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Old 04-02-2004, 01:00 PM   #241 (permalink)
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Which part don't you get?
This is a pretty long thread...
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Old 04-04-2004, 03:19 PM   #242 (permalink)
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Great thread Art

Truly worthy of TFP HONOURS!

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Old 04-05-2004, 12:32 PM   #243 (permalink)
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3 TV generations later - we prove the obvious

The credit for the invention of television generally goes to Philo T. Farnsworth - who fiddled with the concepts and equipment during the decade of the 1920s. As with all emergent technology - we got to live with it a long time before we started to demonstrate its ill effects. For those who continue to wonder why I use the terms "mass media mind control," in a few years, we should have a definitive "scientific" answer. Until then, of course, what's obvious continues to remain obvious...

....................................................................................
Research Shows Too Much TV May be Linked to ADHD

Apr. 5 - Two-year-old Carson loves his TV time. Mom Kim Shafer says she is careful about the programs her son watches, but admits she's not as cautious about the amount of time he spends in front of the TV. "Certainly he has plenty of toys he can be playing with instead of the television. The TV's just seems to be a lot easier ."

Convenience that may come with a price. One of the first studies to test the effects of TV in children under 3 suggests a link between tube time and the risk of attention problems like ADHD.

"What we found was each additional hour a day that children watched was associated with a 10% increase of having attentional problems at age seven." Dr. Dimitri Christakis says the first 3 years of life are an important time for brain development and the fast-paced images on the TV screen may be leaving their mark.

"The interesting thing about this study, if it's really borne out is that it hopefully points to prevention of ADHD, something parents can actually do to increase their child's attention span."

Kim is working to trim Carson's tube time and is hopeful the warmer weather will help.

The study did not focus on program content, but researchers note that many programs geared towards children have those fast-paced images designed to keep a child's attention - that may end up shortening their attention span as they get older.

Researchers say the findings support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that youngsters under age 2 not watch television.

The study, appearing in the April issue of Pediatrics, was conducted by the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and involved 1,345 children who participated in government-sponsored National Health Surveys it's estimated that up to 30% of American households today have the television on all the time and children watch an average of at least two hours of television a day.
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Old 04-05-2004, 12:48 PM   #244 (permalink)
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I'm very interested in seeing the media responses to these findings.

IMHO it isn't so farfetched. Desensitization makes one crave even more at higher doses. MTV's initial quick cuts of the 80s are even faster now. In fact, the MTV VMAs last year director didn't keep the camera on anything longer than 15 seconds it seemed
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Old 04-06-2004, 07:17 AM   #245 (permalink)
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Consider billboards...and their power

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/US/Bu...cy_040331.html

This story goes on about the fine points of standards of decency vis-a-vis First Ammendment freedoms, etc.

That's the text. I'm more interested in the subtext. I'm interested in the power of billboard messages coming into our minds as they do.

It's referenced in the story's first sentence:

"Billboard companies are force-feeding messages to us," said State Sen. Matt Bartle. "It's like a walled corridor … there are stretches where there's one every mile."

You can read the rest. But that one sentence is the important one for me...

....................

Debating Decency
Since Janet Jackson Raised Media Concerns, Advertising Faces Scrutiny
By Adrienne Mand
ABCNEWS.com

March 31— Drive along Route I-70 through the heart of Missouri and you can't miss them — advertisements featuring women with bare breasts and other nudity encourage travelers to exit the highway and visit one of the many nearby porn shops.

"Billboard companies are force-feeding messages to us," said State Sen. Matt Bartle. "It's like a walled corridor … there are stretches where there's one every mile."
As the debate rages on what is acceptable behavior by the media in post-wardrobe-malfunction 2004, advertising has come under increased scrutiny, and the ad community has begun wrestling with the thorny topic.

Those in the ad industry say reaching the target audience for a brand should not require using offensive material, and they're wary of any attempts by the government to regulate creativity and free speech.

"I think if you're mindful of your target and you're doing a really good job to build your brand, there will be very few instances where you really have to grapple with this issue," said Cheryl Greene, managing partner and chief strategy officer at Deutsch, a New York ad agency.

Ever since Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson's breast to a worldwide audience during the Super Bowl, the FCC has begun cracking down on sexual content in the media. Perhaps most prominently, shock jock Howard Stern has been fined for his on-air antics, and there are promises of more repurcussions to come.

But the ad industry has always been self-policed, a practice that executives say is crucial to success as well as freedom of expression. Keith Reinhard, chairman of New York's DDB Worldwide, said advertisers and agencies must recognize the power they have.

"What I would advocate is that people understand that with this cherished freedom, as with any freedom, goes a responsibility," he said, "and each person who has access to the media has to decide how they will exercise that responsibility with respect to this decency issue."

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Much of what's perceived as positive and negative about advertising can be seen while driving along America's highways.On one end of the spectrum, the nationwide public service announcements from the non-profit Foundation for a Better Life display inspirational messages with the tagline "Pass It On."

The foundation's billboards feature Kermit the Frog as an example for others to overcome obstacles: "Eats Flies. Dates a Pig. Hollywood Star. Live your dream." Other ads feature celebrities such as Christopher Reeve ("Super man. Strength.) and Whoopi Goldberg (Overcaem Dyslexia. Hard work.) as well as historical figures like Winston Churchill and everyday Americans who exemplify good character and values.

"The feeling originally was that people are basically good and that all any of us need is a little reminder," said Gary Dixon, president of the foundation. All of the outdoor, television and movie theater space for the ads has been donated.

Then there are the explicit ads on I-70 that have Bartle and other lawmakers outraged enough that the state Senate recently passed a bill prohibiting such signs within one mile of state highways. Senate bill 870 defines the "state of nudity" as "any bare exposure of the skin located on a person's body below the armpits and above the knees."

Though the definition may be softened in the state House version of the bill, Bartle said the advertisements must be stopped. "This isn't like cable TV where you can choose to have it in your home or not have it," he said. "Families cannot choose not to travel on state highways. That's a necessary, critical part of life."

One mainstream advertiser that pushed the edge drew vocal opposition and changed tactics. After the release of the holiday issue of its provocative quarterly, complete with nudity and sex tips, teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch faced a boycott by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. Though he would not comment on the boycott or its influence, spokesman Tom Lennox said the quarterly has been retired and a tamer campaign has been running in magazines like Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and Details, and as direct mail. Billboards are possible in the future.

"It was time to take a new direction," Lennox said. "We think we've achieved that with the new marketing plan."

"I think there's invariably going to be scrutiny in advertising for fashion companies," he said, adding, "Our brand has a masculine face to it. It has an edge. It can sometimes be irreverent."

The boycott has since been called off, according to the coalition's Web site.

Standards to Uphold


While the FCC has begun cracking down on broadcasters for indecency, the ad industry intends to continue regulating itself, according to executives.

Ken Klein, vice president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, compared the current outcry over decency to the controversy over tobacco ads. But that was changed in 1999 when cigarette manufacturers agreed to stop advertising outdoors as part of a $206 billion national tobacco settlement with 46 states seeking costs for treating sick smokers.

Ad industry trade associations have provisions in their codes of conduct regarding sexually explicit and profane material in advertising. In 2001, the OAAA amended its code of principles to include the language "we do not disseminate obscene words or inappropriate pictorial content."

The trade groups cannot enforce rules, but this allows for interpretation by outdoor advertising operators. "A community standard may be different from one place to another — from Las Vegas to Los Alamos — but those decisions are made locally by managers who live in those communities," Klein said, adding, "It's voluntary, and it underscores the right to reject advertising." Similarly, Greene said advertisers can manage the issue within the community. "There's really a much tougher standard for advertising than for programming," she said. "In a way, it's good that programmers will be more accountable. Advertising's been unfairly targeted when usually it's much tamer."

Still, Reinhard predicts the issue will continue to heat up periodically as boundaries are pushed and society reacts. "I think it's a perplexing issue because people who need to make a profit each quarter are looking at evidence that says, well, if we cross this line and we're really appealing to those people who want to rebel against social mores and so forth, it's lucrative," he said. "In our business, advertising, you can succeed with vulgar advertising or with uplifting advertising. It might be harder to do the latter … [but] just as effective, or more so, and in the process it uplifts."

And, he said, advertisers and agencies will continue to take things on a case by case basis. "We're concerned about it. We can't write rules, we just have to say, 'OK, that's something we wouldn't do,'" Reinhard said.

