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Archive for March, 2012

Messenger as Message

March 19, 2012 1 comment

Who brings the message bears the message. On the shoulders of the person who delivers a message we place a keen sense of perspective. Do we believe this person’s claim? How does what this one person says relate to what we already believe? While we may assume we greet new information with objective curiosity, we respond with far my subjective consideration that we care to admit.

Is it a means of protection that we disregard figures who challenge our sense of norms? If a speaker dresses unusually or a writer loads his text with profanity is an added level of scrutiny warranted? In judging a source of info we unfairly impose judgment on the information provided by a source. Information cannot be purely objective but the unique qualities of the source that provides us with information too often cloud our interpretation. Data is data.

Two recent stories showcase how a source of information influences our interpretation. In both the Kony 2012 and Mike Davies incidents we see the speaker’s actions determining public reaction. Both cases show how a speaker’s behavior can dramatically affect the information a source provides. With the (potential) downfall of both speakers the information sinks with the ship, advocates must bear in mind that they carry their message with their reputation and, once tarnished, unfairly risk public response.

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One’s Tools of Self Dismay

March 6, 2012 Leave a comment

The human home is a collective space of stuff. Contained within its walls are the collected items of existence. All tools relate to life in distinct formats: some tools exist to preserve human life while others function on the lesser level of reminding us of previous experience or memories beyond our grasp. Our television does not preserve life, but through it we gain access to the world beyond our limited perception. Likewise, a photograph cannot provide the means of continued existence but through it we gain access to the life we’ve already lived. All items within the human home function in relation to existence: all either assist to continue life or provide access to the life already lived.

Beyond this basic classification one can consider these tools by the emotional connections bonding them to human use. By the fact that we keep them in our homes we demonstrate a need or use for the items. Perhaps minor or even trivial, the reasons that we have for both buying

and keeping items is their utility. If an item serves a purpose it maintains its place within the home. Stuff becomes trash when these reasons disappear of when newer stuff replaces these items via better service.

A small sect of items have a uniquely tedious relationship with their users: avoidance. There are some items in a home that people dread using, whose very appearance can negatively alter their user’s mood. All devices are imposed on by their users but even more profound than a device that provides pleasure is the device that inspires negative emotions. For these devices the easier link to human use is broken and a more complicated relationship exists.

The most obvious of these devices with complicated relationships is the human weight scale. Consider where most people keep their scales. Often these items are hidden. The weight scale exists merely for utility. An awareness of one’s weight is a mere data point in one’s health and provides a mere spec of information when considering one’s overall health. Why do human scales continue to exist in the home? When one considers the value of data provided the scale has such a minimal value that it’s reason for continued presence in the home should be questioned.

The human weight scale remains in the home because of our complicated relationship with weight. The need to know and need to compare personal weight with our past and our peers guarantees the continued presence of scales in our home. We weigh ourselves as a means to evaluate our present self with the self of the past. Our weight becomes a means of comparison by which we gaze at who we are today in relation to the past and to those considered similar to us. Where do we stack up? The mere number displayed on the weight scale is useless and a source of countless mental waves of stress.

Though largely useless and a source of immense pain, the human scale will remain in the human home merely for the emotional power we associate with weight. It is a unique device whose presence in the human home has less to do with true utility and more to do with the emotional trials and tribulations of society. Look to the scale to see how complicated the human mind can be and how easily we distort our tools to serve other means. No matter how silly our tools function to give us exactly what we need no matter how useless, sad and unnerving.

Reel Power

March 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Albums before armies? Movies before men? The best measure of a society’s power is not military might or economic dominance. Real power is best found in cultural resonance. Though both are launched with the common goal of “influence”, the weapon and the film achieve their goals by different means and varied ways.

A society uses its weapons to remove undesirable entities and, ideally, create opportunities for growth. In essence, the weapon is a source of destruction whose existence is merely to eliminate a boundary to one’s intentions. Destruction is the basis of the weapon’s existence.

Compare the weapon’s “basis of existence” with that of the cultural entity. Both are presented to a foreign audience with a goal of influence, but herein lies the distinction of means. Unlike the weapon, the film achieves more profound goals by implanting an image of the culture from which it stems.

Cultural entities present notions of the creator’s culture. A filmsuggestsways of life that need not be accurate. Wealth and success, happiness and perfection are complicated abstract forms easily communicated in the narrative domain. A society’s successful film extends beyond simple entertainment and becomes a beacon to what life is actually like in the creator’s world. An audience that subscribes to the film’s message becomes captive to its wealth of messages.

The cultural entities ability to embrace audience perspective renders it the most powerful tool for social influence. Societies that aim to broadcast on a global level are better served by a rich cultural cadre that extends to all corners of the globe. Likewise one can measure power by the reach of a society’s culture. The best measure of social domination is not in counts of weapon systems or the ability to reduce X number of countries to dust; instead, one need only look at popular culture to measure strength. Today’s best bullets no longer contain lead: look instead for “dot mp3” or the scrolling line of credits to mark the tail end of strength. When the audience applauds the battle has been one.

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