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Mediacology.

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Growing brain cells

Kika-Pp-Edit
This is what the book says: an infant needs to sleep so that she can grow new brain cells. And what about papa? Well, I’m getting by, joyfully, but with little time to focus on work, thus my long absence from the blog. The good news is that my daughter was born healthy and strong. There is no real bad news, except that my normal time management strategy has been completely destroyed.

As for life in Rome… well you probably heard the news that the air quality here, depending on your disposition, is something special. With traces of cocaine, marijuana and caffeine, makes me wonder if Darth Vader found his recent tour of the city intoxicating in more ways than one. No doubt when he left there was tear gas added to the mix. As for the Lord Emperor’s whirling death flotilla, we are more than relieved to have our quiet neighborhood back and our nights filled with the baby’s cries rather than the drone of the aerial death bubble.

Before coming back I decided that I wanted to rework the blog. For a while there were several changes I wanted to make but the time between my initial coding and the latest software versions was too long and it was too difficult to simply over right the old template. Moreover, as I have been working on my book, my ideas are getting clearer; I’ve wanted to create more of a distinct identity for the blog with a unique URL and domain. Please keep in mind that everything is a work in progress, so I’ll be making tweaks here and there, and I’m a new parent, so time is precious!

If any of you brave souls subscribed to MediaMindfulness, please update your readers to reflect the new name, Mediacology, and location of the updated blog, which now lives at:

http://mediacology.com

I will no longer be posting at this site.

The main reason for the switch from MediaMindfulness to Mediacology is a change in emphasis and pedagogy. Mindfulness is a technique I learned from my meditation practice, which is about observing and being fully conscious and aware of what is happening in any moment. As I have been working on my book of the same name I came to realize that what I was really probing was not just mindful engagement of media, but to advocate for a deeper kind of understanding that delves into the very operating system of our cultural consciousness.

Most media literacy that I am aware of just focuses on the analysis of media. For me that is not enough. Our technological world is running on faulty thinking that goes to the core of economics, communications, education and ecology. Therefore, what Deep Ecology is to environmentalism, Mediacology is to media literacy. It’s an effort to move from a dualistic paradigm I call GridThink, to one that is holistic, which I am calling HoloGrok. More on these terms later. I will be testing some of the ideas of my book at the new blog, and also post about interesting things that cross my browser.

And now for some other mundane things. There was a period of a few weeks with no Internet, and to be truthful, it felt great. I got a lot of writing done and a sense of anxiety that pervades a lot of my probing and searching on the Web was abated. I was a little gloomy, to be honest, when the service was turned back on, and even sadder when the TV arrived. Yet I do miss writing and connecting in the blogosphere and sharing with all of you as you have so bravely ventured into my little world. So I plan to continue posting as much as I find interesting and relevant, but not with so much urgency. I want this to be fun again. I hope it is for you too. See you at my new studio!

Although 70-284 is an easy choice, but the credit earned is equal to that in 640-822 or even 640-863, even though they are much harder. Another clever option would be to skip 70-536 and go directly to SY0-101.

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Dear peeps

Deer peeps, due to the impending arrival of my baby daughter, I may be offline for a few weeks. Never fear, I shall be back!

The era of ‘Girls Gone Wild’?

Post-Feminism

An interesting review of some current arguments about the state of feminism. I’ve been somewhat intrigued by “postfeminsim,” not because I agree with it, but because it traffics in the same language as “postirony.” In other words, when young women where T-shirts with “babe” or hot pants with crude sexual language printed on their butt, one wonders if this is “empowerment” (as some suggest) and if our resistance to such things represents a generation gap of Old Lefties who don’t get young people. Admittedly, I don’t mean to sound stodgy but I do feel that rampant “hooking up” (it’s not just a female issue, mind you) is not a sign of a healthy culture. Everything done in balance.

I enjoyed the following article because it showed that the arguments are neither black or white, but as usual, marketers are the wild card in the mix. Amanda Marcotte connects “princes” marketing to children with the Pussycat phenom of older kids. Complicated stuff!