"Where it's all going is more disturbing to me because if you look at the trends, you can say, well, in some ways we're better off with a loosening. We can actually talk about things," he added. "At the same time, there is a coarseness that seems to be abundant in this society, and I'm not sure that that is good. I think there is a place for decent behavior and politeness and grace and style and taste, and those ideas are really not very popular in the United States of America today."
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Old 04-06-2004, 11:08 AM   #246 (permalink)
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Art, i read through almost the whole thread and it is very good.
Have you ever heard of the "meme" theory?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme
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Old 04-06-2004, 11:37 AM   #247 (permalink)
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art,

The movie Brazil, at the end they drive down a road, and it's lined with billboards, Terry Gilliam must have seen the future.
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Old 04-06-2004, 01:18 PM   #248 (permalink)
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I got a bit discombobulated reading this entire thread-but to throw in my 2c- first penny: Psychology is employed in commercial media in everything from the shape of a bottle to the color of the label. Clear sodas ALWAYS have green labels. Dark colas are red or blue. It's product recognition. Sugary cereals are placed no less than 3 feet off the floor of any supermarket (so kids can see and reach them). Ever wonder why every store seems to look like the next? Vendor placement-they pay for their spots on the shelf. Hence, lesser-known brands get shoved toward the back of the store(people rushing in to get a 'few items' see the higher-visibility(read: paid more for space) items.)
second penny: Is this another example of which came first, the chicken or the egg? Are our choices as consumers making certain products(and i include journalism here) more visible, hence those are the first we see and choose? Or have we been so pervaded with selective media and consumerism that all we know is what has been visible to us?
It's not so much mind-control as control of choice, I think. Why can't my car come in yellow?? Why can't I find a larger bag of hotdog rolls? And, if we want those things out of the norm, well, guess what-we get to pay for that as well by getting the car painted yellow and buying more rolls.
I question it all, get pissed and end up settling and that is what the business moguls thrive on. Going against the grain takes effort and some days, effort is not a priority. Perhaps that is what should be examined-why we fall for the things we fall for.
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Old 04-06-2004, 03:26 PM   #249 (permalink)
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I've discussed meme theory in my journal. Here's what I posted in entry #39:

05-09-2003 04:34 PM 039 research notes: memes
"What is a meme?"

Glenn Grant: Meme (pron. meem): A contagious information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins, by analogy with "gene".) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic.
Tony Lezard: Richard Dawkins, who coined the word in his book The Selfish Gene defines the meme as simply a unit of intellectual or cultural information that survives long enough to be recognized as such, and which can pass from mind to mind. There's not much of a sense of describing thought processes, but nor is it just a model. As Richard Dawkins writes (this is from memory), "God indeed exists, if only as a pattern in brain structures replicated across the minds of billions of people throughout the world." (Of course the patterns aren't physically identical, but they represent the same thing.)

Richard Dawkins: Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leading from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.
Memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind, you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn't just a way of talking -- the meme for, say, 'belief in life after death' is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of people all over the world.

H. Keith Henson: A meme survives in the world because people pass it on to other people, either vertically to the next generation, or horizontally to our fellows. This process is analogous to the way willow genes cause willow trees to spread them, or perhaps closer to the way cold viruses make us sneeze and spread them.

Peter J. Vajk: It is important to note here that, in contrast to genes, memes are not encoded in any universal code within our brains or in human culture. The meme for vanishing point perspective in two-dimensional art, for example, which first appeared in the sixteenth century, can be encoded and transmitted in German, English or Chinese; it can be described in words, or in algebraic equations, or in line drawings. Nonetheless, in any of these forms, the meme can be transmitted, resulting in a certain recognizable element of realism which appears only in art works executed by artists infected with this meme.

Heith Michael Rezabek: My favorite example of a crucial meme would be "fire" or more importantly, "how to make a fire." This is a behavioral meme, mind you, one which didn't necessarily need a word attached to it to spring up and spread, merely a demonstration for another to follow. Once the meme was out there, it would have spread like wildfire, for obvious reasons... But when you start to think of memes like that -- behavioral memes -- then you can begin to see how language itself, the idea of language, was a meme. Writing was a meme. And within those areas, more specific memes emerged.

Lee Borkman: Memes, like genes, vary in their fitness to survive in the environment of human intellect. Some reproduce like bunnies, but are very short-lived (fashions), while others are slow to reproduce, but hang around for eons (religions, perhaps?). Note that the fitness of the meme is not necessarily related to the fitness that it confers upon the human being who holds it. The most obvious example of this is the "Smoking is Cool" meme, which does very well for itself while killing off its hosts at a great rate.

.........

Thanks for the reminder. It's an important concept.
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Old 04-06-2004, 03:30 PM   #250 (permalink)
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Cyn, yes - great scene!
ng, right - it's our own responsibility to manage our susceptibilities. Hence, this thread.
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Old 04-06-2004, 05:34 PM   #251 (permalink)
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CAMILLE PAGLIA: The Magic of Images

http://www.bu.edu/arion/Paglia_11.3/...f%20Images.htm

This expanded version of a lecture delivered on 15 November 2002 at a conference, "Living Literacies: What Does it Mean to Read and Write Now?," at York University, Toronto, goes a long way toward reorienting our view of the topics discussed in this thread. It does this by an analysis of the mindscape of contemporary media as the chronological end point of the historical and cultural traditions of verbal and visual syntax.

It's helpful on occasion to take a deep look at the subjects at hand and their significance in relation to the long sweep of human history...

..........................

The Magic of Images:
Word and Picture in a Media Age

CAMILLE PAGLIA

Education has failed to adjust to the massive transformation in Western culture since the rise of electronic media. The shift from the era of the printed book to that of television, with its immediacy and global reach, was prophesied by Marshall McLuhan in his revolutionary Understanding Media, which at its publication in 1964 spoke with visionary force to my generation of college students in the United States. But those of us who were in love with the dazzling, darting images of TV and movies, as well as with the surging rhythms of new rock music, had been given through public education a firm foundation in the word and the book. Decade by decade since the 1960s, popular culture, with its stunning commercial success, has gained strength until it now no longer is the brash alternative to organized religion or an effete literary establishment: it is the culture for American students, who outside urban centers have little exposure to the fine arts. I cannot speak for Canadian or European students, whom I have had little opportunity to observe closely over time. But because the U.S. is the driving media engine for the world, what happens there may well be a harbinger for the future of all industrialized nations.

Interest in and patience with long, complex books and poems have alarmingly diminished not only among college students but college faculty in the U.S. It is difficult to imagine American students today, even at elite universities, gathering impromptu at midnight for a passionate discussion of big, challenging literary works like Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov—a scene I witnessed in a recreation room strewn with rock albums at my college dormitory in upstate New York in 1965. As a classroom teacher for over thirty years, I have become increasingly concerned about evidence of, if not cultural decline, then cultural dissipation since the 1960s, a decade that seemed to hold such heady promise of artistic and intellectual innovation. Young people today are flooded with disconnected images but lack a sympathetic instrument to analyze them as well as a historical frame of reference in which to situate them. I am reminded of an unnerving scene in Stanley Kubrick's epic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, where an astronaut, his air hose cut by the master computer gone amok, spins helplessly off into space. The new generation, raised on TV and the personal computer but deprived of a solid primary education, has become unmoored from the mother ship of culture. Technology, like Kubrick's rogue computer, HAL, is the companionable servant turned ruthless master. The ironically self-referential or overtly politicized and jargon-ridden paradigms of higher education, far from helping the young to cope or develop, have worsened their vertigo and free fall. Today's students require not subversion of rationalist assumptions—the childhood legacy of intellectuals born in Europe between the two World Wars—but the most basic introduction to structure and chronology. Without that, they are riding the tail of a comet in a media starscape of explosive but evanescent images.

The extraordinary technological aptitude of the young comes partly from their now-instinctive ability to absorb information from the flickering TV screen, which evolved into the glassy monitor of the omnipresent personal computer. Television is reality for them: nothing exists unless it can be filmed or until it is rehashed onscreen by talking heads. The computer, with its multiplying forums for spontaneous free expression from e-mail to listservs and blogs, has increased facility and fluency of language but degraded sensitivity to the individual word and reduced respect for organized argument, the process of deductive reasoning. The jump and jitter of U.S. commercial television have demonstrably reduced attention span in the young. The Web too, with its addictive unfurling of hypertext, encourages restless acceleration.

Knowing how to "read" images is a crucial skill in this media age, but the style of cultural analysis currently prevalent in universities is, in my view, counterproductive in its anti-media bias and intrusive social agenda. It teaches students suspicion and paranoia and, with its abstract European terminology, does not offer an authentic anthropology of the North American media environment in which they came to consciousness. Post-structuralism and postmodernism do not understand magic or mystique, which are intrinsic to art and imagination. It is no coincidence that since postmodernist terminology seeped into the art world in the 1980s, the fine arts have receded as a major cultural force. Creative energy is flowing instead into animation, video games, and cyber-tech, where the young are pioneers. Character-driven feature films, on the other hand, have steadily fallen in quality since the early nineties, partly because of Hollywood's increasing use of computer graphics imaging (CGI) and special effects, advanced technology that threatens to displace the live performing arts.

