digital decay

A video illustrating how digital media decays over time. I think this is an animation of an image which has been  projected and photographed and projected and photographed again and again. Although jpegs probably do ‘decay’ as they are posted and reposted on blogs and forums, I’m not sure if it’s really analgous to all media. I kind of wish that most of the detritus I’ve left out there would just decay. I like the video and the vague thought it sows in my head, but the world will have to evolve somewhat before this could be considered mass market or particularly enlightening. So basically, it’snotanub.

Another ramble about adverts and nubs

Have been reading Andrew Keen’s Cult of the Amateur: How today’s internet is killing our culture and assaulting our Economy. In it he rails against ‘the commercial break dressed up as democratised media that is youtube’. In this neat video he goes on to say that he hates youtube because it provides a platform for adverts, but doesn’t let you know when you’re watching them.

He conveniently ignores the fact that making the distinction between what is and isn’t an advert isn’t difficult because youtube fails to make it clear. It’s difficult because the dividing line between what is and isn’t an advert isn’t clear. Before youtube, advertising dominated 3 minute media – the medium almost by default categorised the communication as an advert. Now that anyone can use that 3 minute window to say anything, it has become much harder to draw a clear line between a 3 minute advert and whatever-a-3-minute-video-is-if-it’s-not-an-advert. This isn’t helped by the fact that there is just something inherently ‘advertish’ about the three minute slot. e.g. If you try and ‘nub’ a book that might take 5 hours to read into a 3 minute video it may well start to look and feel alot like propaganda.

Following up recent discussions about the difference between a nub and an advert I turned to the dictionary for help. It provides three definitions for ‘advertisment’. They are:

1. to announce publicly (an article for sale, a vacancy, a forthcoming event)
2. to encourage sales of by emphasizing desirable qualities
3. to draw attention to

Nubs probably fit 1 and 3, but they just don’t fit 2. I think the objective of a nub is the same as a book like, say, Tipping Point. It aims to get you to think, but it doesn’t care how you use that thought. In contrast an advert is only successful if it changes real human behaviour – it may do this by changing how you think, but unless it ultimately encourages sales, it fails.

But in anycase, I’m not sure how worried Andrew Keen should be about the pernicious influence of advertising on the web. From where I sit, it doesn’t exactly seem to have a bright future.

The only way that TV advertising works on the web (i.e. when it is deprived of it’s sofa-bound captive audience) is by either exploiting the lawlessness of the web to (a) be more shocking than is permitted on TV, or (b) to dupe people into watching. These approaches don’t seem to be sustainable. How much cruder can you get? Does duping consumers into watching ads really make them feel more positive towards the brand?

Infact the very existence of these approaches seems to almost be an admission that when given the choice people don’t want to watch adverts. Brands will look for other ways to get sales and the three minute video will be left for something else.

And there in lies the bright future for nubland: people want to learn, they don’t want to be pitched to. So if you’re a person, a company, or an academic – help people to ask themselves the right questions – don’t tell them what the answer is. Rather than thinking of youtube as a giant commercial break, I’d sooner think of it as a visualisation of the economy of ideas. Which is probably the right thought to dump before dropping nubland’s crazy in love.. 9,000,000 views and counting, der de de der de der der

Education/or just evidence?

While it’s reasonably easy to define the nub in words, it’s harder to agree on examples – words just have that slippery way of meaning different things to different people. What we agree on is that a nub has to be educational – but this seems to leave us with two areas of contention. Firstly – does the objective of the video detract from its educational value i.e. if its trying to make you buy something or to make you act in a certain way can it still be a nub? Second – how abstract can the message be in a video for it to still qualify as a educational (more here). The video I’ve posted here by Aaron Valdez is a comment on the portrayal of men and women in US advertising – it’s the sort of thing that I think is probably too abstract to qualify as a nub, but i can kind of see a case. i.e. it simultaneously seems a profound way of showing how advertising charicatures gender roles, but yet it kind of leaves you hanging – it’s all evidence and no argument. I found it as an entry in a competition where film-makers had to respond in a short video to the question ‘what is remix culture’ – there are plenty more border line nubs to peruse in the submissions.