AlterNet: Feminism in the Era of ‘Girls Gone Wild’:

If young women are doing fine by themselves by picking up the books and working hard and presenting a very real challenge to male dominance, then what should we make of the “Girls Gone Wild” stereotype? The notion that college age women are wasting their potential somehow by acting like nothing more than sex objects is paralleled neatly by the notion that the kindergarten set of girls that are supposedly rejecting their feminist parents in order to embrace the fluffy princess phenomenon, pushed mostly by the Disney company. In fact, the princess marketing has something of a “gotcha” element to it, as if the miles of pink and lace present an irresistible temptation for the inner delicate flowers of young girls. The more likely story is that the relentless drumbeat of marketing the Princess line has made girls feel that they’re missing out if they aren’t a part of it.

The grown-up version of Disney’s Princess line is the TV show “The Pussycat Dolls,” where the symbol of belonging is not a pink lace princess dress, but a feather boa. Granted, the Pussycat Dolls are highly sexualized, but the marketing push is the same as the Princess line, the story being one about how women and girls find themselves irresistibly drawn away from participation in the real world and towards feminine accoutrements and being on display rather than being active. And these messages are coming, as they always have, from marketers that are more interested in protecting male privilege and making money than everything else. The co-option of words like “empowering” from feminists should be taken for what it is, a backlash wolf in feminist sheep clothing.

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The doll in the machine

(H/T to DK)

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Brands and schizophrenia

Santanas-Coffee
An example of Mexicans playing with Poly Identity

I feel bad for advertisers (OK, not really) because I often here industry pundits complain that the media audiences are too scattered, and have too much ADD to focus on their messages. Too bad, I’m crying crocodile tears. You see, part of the problem concerning people’s inability to focus on brand messages is a) there are too many of them, b) advertising is partly responsible for the scattered attention span, and c) who cares. Now another interesting problem: poly identities. As multiple worlds proliferate the Web, people are developing multiple personalities. I should know, I have the same problem. I often get confused about which tone and approach to use on this blog, and have found it difficult on some occasions to restrain myself as do not do in the comments sections of other people’s blogs. As a Latino, I have also had to traverse multiple identities. It’s part of life in the border world. My suggestion, if anyone is listening, is that if marketers want to know how to deal with poly identity, then they should take a bus down to Juarez or Tijuana and check out the scene there.

Media archeologist Jonathan Crary interprets the problem perception and identity as a double bind. This, he says, results from conflicting modes of mental engagement originally required of industrial work’s tight focus and the multisensory shock created by exploding urban environments and new media. This is at the root of our contemporary predominance, if not false, diagnosis of ADD:

In a culture that is so relentlessly founded on a short attention span, on the logic of the nonsequitur, on perceptual overload, on the generalized ethic of ‘getting ahead,’ and on the celebration of aggressiveness, it is nonsensical to pathologize these forms of behavior or look for the causes of this imaginary disorder in neurochemistry, brain anatomy, and genetic predisposition… [T]he behavior categorized as ADD is merely one of many manifestations resulting from this cultural double bind, from the contradictory modes of performance and cognition that are continually demanded or incited (Suspensions of Perception> p. 36-7).

He further laments “the sweeping use of potent neurochemicals as a strategy of behavior management” (Ibid p. 37). Amen.

For a clearer picture of what brand developers are thinking in regards to Poly Identity, read on…

trend report – POLY ID:

Gen Y is getting pretty clever at proliferating many different identities for one life. Certainly the Internet invites all of us to generate multiple brands of ourselves, but this generation knows how to work their identities. Each allows for the many facets of one person and lets them escape where they are at or enter new worlds.

Where a brand sits in relation to these broad-ranging identities is critical. If the responsibility of a brand is to reflect and mirror culture, a brand has to ask “What good am I?” a few times over. The more complex and creative one’s web of identities become, the more clever that consumer will be at snuffing out “poser” brands.