Computer enhancement has spread to still photography in advertisements, fashion pictorials, and magazine covers, where the human figure and face are subtly elongated or remodeled at will. Caricature is our ruling mode. In the last decade in the us, there has also been a relentless speeding up of editing techniques, using flashing, even blinding, strobe-like effects that make it impossible for the eye to linger over any image or even to fully absorb it. There has been a reduction of spatial depth in image-making: one can no longer "read" distance in digitally enhanced or holographic films, where detail has a uniform, lapidary quality rather than the misty atmospherics of receding planes, so familiar to us from post-Renaissance art based on observation of nature. Movies have followed the TV model in neglecting background, the sophisticated craft of mise-en-scène. Distorting lenses and camera angles producing warped, tunnel-like effects (as in Mannerism or Expressionism) deny the premise of habitable human space. Subtlety and variety in color tones have been lost: historical stories are routinely steeped in all-purpose sepia, while serious dramas and science-fiction films are often given a flat, muted, shadowless light, as if mankind has fled underground.

The visual environment for the young, in short, has become confused, fragmented, and unstable. Students now understand moving but not still images. The long, dreamy, contemplative takes of classic Hollywood studio movies or postwar European art films are long gone. Today's rapid-fire editing descends from Jean-Luc Godard, with his hand-held camera, and more directly from Godard's Anglo-American acolyte, Richard Lester, whose two Beatles movies have heavily influenced commercials, music videos, and independent films. Education must slow the images down, to provide a clear space for the eye. The relationship of eye movements to cognitive development has been studied since the 1890s, the groundwork for which was laid by investigation into physiological optics by Hermann von Helmholtz and Ernst Mach in the 1860s. Visual tracking and stability of gaze are major milestones in early infancy. The eyes are neurologically tied to the entire vestibular system: the conch-like inner ear facilitates hand-eye coordination and gives us direction and balance in the physical world. By processing depth cues, our eyes orient us in space and create and confirm our sense of individual agency. Those in whom eye movements and vestibular equilibrium are disrupted, I contend, cannot sense context and thus become passive to the world, which they do not see as an arena for action. Hence this perceptual problem may well have unwelcome political consequences.

Education must strengthen and discipline the process of visual attention. Today's young have a modest, flexible, chameleonlike ability to handle or deflect the overwhelming pressure of sensory stimuli, but perhaps at a cost to their sense of personal identity. They lack the foolish, belligerent confidence of my own generation, with its egomaniacal quest for the individual voice. In this age dominated by science and technology, the humanities curriculum should be a dynamic fusion of literature, art, and intellectual history. Because most of my career has been spent at arts colleges, I have been able to experiment with a wide range of images in the classroom. The slide lecture, with its integration of word and picture, is an ideal format for engaging students who are citizens of the media age. Discourse on art works should be open to all humanities faculty. No specialist "owns" the history of art, which ultimately belongs to the general audience.

My students at the University of the Arts—painters, sculptors, ceramicists, photographers, animators, Web and industrial designers, screenwriters, dancers, actors, musicians, composers, and so forth—come from an unusually wide range of backgrounds, from working farms to affluent suburbs or the inner city. I have gotten good pedagogical results over the past two decades with canonical works of art that can be approached from the point of view of iconography. This method of art-historical analysis, sometimes called iconology, was formalized in the 1920s and 1930s by Erwin Panofsky from earlier theorizing by Aby Warburg and was further developed by Rudolf Wittkower and Ernst Gombrich. Iconography requires the observational skills and fine attention to detail of literary New Criticism but sets the work into a larger social context, consistent with late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century German philology. To help focus scrutiny, one must find images in art that are more vivid than what the students see around them every day. The point is not just to show pictures but to seek a commentary that honors both aesthetics and history. This is an exercise in language: the teacher is an apostle of words, which help students find their bearings in dizzy media space.

Works that make the most immediate as well as the most lasting impact on undergraduates, I have found, usually have a magic, mythological, or intensely emotional aspect, along with a choreographic energy or clarity. Here is a quick overview of objects from the Western tradition that have proved consistently effective, as assessed by student performance on midterm and final exams. Among ancient artifacts, the bust of queen Nefertiti, with its strange severity and elegance; the monumental Hellenistic sculpture group of the Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons being strangled by serpents; and the Varvakeion Athena, our small Roman-era copy of the colossal, chryselephantine statue of the armed Athena from the Parthenon. The latter in particular, with its dense iconography of coiled serpent, winged Victory, triple-crested helmet, and aegis with gorgon's head medallion, seems to burn its way into student memory. Images from the Middle Ages, aside from elegant French Madonnas and Notre Dame's gargoyles and flying buttresses, have proved less successful in my experience than the frankly carnal images of the Italian Renaissance. A dramatic contrast can be drawn between Donatello's sinuously homoerotic, bronze David and his late, carved-wood Mary Magdalene, with its painful gauntness and agonized posture of repentance. Two standards never lose their power in the classroom: Botticelli's Birth of Venus, where the nude goddess of love stands in the dreamy S-curve of a Gothic Madonna, and Leonardo's eerie Mona Lisa, with its ambiguous lady, barren landscape, and mismatched horizon lines. From Michelangelo's huge body of work, the deepest response, independent of the students' religious background, has been to his marble Pietà, where a ravishingly epicene dead Christ slips from the lap of a heavily shrouded, strikingly young Mary, and second to a surreally dual panel in the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Temptation and Fall: on one side of the robust tree wound by a fat, female-bodied serpent, sensual Eve reaches up for the forbidden fruit, while on the other, an avenging angel drives the anguished sinners out of paradise.

Because of its inherent theatricality, the Baroque works resoundingly well with undergraduates. Paramount exhibits are Bernini's designs for St. Peter's Basilica: the serpentine, 95-foot high, bronze pillars of the Baldachino (canopy) over the main altar; or the elevated chair of Saint Peter—wood encased in bronze and framed by a spectacular Glory, a solar burst of gilded beams. Next is Bernini's Cornaro Chapel in Rome's Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, with its opera-box stage setting, flamboyant columns of multicolored marble, and over the altar the wickedly witty marble-and-bronze sculpture group, Ecstasy of St. Teresa, where spiritual union and sexual orgasm occur simultaneously.

Nineteenth-century Romantic and realist painting offers a staggering range of image choices. Standouts in my classes have included the following: Gericault's Raft of the Medusa, a grisly intertwining of the living and the dead, bobbing on dark, swelling seas against a threatening sky. Delacroix's The Death of Sardanapalus, inspired by a Byron poem, with its swirl of luxury and butchery around the impassive king of Nineveh, who has torched his palace and capital. Turner's The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (chronicling a disaster Turner witnessed in 1834), where nature conquers politics and the Thames itself seems aflame. (Of several views in this series, the version owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art is best because most panoramic.) Manet's Girl at the Bar of the Folies Bergère, a penetrating study of social class and exploitation amid the din and glitter of modern entertainment: we ourselves, thanks to a trick mirror, become the dissolute, predatory boulevardier being waited on by a wistful young woman lost in the harsh night world of the city.

Twentieth-century art is prolific in contrasting and competitive styles but less concerned with the completeness or autonomy of individual images. Two exceptions are Picasso's still intimidatingly avant-garde Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, with its brothel setting, contorted figures, and fractured space, and second, his monochrome mural, Guernica, the most powerful image of political protest since Goya, a devastating spectacle of fire, fear, and death. Also unfailingly useful are Hollywood glamour stills from the 1920s to the 1950s, which are drawn from a slide collection that I have helped build at the University of the Arts since 1990. I view these suave portrait photos, with their formal poses and mesmerizing luminosity, as true works of art in the main line of Western culture.

But an education in images should not simply be a standard art-survey course—though I would strongly defend the pedagogical value of survey courses, which are being unwisely marginalized or dismantled outright at many American colleges. Thanks to postmodernism, strict chronology and historical sweep and synthesis are no longer universally appreciated or considered fundamental to the graduate training of humanities professors. But chronology is crucial if we hope, as we must, to broaden the Western curriculum to world cultures. To maintain order, the choice of representative images will need to be stringently narrowed. I envision a syllabus based on key images that would give teachers great latitude to expand the verbal dimension of presentation, including an analysis of style as well as a narrative of personal response. I will give three examples of prototypical images for my proposed course plan. They would play on students' feeling for mystery yet ground them in chronology and encourage them to evaluate historical evidence. The first example is from the Stone Age; the second from the Byzantine era; the third from pre-Columbian Central America.




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Among and sometimes boldly on the prehistoric paintings of animals found in the caves and rock shelters of southern France and northern Spain are eerie stenciled hands captured in circles of color (fig. 1). Powdered minerals—white, black, brown, red, violet, or yellow—were mixed with water and blown by the unknown artist through a reed or hollow bone over his or her own hand. At the Castillo cave complex in Santander, Spain is the so-called Frieze of Hands, a series of forty-four stenciled images—thirty-five left hands and nine right. In some cases, as at the Gargas cave in the French Pyrenees, mutilated hands appear with only the stumps of fingers. It is unclear whether the amputation was the result of frostbite or accident or had some ritual meaning of root, primal power.

