Posts Tagged ‘editorial’

Asterisk Provisions

June 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Are there certain behaviors best suited for a trained individual? To drive a motor vehicle we require an individual to demonstrate understanding and capability in multiple forms. One does not simply apply for a driver’s license and turn the key. Likewise we only allow certain people to perform certain tasks. A teacher must have a license and a police officer must demonstrate the needed skills.

Often these skills are documented by documents. A driver’s license is a government’s physical endorsement of one’s skills. In a sense the driver’s license communicates a single fact: “This person passed our test.” One’s skills will vary by the minute and police officers regularly launch interventions a la tickets and warnings to correct bad behavior.

And yet while many of our most important jobs in society require proof of capability one of our most critical does not. To vote is to participate in a democracy and in voting one is selecting another individual to represent one’s beliefs. A vote communicates a simple statement of “This person speaks for me.”

What type of documentation or proof of skills do we require to vote? None. The application to vote demands only that one is a citizen. Is this correct? Do the demands of picking a candidate and formulating a perspective on a topic demand a sort of test? Might literacy be a requirement to vote? After all, if one cannot read the ballot how can one possibly formulate a decision?

The Supreme Court has decided to alter how we register individuals to vote. States now possess the ability to make the process of voting not an automatic one. Many see any additional requirements to voter registration as movements to complicate the registration process for citizens. Of course any additional steps complicate a process and many individuals will likely fail to participate in their democracy because of these challenges.

While new steps have yet to be established, we can expect that many states will work rapidly to make them. This is unfortunate but highly likely in any system of popular representation. And while we may find both today’s decision and any as-yet-undeveloped requirements both sad and unfortunate, we remain bound to our duty as citizens. No matter where things fall and no matter how hard the process is, it is the individual’s duty to participate. To fail to vote is to fail as a citizen. No matter where the challenge stands and no matter how hard the process may be, as a responsible citizen one must learn each complication and battle back to counteract the challenge.

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.

Unintended Damage: Reactions and Response

August 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Mass violence creates dual layers of destruction. An immediate layer of destruction comes as the moment occurs: a mass shooting causes injuries and death at the scene of the act. This is the most powerful moment of drama, the moment when an actor’s plans are carried out. In a sense, this initial moment is when victims are created: plans become reality.

The initial moment is fast, but its reaction is the secondary layer of destruction and creates more long-term changes that will affect those beyond the initial scene of the crime. In our reaction we aim with the best intentions of prevention: we sense a vulnerability and do what we can to protect ourselves from a similar act. These reactions are crucial to protect ourselves but come with an adjustment to our society and often requires an elimination of personal freedom. If acts of violence depend on areas of vulnerability we must eliminate these vulnerabilities to be safe. Complete safety requires complete control…but is this what we want?

A weak, but accurate image is to imagine society as a cardboard box. As the animal in this sanctuary the vulnerabilities we need to breathe and see only serve us if they keep us safe. A delicate balance must be found. History helps us calibrate our society but emotion makes us prone to rapid change and we may find panic inspiring us to cover more holes and hide ourselves away. Moving to a system of protection may feel better but we risk losing the culture of ideas we need to stay alive. A healthy society can only exist if dangerous ideas and people can exist. Yes, it is a hazard and yes we will be hurt over and over, but our freedom is too important to trade away for notions of better safety. One wonders whether these moves to better safety are even affective: will not dangerous people find ways to hurt others if the inspired? How much can we do to protect ourselves from human enthusiasm.

Ears Beyond: Detecting Assumed Audience

June 19, 2012 Leave a comment

A curator is one who collects and distributes content to others. A more prominent role in our age of countless sources, these figures function as “content filters” from whom we seek the information we know holds value. The curator’s function (and existence) is dependent on trust: give us something we don’t want and risk losing our attention. Based on this relationship the curator must walk a fine line: present quality content and do so in a way that caters to the assumed audience. Who are these people, though; and how does a curator know who reads their presentations? Both crucial questionsmustbe answered by a curator and we can detect such conclusions on the basis of presentation.

How does a curator present certain stories? How is text styling used to convey tone? Consider Matt Drudge’s use of italics. After an initial headline, Drudge lists additional stories in italics and presents critical snippets of material in the article. We read these italic stories as add-ons, as entries not worthy of the headline role but which feature interesting info. In essence these stories have a “But, Wait, There’s More!” goal. Herein we can gather a sense of how Drudge perceives the use of his site. Not merely factual in presentation, the content presentation includes an entertainment dimension that shows Drudge’s perceived role. Drudge wants to entertain and seems gleeful in with his collection of stories. Drudge uses his “Drudge Report” as a collective statement on existence. Visit the Drudge Report and Matt Drudge has collected life as he sees it and, via styling, his sense of what it all means.