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Digging this user rebellion

The corporate media world loves to lock you out of sharing files. There have been more insidious acts of control as well, such as designating region codes for DVDs so that you are forced to buy media only for the region you live in. This has been a huge pain for me because after moving to Europe from the US none of the DVDs I bought at home can play on machines made in Europe. It is ridiculous that I would have to buy something twice. It’s highway robbery.

Anyhow, there have been efforts to control HD-TV programming through an encryption code, but it has been hacked and now authors are posting to Digg the code so anyone who needs to can use it. Knowing the encryption code is not just about facilitating privacy. It’s also about enabling users to to save and back-up their files, but more importantly have control over their own content. At first Digg took down the articles with the code, but a rebellion ensued, with users adding the code to articles posted to the site. Digg’s staff decided to side with its users, and is now allowing people to post the code. Incidentally, if you want to Digg the encryption code, click here.

To explain what is happening, Digg’s Kevin Ross writes the following…

Digg the Blog » Blog Archive:

Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts…

In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Digg on,

Kevin

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To remake the world

Paul-Hawken

I saw Paul Hawken give a talk at the 2006 Bioneeers conference, The Other Superpower (you can download an iPod version here). He recently scribed a book based on the ideas he presented called, Blessed Unrest. His basic argument, which is highlighted below in an article for Orion Magazine, is that there is a massive, unparalleled movement of unofficial organizations around the globe that are working for justice and environmental causes. To make his point during the Bioneers talk he made a video that listed all the organization names in his database and ran them like a movie credit roll. He said that it would have to play continuously for several days to run the entire list.

What he describes reminds me of the international day of protest when over ten million people around the world contested Bush’s efforts to attack Iraq. I recall how astonishing it was that so many people could coordinate on the same day in a singular voice to stop the war. Clearly these people were far more correct than the warmongering pundits paraded on television, and the fact that they could all do it simultaneously around the world on the same day still astounds me. So don’t give up hope, my friends. Please read Hawken’s book and article for further inspiration.

To Remake the World | Orion magazine:

Historically, social movements have arisen primarily because of injustice, inequalities, and corruption. Those woes remain legion, but a new condition exists that has no precedent: the planet has a life-threatening disease that is marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change. It crossed my mind that perhaps I was seeing something organic, if not biologic. Rather than a movement in the conventional sense, is it a collective response to threat? Is it splintered for reasons that are innate to its purpose? Or is it simply disorganized? More questions followed. How does it function? How fast is it growing? How is it connected? Why is it largely ignored?

After spending years researching this phenomenon, including creating with my colleagues a global database of these organizations, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of history, no one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye.

What does meet the eye is compelling: tens of millions of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

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Breaking news in Haiti!


Breaking News: Something Happening In Haiti

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Life in the fast lane

Gursky - Los Angeles

I’m attracted to the idea that civilizations are organisms that metabolize. I first came across this idea when reading a book about the history of the Anasazi, a sophisticated and complex society in the Southwestern desert region of the United States that collapsed suddenly. The book’s author suggested that the more centralized a society becomes, the more vulnerable it is to a sudden downfall because its metabolism increases beyond its ability to consume. i.e. the bigger you get, the more food you eat. The article below suggests that cities are indeed like biological organisms but behave differently. As they increase in size, rather than slowdown as an animal would, it consumes at an alarmingly higher rate. The study also argues that cities have a way of re-organzing themselves to adjust. In other words, cities are self-organzing, intelligent systems.
Scientists Discover Why Life Is Faster in Big Cities:

The researchers showed that city growth driven by wealth creation increases at a rate that is faster than exponential; the only way to avoid collapse as a population outstrips the finite resources available to it is through constant cycles of innovation. These effectively re-engineer the initial conditions of growth. But the greater the absolute population, the smaller the relative return on each such investment – new ideas must come ever faster. Thus, the bigger the city, the faster life is; but the rate at which life gets faster must itself accelerate to maintain the city as a growing concern so much so that to maintain growth, major innovations must now occur on time-scales that are significantly shorter than a human lifespan.

1Y0-259 is not as untenable as the variegated choices of 642-825 or 642-642. Still people prefer the latter series. Most of these lead to 640-801. A small number of courses also qualify one for 646-203.