These disembodied hands left on natural stone 25,000 years ago would make a tremendous impression on students who inhabit a clean, artificial media environment of hyperkinetic cyber images. The hand is the great symbol of man the tool-maker as well as man the writer. But in our super-mechanized era, many young people have lost a sense of the tangible and of the power of the hand. A flick of the finger changes TV channels, surfs the web, or alters and deletes text files. Middle-class students raised in a high-tech, service-sector economy are several generations removed from the manual labor of factories or farms.

The saga of the discovery of the cave paintings can also show students how history is written and revised. The first cave found, at Altamira in northern Spain, was stumbled on by a hunter and his dog in 1868. The aristocratic estate owner, an amateur archaeologist, surveyed the cave but did not see the animals painted on the ceiling until, on a visit in 1879, his five-year-old daughter looked up and exclaimed at them. Controversy over dating of the paintings was prolonged: critics furiously rejected the hypothesis of their prehistoric origin and attributed them to forgers or Roman-era Celts. The discoveries of other cave paintings in Spain and the Dordogne from the 1890s on were also met with skepticism by the academic establishment. Funding for the early expeditions had to come from Prince Albert of Monaco. The most famous cave of them all, Lascaux, was found in 1940 by four adventurous schoolboys who tipped off their schoolmaster. Thus children, with their curiosity and freedom from preconception, have been instrumental in the revelation of man's primeval past.

Cave paintings recreate a subsistence world where human beings' very survival was at stake—a situation that can come again in war or after severe climatological change. Was the stenciled prehistoric hand a tribal badge or a symbol of possession and control over the painted animals?—whose real-life originals constituted a critical food supply in the Ice Age. Cave paintings usually follow strict realism: minutely varied species of horses, deer, bison, and mammoths, delicately painted with improvised brushes of grass or fur, can be identified. The fragility yet willed strength of human power symbolized by the stenciled hand is suggested by the sheer size of animals depicted. For example, seventeen images of the long-horned steppe bison (bison priscus) appear in the cave at Lascaux: speedy climbers and leapers, they were 6'6" in height at their hump. If one were trapped or speared, it could provide up to 1,500 pounds of meat for an extended family. The fierce, prehistoric aurochs, whose descendants include the ox and the Spanish fighting bull, were of even greater size, sometimes weighing over 2,800 pounds. There are fifty-two aurochs depicted on the walls at Lascaux: one is eighteen feet long.

The prehistoric hand, whether personal signature or communal avowal of desire, is clearly a magic image with copious later parallels. It might be juxtaposed with other upraised hands, such as the gesture of peace and blessing made by Buddha and Jesus or the signal of formal address (ad locutio, representing the power of speech) of Roman orators and generals, as in the restored Prima Porta statue of Augustus Caesar or Constantine's fragmentary colossus in the Capitoline Museum. There is a constellation of associations with the "speaking" hand movements of South Asian dance, called mudra in India and even more intricately refined in classical Khmer dance (aspara) in Cambodia. Then there are the operatic gestures of fear and awe made by wind-blown saints in Baroque art as well as folk motifs of the magic hand, such as the archaic Mediterranean charm with two fingers extended, still worn by Italians to ward off the malocchio (evil eye).




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My second exemplary image is the Byzantine icon, in an early medieval style that survives in Eastern rite or Greek and Russian Orthodox churches (fig. 2). It was born in the great capital of Byzantium, renamed Constantinople (modern Istanbul). In late-medieval and early Renaissance Italy, this style was called la maniera greca, the Greek manner or style. Insofar as Byzantine religious art is commonly reproduced on Christmas cards and museum-shop curios, the Byzantine style remains part of contemporary culture in Europe and North America. The classic icon is a rather stern, even glowering image of Jesus, Mary, or a saint set against a gold or blue background. It may be a mosaic panel bonded to a church wall or dome or a portable image painted in shiny egg tempera on wood. Icons were paraded in cities on feast days and carried into battle to protect the armies.

The figure in icons is always static and seen in strict frontality (in contrast to cave paintings, where animals are depicted only in profile). Space is compressed, and composition is shallow, with the figure pressed against the picture plane. Even when a floor is shown, figures seem to hover. The human dimension is inconsequential. The Byzantine emperor and his queen, clad in heavy brocade robes studded with jewels and pearls, may appear but primarily as a conduit to the divine. Usually floating somewhere in the image is a vertical or horizontal strip of Greek letters, a sacred name or fragment of Scripture. This elegant black calligraphy, outlined against gold, presents words as magic. It seems to show sound soaring through the air—a ritual incantation, an abstract idea being transformed into words. The Byzantine icon, therefore, is an ideal marriage of word and picture. Church and basilica, with their architecturally embedded images, were living books for the masses. The soaring Byzantine domes emblazoned with the enthroned Virgin or Christ Pantocrator ("Ruler of All") recall the painted ceiling of Lascaux's Great Hall of the Bulls, a rotunda that has been called "the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory."

The glittering Byzantine icon seizes student attention: its aggressive stare forces us to stare back. It also provides an excellent entree to long, tangled lines of cultural history. Until the late nineteenth century, Byzantine art was dismissed as a degenerate or barbarous form of classical art. The ornate Byzantine style actually originates in the luxurious ostentation of the ancient pagan Near East—notably the great capitals of Alexandria and mercantile Antioch. The figures in Byzantine icons exist as head and hand: if the bodies seem stiffly imprisoned or encased in their robes, perhaps it's because their distant ancestors were Egyptian mummies. The watchful, wary eyes of Byzantine icons, which seem to drill through and see past the viewer, descend from mummy masks of Roman-era Egypt, such as those found in a Hawara cemetery in the Fayum oasis southwest of Cairo. These vividly painted encaustic (wax) portraits, set into linen body wrappings, show only the dead's bustlike head and shoulders. The individualism of Fayum faces descends from Roman culture, with its stress on realistic portraiture. Stone busts—originally clay death masks—of Roman ancestors were kept in the family atrium and carried in procession once a year. The Fayum figures' enlarged, almost bulging eyes and dilated pupils (sometimes described as "haunting" or "insomniac") reflect the mystical importance of the eye, identified with the god Horus, in Egyptian culture. The soulfulness of the Fayum portraits, whose originals were urban sophisticates in an anxious period of social change, survives in the ascetic faces of Byzantine saints: Osiris' promise of resurrection and eternal life has become Christ's.

The subject of Byzantine icons is inextricable from that of iconoclasm—the destruction of images because of their alleged solicitation to idolatry. Nothing could be more relevant to the dominance of images in our celebrity culture, which strives to turn us all into pagan idolators. Suspicion of or hostility to images persists in the American Puritan tradition, which surfaced at both extremes of the political spectrum in the 1980s: first, in the attempted legal suppression of sex magazines, including mainstream Playboy and Penthouse, by anti-pornography feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon; and second, in the attack by Christian conservatives on the National Endowment for the Arts for funding blasphemous, homoerotic, or sadomasochistic photographs by Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe. Literal iconoclasm was undertaken in Afghanistan in 2001 when the Taliban ordered the pulverizing by artillery fire of ancient colossi of Buddha, carved out of a cliff at Bamian.

Iconoclasm originates in the Old Testament's prohibition of making pictures—called "graven images" or "idols" in the Ten Commandments—of God, man, or animal. In Judeo-Christianity and its ancillary descendant, Islam (which forbids depiction of the figure in mosques), God is pure spirit and cannot be reduced to material form. During the bitter debate about this issue in early Christianity from the second century on, pagan image-making often won out, thanks to the momentum of Mediterranean cultural tradition. Protestant reformers such as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin were severe critics of the image-intoxicated style of late-medieval Roman Catholicism. There was smashing of church statues and stained-glass windows in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries throughout Northern Europe, as there also was in England after Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and during Cromwell's Puritan Revolution. The austere, white Protestant church in the seventeenth-century neoclassical style of Christopher Wren (the fount of American church design) is a temple to reason, with no images to distract the worshippers from Holy Scripture, the word of God.

Hence the battle in Western culture between word and picture can be traced over 2,500 years. The first outbreak of iconoclasm in the Byzantine empire occurred in 726 AD: when Leo III, the emperor and pope, ordered that a beloved icon of Christ be removed from its place above the Chalke Gate, the main entrance to the imperial palace, there was a violent riot by women, whose leader was later martyred and canonized as St. Theodosia. An edict by Leo four years later reinforced his ban on use of the figure in church art because images, in his view, were being blasphemously worshipped. Leo's son, the emperor Constantine V, convened a council in 754 that institutionalized iconoclasm; he attacked the monasteries and persecuted iconodules (venerators of icons). Many icons were destroyed outright: mosaic images were hacked from the walls and crosses put in their place. Women, particularly among the imperial family, were fervent iconodules. The banning of images in Byzantium lasted, with several breaks, for over a century until the restoration of the icons in 843, after the death of the last iconoclast emperor, Theophilos, the prior year.