The use of apostrophes categories a term as unfamiliar. Using apostrophes triggers the reader to consider these terms as different and react to them with distance. Apostrophes can create distance and distinguish certain terms as belonging to the outsider. Strange terms from different races, younger generations or foreign culture can be placed in apostrophes to label them as strange. Drudge uses apostrophes to castigate terms for these goals and on the basis of this use we see additional details of perceived audience. Drudge sees his audience as older, conservatives and uses his apostrophes to distinguish material from outsiders for its differences. Casting these terms in this way caters to his assumed audience by presenting himself as “insider”, as an individual whose status involves an awareness of common language and the ability to use it.

Curation is power.


Tipping Hats to Evolving Thoughts

January 8, 2012 Leave a comment

The accusation of “flip-flopping” has become common fare for politicians and pundits. These contradictions with previous statements are framed as cracks in confidence or a gaming of the public wherein popular notions are adopted and cast off as popularity wavers. At what point did changing one’s mind become a fault? How does an evolution in thinking suggest poor leadership or an inability to lead? Is not an ideal leader one who continues to expand his or her perspective as material is presented? The greatest hazard to American leadership is an expectation that a leader’s perspective be locked in and unchanging.

“Flip-flopping” may not have been invented by the media, but its continued presence in political debate is certainly connected with media’s use of it. Accusing a politician of being a “flip-flopper” provides pundits with a humorous opportunity to consult the treasure trove of video archive. Today’s media environment is one of endless archival footage. One person’s every comment and appearance is not only archived and readily available, but also indexed for easy access and utilization. Today’s political candidate must bear witness to a collection of flubs and statements.

Expecting an individual to have unwavering opinions is dangerous. One’s flip-flop demonstrates an evolution in thinking and is a testament to learning. We are best served by an expectation that opinions will expand in complexity as more information is gathered and digested. The best leader is one who responds to the crisis in the moment. Existing “in the now” is all that we can ask of our leaders. Be aware and develop as material comes in. Be wary of old opinions and always be open to new ideas. These are not unreasonable expectations; instead they are reasonable measures of the human being and complicated tasks of leaderships.

Perils of Communication Vacuums: The Need to Explain

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment

In an age of interconnected communication, nothing is more important than clarity of communication. Failure to deliver a concise message that everyone can understand is asking for disaster. One is better left to silence if he or she cannot accurately convey one’s inner notions. No matter how complicated, the expression of ideas depends solely on the clarity of their delivery.

With this at play, a speaker’s ability to communicate clearly is the single point of evaluation for a leader. If he or she can’t make sense its a lost cause. If one wants to lead one must communicate effectively. Forms of failure come in varied forms: lack of clarity, poor examples or simply muddled explanation give way to the ultimate cause of failed communication: reinterpretation by another.

Chief victim to these other voices is President Obama. His failure to deliver clarified messages has become his defining characteristic and tasked with a cadre of critical moments, his presidency (and the country) has suffered significantly from these failed communications. His continual failure to explain has created communication vacuums easily filled by anyone with an audience. At play are not only his political enemies but also his allies, his pundits and the electorate whose own notions and conceptions of reality carve new sense out of Obama’s hunk of muddled text.

Spending Triggers: An Idea

September 14, 2011 1 comment

The best way to inspire consumer spending is to create an online store of government purchased gift cards. Such a store would feature predominantly American companies or multinational corporations whose sales would directly benefit the American economy. Under such a system, the government would create the store and act as middle man between consumer and company. Unlike the earlier stimulus package, which featured checks mailed directly to consumers, this plan would involve each individual being sent a code to order a gift card. Once the card was ordered the site would purchase and mail the card to the consumer. Each card would have an expiration date and if the amount was not used it would return to the bank for another consumer’s use.

This plan would work better than the mailed check format because it denies the consumer the ability to save the money. The online market also has the benefit of being a mini market whereby consumer demand can be maintained. Each gift card recipient has options and can choose which company he or she would like to spend the allotted amount.

Confidence and Awareness

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

If economic success is dependent on consumer confidence, does constant awareness beneficial or detrimental. I argue that a system that provides constant awareness sways to a pessimistic attitude and leads to a reduction in consumer confidence. Trending in this way, our economic success which, according to so-called experts and scholars is dependent on consumer confidence can never recover.

In a system where confidence is essential we are dependent on a significant level of delusion. A perspective must be crafted that not only allows but encourages risk. Who is to create this environment? Politicians are the experts we look to and our President is essential in this task. The public desires simplicity and the President is less a policy maker and more a taste maker whose perspectives on reality become the zeitgeist for those who pay attention. These figures, whose interest in the culture of constant awareness, become the second-tier of experts who those uninterested in constant awareness look to for guidance.