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Let the children speak

[youtube]5g8cmWZOX8Q[/youtube]

Not to belabor the point, but sometimes adults could use a good metaphorical spanking. Watch and listen as this child speaks from the heart about state of the world to a UN panel of so-called grown-ups.

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Don’t get fooled again

Not-A-Target-Market-1

The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has created a great classroom Internet news tool, FactcheckED. It has very practical advice for helping students detect fraud in political advertising and propaganda. Another good source for researching PR and spin is the site, PR Watch.
FactcheED provides this simple and awesome checklist for detecting bias…

FactCheckED.org:

A Process for Avoiding Deception

1. Keep an open mind. Most of us have biases, and we can easily fool ourselves if we don’t make a conscious effort to keep our minds open to new information. Psychologists have shown over and over again that humans naturally tend to accept any information that supports what they already believe, even if the information isn’t very reliable. And humans also naturally tend to reject information that conflicts with those beliefs, even if the information is solid. These predilections are powerful. Unless we make an active effort to listen to all sides we can become trapped into believing something that isn’t so, and won’t even know it.

2. Ask the right questions. Don’t accept claims at face value; test them by asking a few questions. Who is speaking, and where are they getting their information? How can I validate what they’re saying? What facts would prove this claim wrong? Does the evidence presented really back up what’s being said? If an ad says a product is “better,” for instance, what does that mean? Better than what?

3. Cross-check. Don’t rely on one source or one study, but look to see what others say. When two or three reliable sources independently report the same facts or conclusions, you can be more confident of them. But when two independent sources contradict each other, you know you need to dig more deeply to discover who’s right.

4. Consider the source. Not all sources are equal. As any CSI viewer knows, sometimes physical evidence is a better source than an eyewitness, whose memory can play tricks. And an eyewitness is more credible than somebody telling a story they heard from somebody else. By the same token, an Internet website that offers primary source material is more trustworthy than one that publishes information gained second- or third-hand. For example, official vote totals posted by a county clerk or state election board are more authoritative than election returns reported by a political blog or even a newspaper, which can be out of date or mistaken.

5. Weigh the evidence. Know the difference between random anecdotes and real scientific data from controlled studies. Know how to avoid common errors of reasoning, such as assuming that one thing causes another simply because the two happen one after the other. Does a rooster’s crowing cause the sun to rise? Only a rooster would think so.

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The Future is Lost

Lost-Action-Figure

I was a big fan of Lost, but since moving to Europe I have not been able to watch it. ABC blocks foreign access to the free viewings available in the US. Though news of the Lost college course is being offered is old news, I found the following post interesting. Some critics still think studying pop culture is a waste, but I found from my own study of the program an emerging critique of our media and electronic system. You can read some of these thoughts on one of my previous posts here. In it I wrote:

The surprise breakout on ABC is most definitely not your average program, and the one thing that keeps me interested is my view that Lost’s island is a metaphor for the mediated reality we find ourselves in. The island’s environment, inhabited by ghosts and “the others,” is like a dream space in which objects produce their own space, similar to the acoustic-like, all encompassing ecology of media where we currently live. The plane is our civilization, crashed, destroyed, in pieces. The survivors must learn to cope with their new environment, just as we have to adjust to ours.

Podcast: A ‘Lost’ college course, tons o’ new music and more – Pop Candy – USATODAY.com:

The Future is Lost: Economic, Social, and Technological Impact of a Cult (and Cultural) Phenomenon

The course: When a plane crashed on more than 18.5 million American television screens in September 2004, a new television show had taken up the mantle of “cult hit.” Lost, seemingly a mix of Survivor and The X-Files, was an instant paradox: a mainstream media blockbuster that defied categorization and appealed to some of the most fringe elements of human nature. In three short years, the show has spawned an empire of entertainment, marketing, and community that eclipses the show itself. Its producers have pushed Lost to the bleeding edge of new media; online communities take pride in dissecting each episode, from literary references to philosophical allusion; and the show’s format has inspired dozens of copycats on networks desperate to adapt to a newly demanding audience. This course is an interdisciplinary endeavor into the heart of the phenomenon. We’ll examine the economic circumstances that led to the development of the show, the societal context that it evolves in, and the possible effects of the show on technology and the future of media.