Portable icons were carried along medieval trade routes into Russia. At the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, many of the city's precious objects were dispersed even further into Russia and Italy. There was long controversy among Russian theologians about whether the iconostasis (from eikonostasion, medieval Greek for "shrine"), a partition or picture screen separating the altar from the nave in an Orthodox church, detracted attention from the Holy Eucharist as the center of the Christian service. The modern Orthodox iconostasis consists of fold-out screens with stacked registers (rows) of gilt wooden images of Christ, the Virgin, archangels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, and other saints, which the faithful read like posters. It resembles a modern newsstand, with its linear array of glossy magazine covers featuring celebrities and pop stars. A little area facing the front door in Russian Orthodox homes—krasnyi ugolok, the "red or beautiful corner"—was devoted to icon display. Bowing and crossing themselves, visitors saluted the icons even before greeting the host. Once again we detect female influence, since it was Russian women, who could not be ordained as priests, who created and tended the icon corners.

Byzantine icons hugely influenced European culture: their arrival in medieval Italy revived Italian art and, through their reinterpretation by Duccio di Buoninsegna and his student Simone Martini in Siena, began the evolution toward the Renaissance. I recommend three Byzantine icons in particular that might intrigue students: the tenth-century mosaic panel of St. John Chrysostom ("Golden Mouth") of Antioch in the north tympanum of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul; a twelfth-century tempera-on-wood icon of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus ("Wonder Worker") in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg; and a thirteenth-century tempera-on-wood icon of St. Nicholas of Myra in Bari, where the saint's relics are preserved (this is the Saint Nick later identified with Santa Claus). In each case, a fiery-eyed figure, ornately robed, is standing against a gold background inscribed with floating Greek letters. Each saint is holding a book, a Bible studded with jewels. He catches it in the crook of his arm and steadies it with a shrouded hand, as if it were too sacred or numinous to touch. A book, in other words, is represented as the burning source of spiritual power.

Finally, I would invoke one of my favorite works of art, Andy Warhol's Marilyn Diptych (Tate Gallery), which clearly demonstrates the childhood influence on Warhol of his family's Eastern rite church. It is a modern iconostasis: fifty images of Marilyn Monroe are lined up in registers on two large screens. On one, the orange-yellow riot of Marilyn's silk-screened images illustrates her cartoon-like stardom. On the other, her photos have faded to smudged black and white, like newsprint washed by rain or tears. Marilyn Diptych suggests that in a media age, words melt away, and nothing is left but images.




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My third and last exemplary image is that of the skull in pre-Columbian art (fig. 3). This is another area of tremendous controversy: life-size crystal skulls continue to be touted on New Age Web sites as Aztec, Mayan, or Incan artifacts that allegedly function as archaic magnets or radio receivers to capture cosmic energy and confer prophetic power (fig. 4). These weird objects, I submit, would be highly useful for warning students of the still-unreliable state of Web resources. My commitment to the Web as a new frontier is unshaken. (I was a columnist for Salon.com for six years from its inaugural issue in 1995.) Nevertheless, I still believe that only through prolonged, comparative study of books can one learn how to assess ambiguous or contradictory evidence and sort through the competing claims of putative authorities.

Though most major studies of Meso-American culture acknowledge the enormity of human sacrifice that occurred, particularly in the two centuries before the Spanish conquest, the issue has been de-emphasized over the past thirty years in the ideological campaign to convict Christopher Columbus of genocide. Otherwise well-produced picture books of Chichén Itzá, for example, the mammoth Mayan complex in the Yucatán, document the great step pyramid, the ball court, the domed observatory, and the temple of a thousand pillars crowned by a raffish Chac-Mool statue holding a belly plate on which freshly extracted, still-quivering human hearts were laid. But it is difficult to find photographs, much less comprehensive ones, of Chichén Itzá's centrally situated Platform of the Skulls, where the severed heads of sacrificed prisoners, ritual victims, and even losing ballplayers were displayed on wooden racks to bake in the sun. Around that imposing stone platform, which I have personally inspected, runs a complex frieze of stone skulls still bearing remnants of bright red paint. The widespread view of the Maya as peaceable, compared to the bloodthirsty Aztecs, certainly needs adjustment.

Such platforms, called tzompantli, date from the prior Toltec era in Central Mexico and northern Yucatán. Among several eye-witness accounts by Spanish soldiers and priests in Cortés' expedition, one extravagantly estimated that 136,000 skulls were displayed on the tzompantli in the main Aztec temple complex of Tenochtitlán on the site of present-day Mexico City. A codex ink sketch by Friar Diego Duran shows tiers of skulls tightly strung like an abacus with rods piercing the cranium from ear to ear. In their orderly symmetries, these vanished skull racks resemble Byzantine icon screens as well as the tall magazine shelves of modern libraries. The grinning, pre-Columbian skull also appears in isolation on stone altars and on the heads, crowns, or trophy belts of ferocious earth goddesses like Coatlicue ("She of the Serpent Skirt"), who represents the cycle of fertility and death. Even more striking are unearthly masks worn by Aztec priests: an example in the British Museum, which may have belonged to king Montezuma himself, consists of the front half of a real human skull surfaced with mosaic and tied around the face; it was worn with an elaborate feather headdress. The finest of these mosaic masks are faceted with brilliant turquoise jade, with detail work in red or white seashells and obsidian, a black volcanic glass.

These authentic Aztec masks, which have circulated in Europe since Cortés' first shipment of booty, undoubtedly inspired today's notorious crystal skulls. At least fourteen crystal skulls, some transparent and others varying in hue from smoky brown to rose and amethyst, are currently heralded by New Age spiritualists. Several were once in major museum collections and loaned out for scholarly exhibitions. In 1996, however, a BBC TV crew, in the course of making a documentary, subjected a series of crystal skulls to scientific testing and revealed that microscopic evidence of machine polishing showed they were probably made in Germany some time since the nineteenth century. Dismayed officials at the British Museum and Smithsonian Institution immediately withdrew their crystal skulls from public display.

There is a Canadian connection here. The world's most celebrated crystal skull—the so-called Skull of Doom—is owned by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, who lived as a child in Port Colborne, Ontario. Her stepfather, a British-born adventurer, claimed she had discovered the skull at a Mayan ruin in Belize on her seventeenth birthday in 1924. From 1967 on, the skull, which weighs eleven and a half pounds, was kept in a felt-lined case in her house in Kitchener, to which pilgrims came from all over the world. A Toronto medium did work with the Skull of Doom and reported on its prophecies in a 1985 book, The Skull Speaks. The BBC producers traveled to Toronto to interview Mrs. Mitchell-Hedges, but she did not allow the skull to be tested. Its present whereabouts are unknown.

Crystal skulls, fabricated or not, are splendid symbols of human brainpower and vision. A skull, stripped of gender and identity, reduces the face to eyes and jaw—to seeing and speaking. Yet it has neither lips to shape syllables nor throat to generate breath. Images like the Aztec skull can help students bridge the vast distance between the archaeological past and futuristic cyberspace. But it is only language that can make sense of the radical extremes in human history, from the ecstatic spirituality of Byzantine icons to the gruesome barbarism of Aztec ritual slaughter. It is language that fleshes out our skeletal outline of images and ideas. In a media age where books are no longer the primary medium for information storage and exchange, language must be reclaimed from the hucksters and the pedants and imaginatively reinforced. To save literature, educators must take command of the pre-rational world of images. The only antidote to the magic of images is the magic of words.

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Old 04-15-2004, 06:51 AM   #252 (permalink)
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April 15, 2004
Finding Glamour in the Gadget
By SETH SCHIESEL
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Web Edition Editors' Note Is Appended

Ellen Glassman was explaining the four-minute nature film she is producing.

“We want to create that feeling of awe, of being inspired,” she said, explaining that her team had trekked from Puerto Rico’s rain forests and beaches to California’s sequoias to the snowcaps of Mount Shasta in search of just the right images. “We want that emotional feeling you get looking over an incredible vista or looking closely at a leaf. We want someone to feel the same way holding the 016 camera.”

The what?

Ms. Glassman, as it happens, is not a filmmaker by profession, but a designer for Sony. And the project is part of an effort to redefine the way consumers — or at least certain, well-heeled consumers — think about electronic devices. At a moment when cellphones are becoming fashion accessories and rap stars carry diamond-encrusted two-way pagers, Sony plans next week to announce the American debut of a premium brand and product line meant to elevate electronics from the status of mere tool to coveted luxury good.

