Blog : Obsessions
As we unroll new pieces, we observe how others are playing, and ask:
• How did they play last week?
• What are they saying?
• What do they expect?
• How do we best stay out of their way?
• What story are we telling?
• What’s the bigger, over-arcing picture…a cohesive, or underlying theme defining how we present ourselves?
On ALIAS, Jack Bristow is SD-6’s principal Game Theorist. He consults in the hour of need when a strategy is possibly at risk of being undermined by hasty evaluation of the odds, or when a chief decision maker is potentially likely to underestimate the movements of the players.
The science of game theory is as much about mathematics as it is strategy, economy and negotiation. It’s a tool for understanding how decisions affect each other.
When we set up the websites for Felicity, there was an intentional imbalance in the audience’s understanding of reality. Namely they expected there to be a website about the show at http://www.felicity.com. The website would contain all sorts of acknowledgment of the show, its characters, storylines, and creators.
Of course, the way to establish that fiction is a pseudo reality, is to first deliver everybody’s expectation of reality so they can get comfortable with it.
For ALIAS, I began by creating a brief that SD-6 was real, and actually based in the underground section of a bank in downtown LA, called Credit Dauphine. Since the bank was allegedly in full cooperation with SD-6, they would have a website, and that would look exactly like a bank’s website. It would be a boring, whitepaper read.
The bank would also have a banner ad at the bottom, for a popular new search engine, called www.find-whatever.com. This link would be the beginning of the mouse hunt for information, as it would lead away from the bank’s site, and take people to a website about Rambaldi, run by the official fellowship, “the followers of Rambaldi.org”.
If people were to tamper with the urls, or attempt to hack their way deeper into other parts of the site, it would produce what i called the “hexstatic” effect, which was to disorient visitors by leading them to believe that they were being redirected to another web server, where an attendant named Alisha would check in with you, and ask you what you thought you were doing.
If people prompted Alisha long enough, or asked the right questions, she would spill information about next week’s show in a way so that the visitor felt like they were in the know. And that was the reward.
Another angle is the influence of “impartial” thought in televised rhetoric. Apparently, most people are confused, lost, and increasingly wary of expressing a solid opinion, especially if it might make them look uninformed or shallow. But hey, who has time to read through and digest all this new media?
The spectacle flaunts the unattainable, first and foremost — whatever you want most, it’s always going to be the thing you cannot have – and it results in the hyped up marketing campaigns around any manufactured pop commodity. When was the last time Britney Spears made sense to you? Yes, she’s wearing a pretty hot thong in that video. Does anyone actually believe that she’s still a virgin? The tabloid press obviously sees the contradiction, since they’ve been trying to deflower and expose her personal life since she admitted such a thing publicly.
Everyone has an opinion on that one. Personally, I just think she was lying about her sexual history as part of an early, thinly thought-out response to the press making attacks upon her influencing young girls to go out and have sex. Trapped by the obvious, her “brain trust” began to help her position a lie, building a myth, and offering something more savory to print than the simple yes we all expected.
Hence, the contradictions of her public persona and her words (and private actions) are the subject of the spectacle, working at its most obvious level…offering no answers,only confusion in response to an audience hungry for empty calories.
Beyond aesthetics, there’s that ‘correct’ definition for anything that suggests that all other appropriations are kind of missing the point. Like Eno with Ambient music – not just a music that you can do other things in time to, but music that serves only its function, to be ambient.
With aesthetics, we also have commerce placing demands. Sometimes we swap the two; and we end up creating something that looks nice. We call it art, because it makes us feel nice about ourselves, it even makes us feel less empty, in light of The Spectacle which has commissioned it.
And probably, even more so, about deliberately distinguishing actual laughter, from the kind of moment when people say things like “Too funny!!” but also forgets to laugh.
The importance of lightness in art.
Nay, lightness, without being slight.
Wegman, Emin, The Chapmans, Gilbert & George…There’s a friendly intelligence in Wegman’s work that precedes any assumptions one might make about his audience…8 or 80 years old, you still like dogs wearing clothes and with human body parts.
I guess it starts with intention, like everything else – when it’s someone wanting to control someone else’s behavior, it’s that “c” word. Whereas self-editing is always acceptable; it forms a grey area for some as an element of the artistic process; some artists just can’t handle the idea that any level of editing is necessary when the purity of the creative spirit should be experienced to the fullest.
I’m of the mind that we are looking at everything though a series of interesting filters; we are always in a position to judge that we are also editing; that makes it less of a hot object when talking about intent — when getting through is the point, we surrender that judgment against art-attack, and say it’s ok to edit, that way we can make our point and get the hell out of there.
Britney, the walking mass of contradiction that she is, would be a fine emblem of unattainable sexuality, placed onto record site posters and bus benches in lieu of musicality or, really experienced sexuality. Teens and 65 year old men lust after her, and scoff at her claims of “image control” and being a role model. The claim that she is a virgin is meant to be clever; it rings hollow since no one believes it, except for a couple people whose chastity-belt pounding evangelism is served by such feeble pleas.
