicated at the ball, but high profile jobs like a suitcase-totting executives or a soldier.

The ritualism combined with the aspirations of the balls participants to get out of their current situation and become wealthy and famous sealed my image of the balls as a cargo cult.

Their aspirations also mirrored the aspirations of Big Brother and Pop Idol participants, making me reexamine the current cult of celebrity in the same way.

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书评 | oprah time | 서평

The Dream Machine by M Mitchel Waldrop

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Why did I read The Dream Machine? History is important. It inspires us and it informs us about the present and we can learn about it to shape the future. I was inspired to work in PR for the technology sector by Robert X Cringely’s book Accidential Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can’t Get a Date.

Cringely inspired me with a tale of extraordinary people, strong personalities and a bit of youth rebellion. Cringely touched on the contribution of early pioneers like Doug Engelbert and Bob Metcalfe, but placed most of his emphasis on Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

John Markoff’s What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry covered the earlier generation of innovators in more depth, particularly Engelbart.

The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal tells the story from the point-of-view of J C R Linklder, a polymath who was instrumental in putting in place a lot of the projects and infrastructure that was needed to make the necessary developments. Linklider was a psychologist by training who realised the power and potential of technology way before it was possible.

Waldrop tells the story well, painting Licklider as a human being: a wonderful polymath, parent, researcher and a useless manager. He also paints the broader historical picture taking in ARPA, DEC, Xerox PARC, Al Gore and the Information Superhighway. More technology related posts here.

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术语定义 | jargon watch | 용어의 정의

Jargon Watch: Cyberchondriacs

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Thanks to my colleague Jasmine Chng for flagging this up: Harris Interactive came up with the new demographic definition “Cyberchondriacs”.

A Cyberchondriac is someone who go online to learn about physician conditions and symptoms as a first line of medical advice ahead of visiting their GP (family doctor in US English) and research potential treatments.

They now represent 84% of all online adults.

In the UK, with NHS Direct and the long time (two weeks isn’t unusual) it can take to get a doctor’s appointment, I think it is less about cyberchondria and more about cyber health self-service.