Our current economic issues ultimately rest on the issue of consumer confidence. If we fail to create an environment that encourages risk we do not spend money and the economic wheels freeze. If the wheels are freezing or, as some say, frozen already we risk only greater damage in failing to recognize the environment in which we exist. When the zeitgeist is one in which constant awareness is at play we need leaders who function to encourage risk and buttress consumer confidence via delusion and disregard. Its dangerous but essential in complex systems such as the American economy.

Subjective Time, or The Value of My Minutes

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Are all minutes equal? If one is to utilize the sixty seconds of a minute for entertainment, they are certainly lot. Though the time is objective, the pursuit of filling these sixty seconds varies greatly. Do you aim to fill those sixty seconds with music? A movie or a television program? One can purchase a song for a dollar, rent a DVD for three dollars or skip the charge for both and just download them. What we pay to fill our seconds is wildly unset, but as consumers of media we need not worry about these variations. Our payment for media should be the concern of those who produce this media: consumers exist in a world where paying for content is optional.

In an economic situation where payment is optional, the only power acting against thoughtless consumption is ethics. We all know we should pay, but do we have to pay? If we skip the payment and just download the file, will anyone know? Swaying our decision further is the gross inequality of these opposing views: Yes, we can pay for one movie or one song or we can download an entire season, or, if so inclined the entire professional portfolio of a creator on a whim. We face the decision of paying for a single bite or freely collecting a slew of meals we may never even consider consuming. Such a situation holds only the thin sheet of ethical obligation as protection for those who create content.

Content creators need to recognize this situation and act accordingly. A creator needs to consider the value of an opposing forms. To make this comparison more balanced we must begin by considering the form of stimulation a consumer wants. Where is the predominant stimulation? Is it visual, such as a film or television program? Is it auditory in the form of a song or is it tactile in the form of a baseball game or meal? Considering a single piece of content in these categories helps content creators create logical price points. If a song writer creates a song, he or she must consider the cost or another form of auditory stimulation when setting the cost. Similarly, a creator of a film needs to consider the cost a consumer faces if he or she is interested in visual stimulation. A content creator who makes a visual piece of content is making a gross error if charging five dollars when a different visual item costs three dollars.

Costs of production will weigh into the issue, but consumers recognize the value of high production and will award creators accordingly. Such awards are based on merit and if one finds high cost content failing to garner a return there is an error in thinking- the value of high cost content does not necessarily mean impressive special effects. Interestingly, many of the high-cost features of high-cost productions are of little interest to consumers who desires for entertainment are often more simple than many producers believe. Ironically, a focus on these high-cost item often leads to a failure in creating interesting content or, even worse, an unsatisfactory use of these high-cost items may botch the entire creation. Consider the high-budget action movie so chock full of bad CGI that, while far-reaching and expensive, becomes more parody than valuable entertainment. Creators need to recognize the audience as intelligent creatures, not fools easily mesmerized by loud sounds and bright colors.

Time is not equal. Creators of content need to consider the competing sources of entertainment when creating and marketing content. Failure to do so risks destroying an industry and fails to provide a hungry public with quality content. Consumers exist in an economy where free content is easily accessible on a cost-free basis.

Performative Roles

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Is the contemporary politician’s skills as a leader best evaluated by his or her ability to maintain order while under media scrutiny? Certainly if a politician cannot avoid a media scandal at the outset his or her ability to face down global conflict must come into question. The contemporary politician must undergo a test of media awareness before actually dealing with the issues of a country. In some sense a politician running for election functions initially to create a media persona. Once established this persona must be maintained and adapted to meet the situations that arise post-creation. New news stores, gossip and global factors require that the initial image be adjusted to respond to new data. Media savvy figures keenly understand one’s presentation of personal evolution as the essential behavior while under media scrutiny.

The contemporary American politician is a testament to this role and success in the early stages of an election is now best evaluated on one’s ability to maintain dynamism while under scrutiny. No longer is a politician’s beliefs on a subject the essential factor in earning public trust. The 1960 documentary Primary provides an excellent preview of the the ways the media would alter the ways in which a politician related to the general public. As the film makes clear in scene after scene, the media savvy politician utilized the media in order to create a demeanor, establish message and maintain a personal connection with the public. Kennedy is seen as a master of the new medium while his his competitor, Hubert Humphrey, stays true to older forms of person-to-person connections and appears cold before the cameras.

In comparing the 1960 media presented in the film and the 2011 media presented daily, it becomes evident that a major power shift has occurred. No longer does the politician utilize the media; instead, it is the media that utilizes the politician to establish its message, characterization and rhetorical perspective. The media is in charge now and as curators of knowledge it functions as gateway to public connection and consideration. The media long ago abandoned the innocuous role of media provider. The contemporary media is now master curator and media savvy politicians are the only politicians who attain power. One cannot control the media; instead the successful politician is the individual whose awareness of its power avoids major embarrassment and provides it with the sound bits and ideas that it demands. The media is the power source today.

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