So in the end, everyone wants to get into her jeans, and no one actually believes that she might be telling the truth about her aims to represent sexual ambiguity, and no one can really connect it to music. It’s just a poor execution of The Spectacle, even by pop culture mythology standards.
I remember raising this question, in a meeting with new clients – “How will we factor in the natural tendency of visitors to this new website, to not read what we’ve written for them?”
Stunned, uncomfortable silence, for about five seconds.
Given that there are tendencies for people to treat screen-based reading differently, this was naturally, a question to be asked. I mean, instead of chewing and digesting the pages of books, we know that readers get antsy sitting in front of a monitor, and don’t want the added inconvenience of blurry or small type. So, mine was not a popular move to make, but it had to be said anyway.
Now, in my defense, I should probably also mention that the audience in that room were not the typical corporate audience; they were a organization dedicated to the funding of educational programs in public schools. So there’s always a chance that they misheard the intention behind my comment as either uninformed, or perhaps even, deeply cynical.
I can assess that view, now, especially, after I saw they went with a different firm. Still, I have no regrets for having voiced this. I am not cynical. I truly want you to read what I have to share. And I wouldn’t expect you to do the same thing in front of your computer screen that you would do, curled up in bed with a book. You don’t have to like me. You can always click away to something else. It’s my objective, to keep you here, reading.
So how do we deal with the objections presented back to us, from the end-users of our creations? Do we cast them aside all but the views which are popular with us? Is it nobody’s fault that a perfectly good essay on visual literacy examination test scores, might get left ignored and unread, when the browser window turned into a very long scroll on that page?
We’ve been looking more closely at the likelihood that something will get attention, when there’s something on elsewhere, always a bit shorter, and a bit louder. The question is…
OK. Let’s just start with that, let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. How is whelm – to cover with water or to submerge; an abstract measurement of new-information overload –useful to us?
Is whelm practical or effective for anything, or does it just describe an obstruction to learning?
I believe it to be a bit of both.
I wake up, and now suddenly, this is what’s on my mind. Why? Who knows.
First of all, it feels important that we not get preoccupied with, or confused over, which medium (or even multi-medium) that we create or use. It’s too easy to blame the messenger, and in this case, you can’t blame television or the internet for creating a seductive alternative to reality. Instead, you need to recognize the potential it has, and you need to deliberately create and live an alternative to that, one that supports a higher goal of the self, and best off that it be one that supports a benevolent environmental, or communal view.
So why wonder about, or even discuss it? Is it a potential threat to anyone? Somehow, it feels like it might be at the root of something. For example, people are fascinated by technology when it is new. (And then again, when it is old, too.) It is a distraction to think about the medium. The best analogy I can think of is when you’re telling somebody a story that is really iimpotnt to you — it just feels so significant to you that you’re bursting to get it out of you, and the words can’t seem to come out fast enough, and y ou’re just riding on that energy — and then you discover that the person you’ve been talking to is wandering, they’re no longer exercising that option to give you their full attention. They’ve instead divided their focus between you, and something minute — like the pattern of your speech, or they’ve interrupted you to discuss a technical aspect of what you’ve been saying, instead of staying locked onto the main point with you.
They’re replacing the experience of being in the same place with you, with a fear of committing to the listening process.
Why? Are we, culturally speaking, fearful of newness, or new thoughts, ideas, that we must latch onto distraction? Do we really love to obsess over technology, or is it just a distraction that works as a barrier to intimacy the way eye contact (or avoiding it) does for so many people?
Sometimes life seems like our attention is there, when in fact, it’s not; and it’s not technology that’s taking that away from us; it’s us, not acting or living deliberately enough to create focus.
We shall discuss this at length. But we shall begin to do so, by expressing very short ideas: namely that we are becoming a culture of overwhelm.
“I’ll just say one word: ‘Icarus’. If you get it, great. If you don’t, that’s fine too. But you should probably read more,” chides the fictionally-embellished Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan, in Michael Winterbottom’s film 24 Hour Party People). It’s a sort of haughty moment of soliloquy; a response directly to the viewer. The statement feels like it’s directed at some kind of media addict; I often think this is an excellent thing to say, especially in address to the kind of ignorance which passively perpetuates the modern-day spectacle; whereby people question less and accept more of what they see around them.
Of course, there’s always the fear that if we throw things out that only make our bodies fat and slow, we will crumble and become physically debilitated as a society, like cavities in a mouth full of once-healthy choppers.
Can anyone please tell me – what is a good website supposed to look like…?
Is it the Java applet sitting beneath an animated billboard? …A remote electronic marketplace? …A stack of paper that hovers (miraculously) in ether? …A virtual gallery?