The hunt for nubs is the search for a new genre of video making that has emerged from the new communications environment which comprises of more people who can make videos, more organisations and individuals who want them made + audiences who can choose what they do and don’t look at. This fixation that there is something new out there to define leads me to disqualify;

a) anything that feels like the media-art they put on at the ICA
b) anything that feels like it could have been in an ad break on ITV
c) music videos

Maybe it’d be better not to write these off per-se but to acknowledge the roots of the nub in all these genres.  So I guess that means we might have to do a sort of nub history to go alongside the nubonomy.

TB Vs Swine Flu

About this time last year I got involved with producing one of the TED prizes in London and dragged most of my friends with me. James Nachtwey‘s prize wish was to use his classic style of photo journalism to bring an issue to the world’s attention using the internet and digital media. It was a weird experience. Radical Media produced this pretty awesome viral video explaining the issue using James Nachtwey’s photographs – it’s really good nubaganda. It was a cool project to be involved in and we had alot of fun, but even though both Obama and Maccain both ended up making statements on TB in response to the campaign, it left me wondering if this success was the awesome power of nachtwey’s photographs, the internet or if it was really just about TED – i.e. is there such a thing as ‘powerful media’ & ‘powerful forms of communication’ – maybe there are just ‘powerful organisations’, like TED. We like to think it’s the technology, or the creativity but really the power comes from the same thing it always has – human relationships, money etc. Anyway Tuur, who was also involved in the TED project forwarded me Hans Rosling‘s gapcast the other day, looking at the attention for swine flu deaths vs the attention for TB deaths. It pretty much makes the same point as the Radical Media video, but in a different way. I was kind of thinking like I always do is this a nub or isn’t it? is it a teachnub? is it better than the Radical Media video or not? and then I just thought that they’re just different videos that take you to the same end and that the whole wish project would have been more powerful if we had managed to get people to make different people to make different videos. Which er, if I can complete this ramble, just means that there are powerful forms of media and new powerful channels of communication produced by more people – the powerful organisations will be the ones who can organise them. Which is the argument in We Think

Can a ‘meaningful’ music video be a nub?

A friend sent us an email saying that Simian Mobile Disco’s music for Hustler is a nub. The video features hot swim-suit wearing dancers choking to death on fast food. I think it’s a sort of comment on the vulgarity of disposable celebrity pop culture. For me that’s not really a nub, it’s just a music video – more art than education.

To be a nub I think it would probably have to have more contextual information. For example, I could imagine Max Joseph using it to make an informational video about the presence of sexual imagery in the advertising industry – a bit like this video about alcohol consumption in different countries. I kind of think the same about Justice’s controversial video for Stress which is a sort of comment on the media’s portrayal of the Parisian banlieues (great article in TIME about this). I tend to think that nubs are basically a product of the new space provided by digital culture for expression – and therefore I’m a bit suspicious of considering anything that looks like it could have been on MTV or in a TV advertising slot as a nub (aside from the fact that is has graphic content in it like the Justice and SMD videos – (see earlier post). But this could be a bit judgmental as I think we could easily qualify the Disposable Heroes of Hiphocracy’s Television the Drug of the Nation as a very early nub – one of the first maybe? So I’m blogging it here.

Qu’est-ce qu’une société d’auteurs?

Looking for nubs to post here is quite a slog, but it would definitely be easier if I could speak another language. This is a french teachnub about Societies of Authors made by Doncvoila. It makes me laugh, even though I can’t quite understand it. I think a society of authors is a bit like a cooperative record label. So a series of writers, musicians, get together and agree to share share a certain percentage of their royalties with other authors in the society. Maybe. I think the word for egg in French might be the same as the word for work – which would explain all the eggs. But all this could be totally wrong. If you speak french and read this blog answer the mofoin’ question – is it a goddam nub?

Happy Birthday Demos

Feeling a bit ropey after Demos spectacularly fun 16th Birthday party last night. The party marked the relaunch of the website, a new advisory panel and the publication of a new pamphlet about power. The pamphlet is quite dense but basically seems to argue that the divide in British politics is between people who believe that power rests with individuals vs people who believe that power should be vested in groups, I think. I’m not quite sure where it takes us on the issues of  today and tomorrow (climate change, the aging society, friction between different cultural identities, the long term unemployed/disconnected, human enhancement etc etc) so I guess alot of people will be looking to see where it all ends up. Hopefully it will be somewhere totally awesome, otherwise the only thing people will have to say about Demos is that we’re a Tory think tank now. But in anycase the whole thing has made me reflect a bit on that richard pryor video and made me think that a holiday in Copenhagen in the second week of December is basically a must now.