Mostly tyros eschew 640-802 and its likes e.g. 70-296 and 220-601. This puerile decision results in bad results. The combat, they should go for 642-812 or 220-602. An easier way out is to attempt 70-620 only.

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The self-made universe

Space-Eye

OK, so this kind of stuff gives me vertigo, but in principle I’m cosigning the self-made, self-organization concept as the paradigm of choice. I’m not enough of a physicist to contend this particular theory, but when it comes to understanding media, societies, cities and braina, these are ideas that are worth pondering.

Cosmic Log : The self-made universe:

Cosmic Log: Why is the universe bio-friendly? Is it intelligent design, or blind chance, or none of the above?

Davies: There are three popular responses to the fact that the universe does seem to be weirdly fine-tuned for life. And I think all three are found wanting.

The three are the intelligent-design argument; the idea that if we had a final theory of physics, then all of the undetermined parameters in the laws would be fixed by that theory; and the third is the multiverse – the notion that there is a multiplicity of universes, with laws that vary from one to the other.

I think all three of these explanations are found wanting – and I have my own preferred view, which is that the universe has engineering its own bio-friendliness through a sort of feedback loop that operates in both directions in time.

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How much is a friend worth?

A study that examines the monetization of relationships. Who’s your best bud now? Nike or Johnny?

Advertising Age – Digital – What’s Making ‘Friends’ With a MySpace User Worth?:

“It’s when I take the brand, put it on my profile page and then all the people would develop a deeper meaning for what Adidas stands for because of where it stands in my own personal story.”

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Cell phones vs. bees?

Bill Maher, as usual, has nailed the current state of our consumption patterns versus the environment. He’s right to say that every day should be Earth Day. It’s kinda like how the supermarket has one miniscule “health food” section. It implies the rest of the store is unhealthy.

Click the link below to watch the hilarious but scary video clip.

Maher on the Birds and the Bees – Earth Day Needs to be Everyday – The Largest Minority:

In honor of Earth Day, Maher stresses the necessity of sacrifice. He points to the colony collapse phenomenon, which has affected honeybees on a global scale. Because of our agricultural dependence on this insect, Albert Einstein once said that “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” The exact cause of their disappearance is a mystery, but there’s little doubt that we’re the ones responsible for it. If cell phone signals are the cause of this die off, will we decide to literally talk ourselves to death?

Initially 350-030 and 642-901 students seldom studied with interest. Their desultory performance showed in their results. That is when they decided to expiate by studying harder for N10-003 and 70-290. Their apogee came in their refulgent results of 350-001.

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Guns and cameras

Photo-Gun
I was once on a panel with Lance Strate. He is a thoughtful, smart media ecology expert who recently wrote a provocative blog on the Virginia Tech murders. He is not the first to equate guns with cameras (Susan Sontag and Paul Virilio have each made the connection on a deep level), but I thought he made some particualry sharp observations about the manner in which news media allow themselves to be exploited by sensationalism. I encourage you to read the entire post.

Lance Strate’s Blog Time Passing: Guns and Cameras:

Guns and cameras are both media of communication, as McLuhan makes clear in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man where he includes chapters on the photograph, motion picture, television, and weapons–both guns and cameras are extensions of the human body, guns extending the fist and fingernail in their offensive capacities, cameras extending the eyes in their voyeuristic capacities. Both guns and cameras are means by which we mediate between ourselves and elements of our environment, they go between us our environment, and in doing so keep the environment as a distance from ourselves. Guns and cameras are both methods by which people communicate, sending messages to their target, and to bystanders alike–that is why we have phrases like, “the shot heard around the world” after all. Guns and cameras are both weapons, both used to attack and cause harm (e.g., the paparazzi, the private detective stalking the adulterer), both used to control and imprison–that is why we talk about cameras using words like shoot, snapshot, load (the film), capture (the subject, the moment), etc.–this is a deep metaphor that reveals an often-unconscious understanding of the link between the two technologies.