…Is a website like a textbook, rich with information but stylistically neutral?…or is it more like a train station? Is it in three (or more) dimensions, or maybe just two?
…Perhaps it has a row of hi-tech, chromium-style buttons with bevels, embossed text and drop shadows running down a sidebar? Or maybe it is more of an immersive experience – allowing the user to explore a deserted street, clicking upon travel posters – inspect-ing detritus and debris, scavenging in search of a history?
I do have a point in voicing my concern. Interactive culture is now an agent of that staid icon of multiple-choice: the tired old Chinese-American menu. Imagine any combination of dishes you’d like to sample, and in under three button clicks they can be served, on-demand…We are simply becoming less deliberate in the choices we make as an electronic culture, while the new media developers are presenting us, increasingly with more options. And we have been reinforcing this demand for the delivery of options by our silent approval – after all, this is a trend which resonates best where it serves the egos of designers and content-developers worldwide.
Of course, there’s always the odd voice proposing technology as a means of simplification – often drowned out by the sheer volume of options burying the speaker. For the search we might conduct by employing web technology to better explain our lives – in a pursuit of better choices, even when that means fewer of them – may present a return of more, effectively, for less.
What am I suggesting? Only that we have reached critical mass in an age of an on-demand dim sum for the mind. As netizens, we are really still exploring the first page in the big book of potential in new media. So perhaps it isn’t too early to make a break with information-superhighway-hypnosis, and begin to live, as Thoreau suggested when he set off into the woods, a little more “deliberately.” The experience this man was seeking, according to Walden, was a greater appreciation of his own humanity.
So, with everyone’s permission, I’d like to offer a suggestion here:
We shall proceed in our development of a common language – transcending genres and demographics, where vocabulary can be less constraining than that of preceding generations – but that we make smaller, steady advances in developing a graphic language that exposes more of ourselves and our humanity.
• Also, that we should offer richer content, and embrace all of what a web site is and what it should be: a total relationship the consumer has with the product. For a web client, this translates to the best of worlds: a more compelling discussion of Brand – within a fully immersive experience.
If Day For Night has a graphic mission (and it does), it may well be to ring in a new era for increased conscience and reflection – a matter, we feel, begins with a discussion of personal history, an underground architecture and something we like to call Internet Theatre…
Like Fluxus, Situationism created a substitute; something alternative to art, but which somehow replaced some need for it. It was based upon its own manifesto, and was meant to take place in, generally speaking, the public space – in the streets, and in people’s homes, instead of in museums and galleries.
In this way, it seems fitting to bring up a discussion of function in art; both subjects deal with something that is more relevant than the aesthetics of form; they also precede design with intention; something we’re going to look at a lot.
The degree of stress we have in our life is determined by the creations we resist, or identify ourselves with.
Some work-throughs: Learn to recognize a need for attention,
a want for attention.
Also, the ignorant may be charged a stupidity tax, especially when there is a surfeit of apathy.
Today, be present and real.
I am continuously reminded that I always have a choice.
I can become consumed by greed, attempting to make any thing as big as I can,
I can create it deliberately on a scale, such that I can also still fully appreciate it. When I remember to create in relation to scale, and appreciation, then the work assumes a manageable degree of authority, by recognizing its audience, without over-extending its welcome.
The goal in packaging electronic, minimalistic and ambient music seems less connected to the traditional aspects of advertising and marketing; up-selling a potential client on a new look or a model that is desirable or simply unattainable; but rather, to resonate a sympathetic chord with the listener; to hit them on a more abstract level, where the purchasing decision lies behind instinct.
This is purely an abstraction.
OK. So “Operation Iraqi Freedom” starts up full force on our TVs on Tuesday, March 25. Only it’s got other names, on different net-works. CBS calls their spin on the war while NBC uses the president’s lingo, “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Looks like someone’s sucking up a little.
The nightly news on ABC actually features an editorial from a media-studies guy, who dissects the 3 different brands, and assures the viewers that they are being lied to in three different containers. So choose wisely.
It was actually the most engaging part of watching the whole spectacle. Could you imagine the creative meetings that took place to get these identities? Can you picture the kind of behaviors that accompanied the agency/designers’ motivation…to keep the war “sexy”…?
Designer: “I want to make the coooolest logo… for the war? Because think of the opportunities? If we came up with the official brand for the war, we could charge a lot for that.”…Operation Iraqi Freedom…“Hey, we got to create the style sheet!” Hey, that opens doors. You might get to pick the font for the apocalypse.
That’s the integration of the spectacle, in case you didn’t notice.
There are moments when I want to choke on my own sick.
To stay underground, you have to live what you believe in, at the potential expense of passing on any new temptations or riches. The lure of the underground is that if you could avoid jumping upon a capitalist bandwagon during your entire professional life, and stick to your guns forever (or for as long as you can creatively defend doing so), you might develop a methodology for sustainable happiness, while living an example of singularity for the benefit of your peers and colleagues.