Initially anchored by a $3,900 miniature digital camera, a $15,000 stereo system, a $12,000 television and a $30,000 home-theater projector, the product line, called Qualia, is intended to compete with (and complement) fancy cars, furs and rare wines, rather than the rows of anonymous boxes at Best Buy or Circuit City. From the nature film to the products’ oblique numbering system (the projector is formally known as Qualia 004, for instance) to the by appointment-only showroom under construction in Midtown Manhattan, Sony is meticulously calibrating every aspect to exploit and influence the psychology of consumerism.

“We want Qualia to change the way that people relate, emotionally, to these technologies,” said Ken Sugawara, head of the United States Qualia team.

Consumer electronics have long had a high end, notably in the audiophile world of $10,000 turntables, $15,000 amplifiers and $50,000 loudspeakers. Two years ago, a Nokia subsidiary called Vertu started selling platinum cellphones for more than $20,000. And on a massmarket level, consumers who might pay $300 for a conventional television are flocking to spend $3,000 or more on flat-panel models.

With Sony’s move, a company of worldwide scope has thrown itself behind the concept of electronics as luxury. But what are luxury products, and why do people aspire to own them? Why does someone spend $3,000 on a watch when a $10 model will tell time accurately? Why does someone spend $50,000 on a fur or $100 on a cigar? Why is decorative jewelry almost as old as the human race?

There is clearly a psychological component to acquiring, owning and using such products that transcends the task that the item is nominally meant to perform — telling time, driving somewhere.

“The luxury market is not a matter of what something costs,” said Bill Curtis, chief executive of CurtCo Media, publisher of Robb Report, the luxury lifestyle magazine. “It’s a matter of the entire visceral and emotional experience attached to it. It is about being inspired by products and services, whether that means hotels, boats, cars, jewelry. And this is clearly where the best part of consumer electronics is heading.”

It is that quality that Sony is trying so hard to infuse into Qualia. In fact, the concept was developed by Ken Mogi, a Sony researcher who studies the ways in which external experience, including the use of electronic devices, elicits emotional reactions. Mr. Mogi uses the word “qualia” (the plural of a noun defined as “a quality abstracted as an independent, universal essence from a thing”) to describe those reactions — and began working four years ago to translate the idea into a product line. The first fruits were borne in Japan last year with the opening of Qualia salons in Tokyo and Osaka.

In an interview in Japan, Mr. Mogi said that over and above technical requirements, Qualia products were designed to elicit an emotional response.

“The reason why people pay a premium to get on the Concorde is not to save a few hours,” he noted of an era just ended. “There was a particular experience associated with flying on the Concorde.”

For a multinational marketing powerhouse like Sony, designing that experience — and figuring out whom it might appeal to — is practically a science. In the basement of the Sony Store on Madison Avenue, where the Qualia salon is to open in June, Steve Fisher, a Qualia marketing expert, said the primary target was “affluent, career-oriented” couples in their 40’s who “tend not to have children.”

Close behind, he said, was a category called Renaissance Women, who are also in their mid-40’s but usually have children.

“We were initially surprised, but on reflection it really is quite logical,” Mr. Fisher said. “Women are more brand-conscious than men in general, especially brands associated with fashion and style.”

The packaging is an essential part of the experience. The miniature digital camera, for example, comes in a plain white box. (“Since Qualia won’t be sold by big retail chains, there’s no need to make colorful packaging designed to stand out,” said Takashi Aoki, a Qualia marketing executive in Tokyo.)

Yet inside that box, the camera and its jewellike accessories are coddled within an elegant case of polished aluminum, stainless steel and synthetic material that seems suited for delicate scientific components or a rare musical instrument.

As for the store itself, “we’ve chosen very pearlescent fabrics, exotic zebra wood, white Italian leather, elegant panels,” Ms. Glassman said.

“We’re keeping the color palette all neutral and natural, but with a modern American aesthetic.”

Fully aware that smell is closely linked with emotion, Sony has even developed a special Qualia scent that is piped into the Qualia salons in Japan.

“Compared to the new-car smell, the Qualia scent is a much more subtle experience,” said Phil Boyle, a product specialist who is part of Sony’s Qualia task force for the United States market. (The company is unsure if it will use the scent in this country.)

According to Mr. Fisher, one of the most important aspects of the Qualia experience is giving customers (to be called “guests”) a sense that they are developing a one-on-one relationship with the company — an approach Sony has explored with its private shopping service, Cierge, which has about 5,000 members. Sony has mapped out a timeline for its dealings with Qualia customers.

In Week 1 after purchase, the customer is to receive a personalized letter from his or her Qualia concierge.

In Week 4, the customer is to get a choice of “welcoming gifts,” like tickets to a performance by Yo-Yo Ma, Bruce Springsteen or another Sony Music artist. Thereafter, the customer will receive a Qualia quarterly newsletter.

As Mr. Curtis of Robb Report put it: “The most important aspect of any luxury product now is service. It’s having someone you can call who will call you by name. If you look at Rolls-Royce or any of these other companies, when you buy that product you are suddenly a member of their club. That is a big part of what you are buying.”

That is why Sony intends to sell Qualia products by telephone, but not over the Web. “On the phone we can at least talk to the customer and make sure they really understand the product,” said Mr. Sugawara of the United States Qualia team. “Online, you just have no contact. Online, you see people buying things without really understanding them.”

But for all of the inner sense of well-being that luxury products are supposed to induce, status is also crucial to their allure. More broadly, the Qualia concept illustrates how consumer electronics are becoming a personal accessory — an expression of one’s identity — in much the way that cars evolved from a mere conveyance available in a single color to an extension of personality.

Take cellphones, for instance.

“Now, when executives come to a business meeting it’s like the O.K. Corral: everyone whips out their cellphone and puts it on the table,” said Page Murray, vice president for marketing at PalmOne, the maker of mobile electronics. “If some guy has the latest phone, it’s the first five minutes of conversation. It’s as much a part of their identity as the suit or tie they are wearing.”

That dynamic extends beyond the corporate world. That is why Palm-One created a phone covered in pink Swarovski crystals for Alison Krauss, the popular singer, to carry down the red carpet at the Oscars this year. That is why Motorola also worked with Swarovski to put a crystal-encrusted phone into Sarah Jessica Parker’s hands for “Sex and the City.” That is why Jacob the Jeweler, maker of “bling-bling” for the stars, is expanding from watches and bracelets into electronics.

“In the past six months the electronics have really taken off,” said Nicole Young, Jacob’s publicist. “People want their name monogrammed in diamonds on the cellphone or they want the pagers entirely encrusted in diamonds. We had the wife of one rapper who had a pink phone and she wanted it encrusted in pink diamonds. Well that was way too expensive, so Jacob did it in pink sapphires and white diamonds, so it was like a polka-dot effect.”

David A. Pinsky, director for entertainment marketing for Motorola, said: “As time goes by, people say, ‘I wear a certain watch, shop at a particular clothing store, drive a certain car.’ And now they want electronics products that fit into that same sense of personality and identity.”

Though most of Sony’s early Qualia products are meant to be used in the home rather than in public, many of the products in the works are meant to be portable (in addition to the camera), Sony executives said.

Still, with the emphasis on sleek, understated refinement in the Qualia line, many Sony executives would cringe at its being lumped together with the aesthetic of diamond-covered cellphones.

Each Qualia product is meant to embody the highest levels of engineering and craftsmanship — a goal that can be approached in different ways. With the two-megapixel 016 camera, for instance, Sony seems to be emphasizing miniaturization.

While Sony says that its picture quality is excellent, it will not equal that of advanced professional models. In its Qualia television, however, Sony appears to have placed picture quality ahead of design considerations. Rather than a flat-panel display, the television uses an advanced cathode-ray tube, which is far bulkier. Sony executives say that for all its shortcomings of size and weight, the C.R.T. remains the king of image quality.

Sony does not expect Qualia to become a major financial engine for the company, at least not right away. Yet re-establishing itself at the high end of the electronics market has become vital for Sony as the overall sector is largely driven by bargain commodities.

“We want to go back to Sony’s origin, to the start of the business, which was not to copy somebody else but to always create something new,” said Shizuo Takashino, the head of the worldwide Qualia group and Sony’s No. 3 executive. “We have to do this because, well, $39 Chinesemade DVD players are already being sold in Wal-Mart.”

Editors' Note for the Web Edition: An early version of this article that had not been fully edited appeared yesterday for a couple of hours on NYTimes.com. The text above is the edited, correct version.
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Old 04-15-2004, 06:54 AM   #253 (permalink)
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The qualia product has been years in the making. Actually, it's just the same spin on a new niche market.

Upscale Upscale Upscale.

Increase the price and you don't have to sell as many units, profit margins will still be slim I'm sure of it. I don't see how diamond encrusted disposable items are more valuable, but our society doesn't KNOW the difference.

