Digital temptations: “Quantifying, tracking or gamifying everything”

There’s a pervasive haze of “If you build it, they will come!” in tech circles these days. Technology, as Evgeny Morozov proposes, can be a force for improving life – but only if we keep “solutionismin check.

The author of To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism describes the ideology of solutionism as being essential to helping Silicon Valley maintain its image. For example:  Continue reading

The ads of Dr. Seuss: Horton Hatches An Ad

And speaking of shopping . . . from the Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2012:

“Fifty-five years ago, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” introduced readers to Cindy-Lou and the rest of the Whos—and continued the bookshelf reign of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. What is less known is that before he became a famous author, he had a successful career as an advertising illustrator. (A selection of his work is on the website on frontier internet services for the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego). Many of the ads bear his trademark humor and fantastical creatures. To paraphrase the author: “Oh, the thinks he could think!”   Check them out here.

© 2012 The Wall Street Journal

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Can you stop buying for just one day?

“Dreading the holiday season? The frantic rush and stress? The to-do lists and sales hype? The spiritless hours trapped in malls? This year, why not gather together your loved ones and decide to do things differently?”

Thus begins the invitation from supporters of the 20th annual BUY NOTHING DAY campaign. This year the global event is being celebrated in North America on Friday, November 23rd (always the day after American Thanksgiving – also known as Black Friday, the busiest retail shopping day for Americans and an obscene extravaganza of over-consumption).  Continue reading

“Best book I’ve ever read!” Rave reviews for sale

A new restaurant opens nearby, and our favourite foodie blogger raves about it. We’re thinking of renovating the kitchen, so we seek out client feedback on local contractor websites. The performance run of a small indie play is held over because its word-of-mouth buzz goes viral on Twitter.

Thus lies the power of the good review.  Likewise, if others trash the restaurant, the contractor or the play, we can be equally influenced to stay away, too.

Reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising, they offer some illusion of truth coming from real live people. But it turns out that a disturbing number of consumer reviews are bought and sold – just like everything else in marketing.   Continue reading

Diet Coke: the “world’s liquid crack of choice”

I believe it was British actor/author Joan Collins who once said that she doesn’t drink diet soda “because you never see skinny people drinking it!”  Think about that truism for a moment.  Ever since I read that, I’ve undertaken my own small and non-scientific observational study of my own, and I have to say that Joan may be on to something. Lots of people, however, are indeed drinking the stuff, both fat and skinny alike: Diet Coke is now the #2 top-selling soft drink in the world by volume, second only to regular Coke, and – surprisingly! – ahead of regular Pepsi (formerly in #2 place worldwide). The Guardian’s Katie Baker once referred to Diet Coke as “the world’s liquid crack of choice”.    Continue reading

Deceptive drug ads on TV

Drug-makers spend nearly $5 billion a year to make sure you’re hearing about their products – but you might be surprised at how they’re delivered to you.

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