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Archive for May, 2013

To the Finer Things in Life

May 31, 2013 Leave a comment

Is a life of minor pleasures the greatest source of value? How might “Mother’s Little Helper” be less an occasional escape and more a necessity to exist? If one was to be deprived of such things would disaster strike? How might a reduction or elimination of seemingly minor pleasures give way to major problems?

Are human beings distorted with a delusional expectation that life will be enjoyable? Tasked with battling to survive, our ancestors filled their days with tasks designed to insure their survival. In essence, the now was applied to insure the future. Did our ancestors care for the past? Does history matter when the future remains in question and a moment of the now lies utilized for something other than survival?

Contemporary society is one of plenitude. One can gather food without leaving a motorized vehicle. The consequences of these luxuries appear on the very vehicles which benefit the most. Bodies designed to fight for survival now function in a world of significantly less challenge and hazard.

Despite such benefits we toil on the purpose of existence. Now with everything we sense nothing and wonder how best to function in a world. What purpose does a life have if we simply toil to consume and consume to toil? Consumerism is seen by some as both disease and cure. Exist to consume or consume to exist, we understand far less with the more we possess. Perhaps the greatest irony of human existence comes at this achievement of plenitude: with all we have nothing and only in a position of lack, and a pursuit to fulfill needs do we gain purpose. In a sense we are best served by a state of disorder.

Mismeasurements

May 25, 2013 1 comment

Executives tasked with creating a network of programming must measure its consumption. Determining popularity is essential when deciding what material remains in production. Limited resources demand that only the most popular material exist, but how does one measure this popularity? Most often it is a  quantitative measure of reception: how many viewers are consuming?

Contemporary technology has made this measuring process far more complicated than in decades past. What was once a living room of one television has become a world of multiple devices. Among the many locations where today’s viewer engages with media are game consoles, smart phones and set top boxes. Rich variety means greater access to viewers but one in which measurement is difficult.

Ironically, a piece of content that becomes popular with collective groups suffers from poor measurement. Viewed in mass, a program seen from a single device may entertain a mass of hundreds. Are these multiple eyes measured? Often not as the single device means single viewer.

Most important in the measurement process is a realistic understanding of inherent limitations. If it is not possible to accurately measure something is it best to abandon the attempt? Perhaps a better technique is to develop a more realistic perspective. If we cannot know exactly are we best served by an acceptance of the most realistic? When certainty is impossible we need not resign ourselves to the displeasure of ineptitude. Limited though we are, what we can know does have value and our best perspective is one based on everything we know.

Distortion Games

May 25, 2013 Leave a comment

In one sense, to participate within society is to subscribe to a collection of symbols. Citizens might be understood as a collective of subscribers- individuals who are both aware and participatory in a system of signs. Within my collective I can see a vertical strip of colors and understand green to mean “go” and red to mean “stop”. Likewise green can mean recycle in some other contexts. Meanings are fluid, but as a member of my collective I learn to adapt to new adaptations. I change just as my symbols do- ever evolving in application.

If so inclined, one might seize these symbols and utilize them for personal gain. This story introduces one such attempt. Here the company is taking advantage of the collective’s response to an ambulance. The collective understands the ambulance with flashing lights to mean a medical emergency is taking place and that they need to make way for the vehicle. If seen with flashing lights, each member of the collective knows they are expected to pull over.

How might an authority stop this manipulation of symbols? Certainly unable to stop each ambulance to verify that an emergency is taking place, the “manipulating company” enjoys multiple layers of protection. Trafficking in symbols of medical emergency provides an added level of security as the uninvolved fear getting involved and endangering a real-life problem. Far symbols hold more power than those involved with emergency. Merely flashing red and blue lights suggest emergency and demand attention.

Of A Clout

May 16, 2013 Leave a comment

An oft-quoted but poorly associated phrase urges us to “measure society by how it treats its weakest members.” And yet how to consider this term “weakest”? Do we speak of the mentally weak? The physically weak or those unable to conceptualize a concept of “weakness”? Perhaps in our own inability to define “weakness” we expose the very weakness we detest. Too often we frame existence in binary terms: good v. bad, happy v. sad, normal v. abnormal.

Ironically this need to frame things in clearly polar terms exposes our weakness of understanding. Too limited to understand the relativity of situations we narrow thinking to categorization. Groupings aid understanding by providing justifications of discrimination. Item A belongs in Box A. Item B remains a part of B because of feature X, Y, and Z. Making sense out of nonsense is a necessity of existence and yet what of the dangers of such actions? How might such simplification sacrifice progress or worse yet damage progress made?

In working to establish categories for life we extoll a certain clout. We are rulers of domain, framers of our world view and some abstract form of carpenter from which we nail firm a hobby-horse of life. We call this work “perspective”, the uber-personal sense of what is and what will be. Despite our limitations we make a world from what we sense. Didion wrote of stories as necessities from which we frame our existence. “We make sense” from these behaviors and though feel powerful suggest less a greater strength and more an enthusiastic embrace of ignorant indifference.