I can buy a luxury vehicle, luxury clothes, those tend to keep value. Luxury food, well we know it winds up in the same place as a McD's burger. But this one astounds me.
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Old 04-15-2004, 07:05 AM   #254 (permalink)
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I wrote a paper on this subject recently for an analytical writing class.
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Old 04-15-2004, 07:32 AM   #255 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by NoLa
I wrote a paper on this subject recently for an analytical writing class.
can you share more insights?
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Old 04-15-2004, 09:22 AM   #256 (permalink)
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It is the original "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors Wife. Nor shalt thou covet his ass...etc." We call it "keeping up with the Jones'" and Sony is trying to call it Qualia.

I, myself, find that I tend to gravitate towards service oriented products and stores. This is mostly because I try to carve my stores niche into a 'quality service' experience like Sony is trying to do with this line. You can buy most things that I sell at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, etc. but we count on customers coming back in because we know them better. We call them by name, we try and learn their likes and dislikes and recommend items from a position of knowing them.

This is new to the electronics industry but not a new concept in psychology. This seems to me to be a way to distance the constant "upgrade" mentality into a more permanent buying experience. Sounds like a small market but I'll bet that there will be quite a few 2nd mortgages activated over these products.

I loved this line, "For a multinational marketing powerhouse like Sony, designing that experience — and figuring out whom it might appeal to — is practically a science."

They could have left out the 'practically'.
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Old 04-15-2004, 10:08 AM   #257 (permalink)
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Thanks for the great content and comments, folks!

This thread has become better as a result of your good contributions to it...
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Old 04-18-2004, 06:45 AM   #258 (permalink)
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Here are just a few random thoughts related to the topic, at least I hope so.

I don’t worry about the affect of advertising on adults. We’re all self-conscious in one way or another, and if you can’t spend some time on internal self-development, but would rather nip down to the bar for a drink with friends, then I couldn’t care less about the media exploiting you. I am, however, worried about kids in general.

If my kid will see a cartoon, then should I explain to him that the stuff inside the TV is not real, but drawn by people? Should I go into the tedious details of fast flashing pictures that, in the end, turn out to be a moving on-screen character? Should I go and tell the kid that he wants a toy purely because somebody is earning money of this? Surely, this seems a tedious task. Then again, up until three years or so ago, I had no clue about the mechanics that govern the world around. I had no clue, because nobody really explained these things to me. I was an easy target for any kind of media advertising, because I had no idea that the media was out there to sell me stuff I didn’t really need. So, back to the point, if I went ahead, and was explaining each and every of these things in detail to my child as it would be growing up, even if it would be a tedious task, would I have a chance of raising a person completely free of the media/cultural images superimposed-on-my-thoughts burden? Would a person like that want to actually live?

Ah, questions, questions, questions.
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Old 04-18-2004, 07:46 AM   #259 (permalink)
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Schwan, thanks for your cogent addition to this thread.

As for your initial point regarding adults, it jarred me to formulate a response to a point raised by sixate on the first page of this thread:

"So what you're saying is we're all just a bunch of puppets!"

I didn't affirm that statement at that time.

I think we are, most precisely, "automatons".
.......................................

Main Entry: au·tom·a·ton
Pronunciation: o-'tä-m&-t&n, -m&-"tän
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -atons or au·tom·a·ta /-m&-t&, -m&-"tä/
Etymology: Latin, from Greek, neuter of automatos
1 : a mechanism that is relatively self-operating; especially : ROBOT
2 : a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions
3 : an individual who acts in a mechanical fashion
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Old 04-18-2004, 02:53 PM   #260 (permalink)
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One of my favorite bands has always been MeatPuppets. I suspect that most people on this little globe fall into that designation.

This thread has opened quite a few eyes to exactly what is being done to our minds. I have certainly learned how far this programming extends; and I was largely blind to it, even though I have incorporated part of the 'programming' experience into my own daily life.

Couldn't see the forest for the trees, I suppose.
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Old 04-18-2004, 03:48 PM   #261 (permalink)
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For the most part, I'm OK with automatism.
I just like to be aware of my surroundings.
I also prefer to acknowledge inevitable realities no matter how they make me look.

I have a feeling though that most folks prefer to believe - erroneously, I'm afraid - they are "free".

In the end, I think that's what we're really talking about.
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Old 04-18-2004, 06:09 PM   #262 (permalink)
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We see, on average over 5,000 (yes, 3 0's) ads each day of our lives. Most equate 'ads' as commercials, newspaper or magazine advertisements, billboards. But that coffee cup from 7-11 is an ad. Those running shoes you're wearing with the logo on the sides? An ad.
We think we are free because we are told that.(propaganda through use of political agendas??) But there are prices to be paid, deals to be met, so nothing comes to us freely and what we think as being 'free' is really being allowed choices from different sources to fulfill our needs.
We don't have to explain every detail to our kids-we need to simply let them know what is generally acceptable or right and guide them in their early decision making. I was the pariah of moms for letting my kids watch The Simpsons when they were little-but I know they know what's entertainment and I know they aren't going to be imitation "Bart"s. Yes, they fall for the "I want's" of commercialism-luckily we are not financially able to spoil them with honoring their requests and let them know it is not necessary to have just because others do. I think that, as young as they are, they are pretty confident in themselves and the choices they make, even if we do have to bring them back to reality every now and then when one gets the urge to "have the Converses like my friend".
Even if the choices were endless and we were not bombarded with subliminal messages written on the sides of coffee cups, would we be 'free'? Probably not. But we do need to reinforce in our children the idea that the loudest is not always the best and that even if 100,000 people make a choice, it doesn't mean that is the choice they should make as well. It is truly hard to do with all the media bombardment they are exposed to. It becomes a sea of confusion for them-I just try to guide them to trust their OWN judgement and not fall for the hype behind the cardboard smiles.
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Old 04-19-2004, 06:13 PM   #263 (permalink)
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MRI all I'm cracked up to be?

This story is at it appears on drudgereport.com at the moment. It should develop into something more in a day or so. It's nothing new but it does give a high-profile to the many obvious connections between using scientifically researched methodologies for manipulating the human brain - which, of course, is the location inhabited by the human mind.

........................

CAMPAIGN ADS TESTED WITH BRAIN SENSORS
Mon Apr 19 2004 19:31:19 ET

New campaign ads are being tested on how they affect blood flow in the brain, the NEW YORK TIMES is planning to report on Page Ones Tuesday.

Newsroom sources tell DRUDGE how NYT reporter John Tierney has filed a 1100 word story on the possible future of campaign strategy development.

A subject lay inside an MRI machine, watching commercials playing on the inside of his goggles as neuroscientists from UCLA measured the blood flow in his brain.

Instead of asking the subject -- a Democratic voter -- what he thought of the use of Sept. 11 images in the first Bush campaign commercial this year, the researchers noted which parts of his brain were active as he watched -- and that they were different from the parts that had lit up in earlier tests with Republican voters.

The researchers don't claim to have figured out either party's brain quite yet, since they haven't finished this pioneering experiment.

But they have already noticed intriguing patterns in the way that Democrats and Republicans look at candidates.

Researchers zeroed in on 9/11 images and their particular effect among Democrats on the amygdala, the part of the brain that responds to threats and danger. Tested Democrats responded to the Sept. 11 images with noticeably more activity in the amygdala than did the Republicans.

"The first interpretation that occurred to me," one scientist conducting the test tells the NYT, "is that the Democrats see the 9/11 issue as a good way for Bush to get re-elected, and they experience that as a threat."
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Old 04-19-2004, 06:54 PM   #264 (permalink)
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Seems to me they should have taken it one step further and tested noncomittal or disinterested subjects to see if they could be stimulated into a change of thinking. After all, isn't that what media bombardment strives for?
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Old 04-19-2004, 07:20 PM   #265 (permalink)
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In Bi-partisan politics, I would imagine that they really don't care about the neutral and dis-interested people. I went back and re-read the encarta definition of Brain-Washing.

brain.wash
transitive verb

1. impose beliefs on somebody: to impose a set of usually political or religious beliefs on somebody by the use of various coercive methods of indoctrination, including destruction of the victim’s prior beliefs

It sounds to me like the "destruction of prior beliefs" is what they are all about here. If they tried to convert the dis-interested, they wouldn't gain many percentage points in the polls, now would they?
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Old 04-20-2004, 04:02 AM   #266 (permalink)
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Judging by (uh-oh, paying attention to media reports) what has been reported lately, there are more and more disinterested in the political process, probably out of disgust for all the pointless rhetoric. So, yea, there would be something gained by stimulating their responses as in that test. If you have 3 republicans, 3 democrats and 1 "I don't give a shit', wouldn't you want that tie-breaker?
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Old 04-25-2004, 11:11 PM   #267 (permalink)
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losers ruleL the anti-hero in contemporary media.

Sub-thread regarding the inversion of values in media - the place where the presentation of negative psychological characteristics pays.