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Five planets

That’s how many earths Americans need to maintain consumption habits. This video illustrates the point nicely. You can take some action here.

[youtube]UzXRxP7jBSU[/youtube]

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Rebooting the classroom with DIY social networks

Anastasia Goodstein of YPulse and author of Totally Wired refers to a great article in Wired about how some classrooms are getting smart about incorporating online social networks rather than resisting them. At the center of this paradigm shift is an interesting software package, Elgg. I think the idea of a DIY social network in your classroom could get students to direct more energy and attention to what is happening in the class program than outside of it.

Here Goodstein discusses some ways teachers could jump to the new paradigm in an imaginary Web 2.0 bootcamp:

Ypulse: Media for the Next Generation:

The challenge for teachers is to find ways of adopting and integrating technology students are fluent with outside of class inside the class room in ways that are educational and help them accomplish their core teaching objectives (vs. just make class less boring). All of this got me thinking again about a post I did a long time ago where I suggested that the big tech companies join together and create “bootcamps” for every public school teacher in this country. Instead of just giving them more free versions of Power Point, immerse teachers in the technology their students are fluent with and explain how young people use it and why they love it. Here’s a sample “teacher bootcamp” schedule:

Let’s get social. Teachers learn how social networking got its start, tour the most popular sites with teens and create profiles on MySpace and Facebook. Teachers or librarians who have used social networking successfully in an educational capacity come in and present case studies.

Teens & their iPods, a love story. Every teacher gets an iPod. They tour the sites where teens download music for free and then go to iTunes and get to create their own playlist. Teachers who have integrated iPods into the classroom successfully present case studies.

Blog it! Teachers are given a virtual tour of the most popular blogging sites/software with teens. Every teacher sets up a blog, learns how to link and upload photos, comments on each other’s blogs. Teachers who have used blogs successfully in class present case studies.

Game on. Teachers are given a virtual tour of the most popular video games and online games with teens – including virtual worlds. Case studies then given on how educational games or educational activities in some virtual worlds are helping teens.

You get the drift. The idea would be immerse teachers, let them play with the technology in the same way kids do, then have the trailblazing teachers show them how these technologies can be used in ways that are educational. I think every teacher at bootcamp should also have a teen partner who does all of this stuff with them — and ideally who can be a TA (and help with tech support) when teachers go back to the class room, hopefully armed with more than just free software.

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Vote for “A Community is Not a Demographic”

One things I miss about the good ol’ days of modernity is the massive output of manifestos that artists and activists churned out to contest the prevailing ideas of their world. With names like Futurists, Surrealists, and Bauhaus, people seemed to care a lot about having clear and strong opinions. With the advent of the postmodern world in which all values and morals are relative, it seems as if the Age of Manifestos transmuted into the 30 second sound bite and became solely the province of marketing. Not necessarily so. ChangeThis has a cool project in which people can send manifestos to their Website and readers then can vote for whether or not the manifesto gets published. The goal is to spread useful ideas. I submitted a proposal, “A Community is Not a Demographic,” with the following summary. You can vote here to encourage them to publish it.


In The Forest People Colin Turnbull recounts his experience of living among the Pygmy. He described an uncorrupted dreamworld where the number one crime against the community was hording food from the hunt. The punishment was temporary exile until the offender learned his lesson. Likewise, the memory of my high school punk years has a similar halcyon quality in which the single most significant crime against the scene was selling out. Unfortunately our culture has devolved into a marketing style. So if we are to rescue anything from punk beyond fashion, than it must be the demand for ethical behavior when marketers appropriate “indie culture.” Principles make a real community, because we acknowledge that our behaviors affect each other, just as the Pygmies identified hording as a socially destructive. We need to discard the lamest excuses of the 20th Century, “It’s only business,” and come to terms with the notion that a community is not a demographic.

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