Most Powerful of Powers

May 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Influence comes in many forms. In its most basic (and likely historical) form, influence by bulk allows direction and control. The bigger body holds command because its simply bigger. The bigger body is a threat, a potential hazard threatening life. “I’m bigger and can hurt you”, though unspoken, hovers over interactions.

In our need to avoid pain and continue our existence we self-preserve in consolation. Roll over, weak man, the bigger one is near and knows just what he wants. Dare the smaller body refuse to concede, he must utilize a different form of influence.

Where physical power is defeated a power of cognition fogs the interaction. Tasked with challenging a stronger figure, the weaker body’s strength of mind becomes the crucial tool. The weaker one can gain power by manipulating interpretation. Reality is understood by interpretation and any technique that can muddle this procedure gives way to endless forms of control.

To control what one perceives is far simpler than it seems. Can one decide what another sees? Can sound be manipulated or the very tools from which one frames the sense of life? Herein lies the greatest form of influence: the controlling of the mind.

For the skilled operator of rhetoric and reason it is the ability to control interpretation that has greatest power. Well deployed by leaders of all areas of life, this skill provides the user with immense strength. Millions have given their lives for causes and figures whose existence they were unaware of until some introduction. No one is born with a call to action or need to fulfill a destiny. All must be indoctrinated and convinced to act.

The control of the mind is the greatest power. For some, the ability to manipulate the intellect is an in-born skill. Discovered with age, the master manipulators in society spill forth with perhaps the most profound decision granted to an individual: to manipulate or not to manipulate? For those gifted with the ability to influence it is simply a question of application. While some will recognize their gifts and skills as devices from which to create a better good, others will see powers for abuse. How might one utilize the ultimate gift? If power corrupts it does so while providing the simple question of “How?” If you choose to use these skills, it asks, how will you do so? In the end there is no greater strength than this ability to use communication to manipulate. Is our entire history a series of responses by figures given these skills? History is a narrative of these answers.

Free to Be Imprisoned

May 13, 2013 1 comment

Three women held captive for a decade finally escape their captor. Is this a story c0ncept beyond the wildest Hollywood thriller? Too daring for even a tabloid’s pulpy content? Perhaps in previous months such a story would be too extraordinary to invent for readers but just last week the story was reality. Deployed to the scene the media was fast to seek, create and curate all forms of content related to the story. Neighbors became speakers, streets became patchworks of evidence and an entire region a cinematic scene for narration.

Media functions most efficiently when a story needs curation. Well equipped to create content it is no wonder that  many media stories become the most popular narratives for contemporary culture. A weekend box office pales in comparison with the time invested by the general public. Few spend as many hours reading fiction as they do watching a court room drama on cable TV. Contemporary culture is one obsessed with curated reality- a format less tied to the banal and mundane and more with tragedy and trauma. Among the great quandaries on every contemporary brain, namely “What if” and “Who did” the media provides endless examples and responses to suggestion.

Perhaps most ironic is media coverage surrounding stories of individuals held against their will. Instantly deployed to sites of grand escapes the media becomes the next captor as their excitement and need for coverage converge onto a site as a focused train of content creation. Within seconds of being released from their captor the kidnapped become recaptured by the media.

For the three females whose escape from a decade of imprisonment came just a week ago a new form of kidnapping must be navigated. Now hiding in a secret location, the three females are prisoners in a new jail. Though far less violent and exponentially more comfortable (one hopes), this new jail retains a level of abuse. Until the media decides to move on to the next story these victims remain victims. Protected now behind a cadre of lawyers forced to advocate for the suffering, these females remain under attack.

Vapid Language Void of Meaning

May 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Stock phrases like “Oh my God” exist as paradoxes of communication: simultaneously functioning as communication void of meaning and divorced from the concepts contained within their form. Considered at the pure textual level, “Oh, my God” functions as a query to an almighty figure whose authority and power are on display. The speaker is stunned at some sight or event and is testifying to some unseen, all powerful force that has culled forth some unexpected reaction. Or is it?

Cliches are often defined as over-used expressions now void of meaning. Stripped of emotional power due to overuse, these phrases enter a state of unemotional stasis in a language. We use these phrases but do so without the raw emotional power suggested by their components. The majority of speakers who scream “Oh my God” are not speaking to an almighty power. For the majority of deployments this phrase is equivalent to “Wow” or “No Way!”

The force that makes a phrase popular ultimately leads to its overuse. Once commonly utilized and witnessed the phrase loses its power. We all hear it and yet we don’t. We say it but without the true power its components suggest. Overuse leads to dilution and once completed the reduction of a phrase rapidly converts a once powerful phrase to nothing more than mere sounds.

When we hear “Oh my God” do we actually comprehend what it suggests? Do we recognize its intended meaning or do we automatically dilute our consideration to match diluted status? When heard do we process under the assumption of “he doesn’t mean to appeal to God.” Does anyone hear the phrase and comprehend some sort of blasphemy or actual appeal to supernatural power? Few do because culture has stripped the phrase of meaning. It is void of power and functions less as a vehicle of what its textual ingredients suggest and more the vapid commentary we so often deploy for the mundane and the banal.

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