................................

I posted this in my journal as a rumination on the anti-hero as role model - What are your thoughts on this?
................................

Our absurd romantic obsession with the heroic status that disaffected anti-heroic youth hold in this media-soaked society is a sad situation. There are so many instances where alienated crude and violent, even criminal young people are held up to be some sort of paragon of cool that many contemporary humans have a knee-jerk emotional affection for the stereotype. Countless children, adolescents - and adults who should know better - identify with sociopathological pseudo-role models.

Of course it is to their detriment. And it is our loss.

As long as the purveyors of popular culture continue to profit from producing a constant stream of such figures for the consumption of young and impressionable minds, these obsessions will continue. Inept dramatists and uninspired artists create the cliches while generations of media-trained children and adults eat them up like so much brain candy.

Personally, I have come to loathe this stereotype for what it is - a cheap and manipulative attempt to popularize losers and another example of how a corrupt cultural hegemony profits by appealing to the lowest common denominators of human behavior.

.....................
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Old 04-26-2004, 10:07 AM   #268 (permalink)
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This may be a case of the proverbial chicken first or egg question. Are our voyeuristic tendencies just being satisfied by an accommodating media? Or are we as a society being led to believe that we should be in awe and worship of these publicity hounds? Think back to when you were a teenager-whom did you admire? But also, whom did you fantasize about or live vicariously though?
Unfortunately, standards have dropped, both in the media and in the way we watch over our children, when they are even watched over. Which brings up another point. Many parents are absent too much of the time to guide the decision-making of their children. As someone who worked with young teens, I know that too many of them go home to empty houses, many times being alone well into night. They turn on their tv's and watch MTV, wrestling, anything that doesn't require much concentration or thought. They are permeated with no-talent screamers and announcers proclaiming how cool the violence they've just witnessed is, while knowing that these people are richer than anyone has a right to be. News channels are not even immune. They will say how horrible the following clip is, show it, then show it again, all the while proclaiming (in self-righteous tone), "wasn't that just horrible"... it hardens the viewer into zombie-like disinterest .
Media has the nasty habit of bringing the lowest of the low into the spotlight, ad nauseam and fueling both the subjects need for attention and the public's general feeling of the 'right to know' everything. Too bad it is so misguided that only the very rich or the very disgusting get the notice, while true, everday heroes toil along unnoticed, but truly making a difference in the lives they touch.
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Old 04-26-2004, 01:11 PM   #269 (permalink)
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It's clear to me that the ones doing the programming are the ones who inculcate these memes into each generation and who are doing the manipulating. Individuals have no power that can compare to the heavily invested and psychologically researched level of media blitzkrieg we are exposed to on a daily basis.

It takes talent to create meaningful experience. Meaningful experience is reflective and allows individuals some choice in the messages they may extract. It takes only money, ego, and greed to create seductive mental candy bars for the masses.

..............
"No one in this world, as far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

H. L. Mencken
Notes on journalism, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 19, 1926
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Old 04-29-2004, 12:02 PM   #270 (permalink)
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I came across this link today about a project known as the Memespread Project, which follows memes as they spread across cyberspace.

I have not read the full article (in PDF form on the left side of the page) yet - I'm going to try and get to it tonight - but thought it was apropos here.

The Memespread Project
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Old 04-29-2004, 01:02 PM   #271 (permalink)
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Re: losers ruleL the anti-hero in contemporary media.

Quote:
Originally posted by ARTelevision

Our absurd romantic obsession with the heroic status that disaffected anti-heroic youth hold in this media-soaked society is a sad situation. There are so many instances where alienated crude and violent, even criminal young people are held up to be some sort of paragon of cool that many contemporary humans have a knee-jerk emotional affection for the stereotype. Countless children, adolescents - and adults who should know better - identify with sociopathological pseudo-role models.

Of course it is to their detriment. And it is our loss.

As long as the purveyors of popular culture continue to profit from producing a constant stream of such figures for the consumption of young and impressionable minds, these obsessions will continue. Inept dramatists and uninspired artists create the cliches while generations of media-trained children and adults eat them up like so much brain candy.

Personally, I have come to loathe this stereotype for what it is - a cheap and manipulative attempt to popularize losers and another example of how a corrupt cultural hegemony profits by appealing to the lowest common denominators of human behavior.
Yet simply reading the Myths of Heracles (romanized as Hercules) reveal that the Greek Hero was a rapist, a murderer, and a drunkard... Which media conglomerate profiteered from the propagation of these stories?

If you say that the Greek institutions such as the many Heraclean Cults -I should point out that the stories are probably much older than those institutions. (see Graves -The White Goddess -I forget which page). Heros and Anti-Heros have always been around.

During the "Dark Ages" such stories were repressed to the general masses for very similar reasons that you are citing here. The Vatican thought that immoral entertainment somehow caused illicit behavior. The church could cite that the cause was the devil trying to tempt mankind. His influence was supernatural.

Here, the influence of these "immoral stories" over minds is less definite. I think you said previously that it was just a matter of opinion -adding that the whole Science of Psychology -didn't have the wherewithal to know anything about it.
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Old 04-29-2004, 01:48 PM   #272 (permalink)
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Astrocloud, there is a difference between large mythic constructions in that they exist in a context in which their various messages are codified into a sensible whole. No such sensible context exists today. In addition, the means of conveyance of content has been continually emphasized here. The issues are not only the deleterious effect of anti-social content stripped of larger contexts of meaning but also the power with which they are conveyed to large numbers of citizens in rapidly increasing sequences.
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Old 04-29-2004, 01:50 PM   #273 (permalink)
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quadro, the meme study is interesting. memes and their propagation are well worth considering as memes are powerful replacements for the processes of reflective thought.
Thanks.
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Old 04-29-2004, 02:00 PM   #274 (permalink)
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Are you suggesting that people don't know the context of their television shows? Perhaps they do know -it's more like you'd rather have them view it in another context. There ARE multiple contexts.

As far as my Heracles example I was hoping that you'd bring up the disgusting "Clean" version of the myths presented by Edith Hamilton or even Disney. These two present Heracles with all the anti-social parts disgustingly removed. Is that your vision for our media?


As far as the messages of Heracles codified into a sensible whole -please present a source for this one. The myths often contradicted one another and there are various versions of each myth -depending on the age and the realm of Greece. BTW -people did believe (as in "Truth") the myths of Heracles... moreso than people "believe" that the people on television are really their friends.
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Old 04-29-2004, 04:11 PM   #275 (permalink)
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I think our individual statements can stand on their own merit without continuing dialog.
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Old 05-01-2004, 05:44 PM   #276 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by ARTelevision
I think our individual statements can stand on their own merit without continuing dialog.
Despite what it seems; I'm not trying to piss you off. I just don't get it.

These story subjects have been around since the beginnings of time. To try to attach some nefarious meaning to it seems contrived.

Look at it this way. Some of the earliest human media is still in existence on the walls of caves.

Here is a deeply sexual prehistoric image from an Algerian cave.



Is it "Mind Control"? You say no... but please explain the difference in detail.
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Old 05-01-2004, 06:44 PM   #277 (permalink)
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Mass media-uses common psychological factors to reach the broadest, most susceptible audience.
Cave Drawing-Typically illustrates a story or timeline of the inhabitants
Mass Media-employs typically fastpaced, intelligent-sounding doublespeak and uses in-depth studies of controlled populations to get what they consider the most typical response.
Cave Drawing-pretty
Mass media-designed to reach millions of people in their most comfortable setting, making them vulnerable to the suggestions given.
Cave Drawing-it's in a cave and the human population was a bit smaller.
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Old 05-01-2004, 06:57 PM   #278 (permalink)
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Yes, it's mind control. This thread has already established the position that all media can be considered as mind control.
The differences between ancient culture and post-modern culture are vast.
This thread focuses mainly on contemporary issues.
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Old 05-01-2004, 07:35 PM   #279 (permalink)
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The people who made the cave paintings were using the most advanced technology available to them to contact the most people that they could. Similarly, the story of Heracles was also related on the most advanced medium that the story teller could use to relate to their audience.




Please define the "contemporary issues". Do these issues involve the glorification of Murder?



Sex? (see previous cave painting)

How about drug use...
http://leda.lycaeum.org/?ID=10483

I guess I'm just not seeing the difference between "the issues" but rather a revamping of issues that are common to the human experience. Furthermore, the expressions of storylines related to such human experiences are also very normative. We live in a society with advanced technology that allows us to look down upon the succession that came before us. Don't you think that it's possible that we're just repeating what comes naturally? That we as humans relate to certain ideas -and that our societies will continue to relate to those ideas regardless of the technology that we utilize.
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Old 05-04-2004, 03:38 AM   #280 (permalink)
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My thoughts on the larger subject are moving toward an investigation of some of the resources referenced in the link below:

INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF INFORMATION WARFARE
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