the persuaders

PBS's Frontline carried another fantastic episode today, "the Persuaders," on advertising today.

In 1957, Vance Packard wrote "The Hidden Persuaders" on how corporations employed subliminal techniques. Do the Persuaders really need to be hidden anymore? Frontline finds out. As usual, the show has an impressive web site with discussions between key analysts, supplemental material, opportunities to speak out, and the entire show online (just in cased you missed it).

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fripp and eno

Robert Fripp and Brian Eno's classic series of recordings””?No Pussyfooting, Evening Star , and more recently The Equatorial Stars are all required listening, and not only for the stunning sound. Both of earlier projects””?over 30 years old by now””?deal with ambiance, distortion noise and feedback, all issues that network architects need to engage with headon.

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Also worth noting””?as if anything these two did isn't””?is a manifesto that Fripp wrote that could still be aptly used by the NetLab, available here as well as Eno's Oblique Strategies, a set of cards that could be used, like the i Ching, to break through everyday impasses. These can be found for as a widget or application for the Mac or as an application for your Palm-based PDA.

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NetLab Logistics Studio Exhibit, 8 December, 12-6

The NetLab's first studio at Columbia's GSAPP concludes this Friday with an exhibit in 200 Buell Hall from 12-6. Students will be presenting pamphlets they have designed. The topic of the research studio was to explore a logistical network in considerable depth. The studio brief is located here. A roundtable discussion will be held at 4pm followed by a reception. All are welcome.

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death of the novel, revisited

Yesterday, my colleague Ben Vershbow at the Institute for the Future of the Book posted an excerpt from an interview with Gore Vidal in which the author suggested that the age of the novel was coming to an end. A debate on the site about Vidal's position ensued. I enter in with my argument reproduced below, but read more in the original context.

Vidal isn't the only advocate of the novel to make such an observation (John Barth famously did some time ago). Nor is he off base. Take the transformation of the New Yorker, for instance. It was once known primarily for its fiction. Shirley Jackson's the Lottery drew more mail than any story in the magazine's history and writers like Philip Roth and John Updike graced the pages. Who writes the stories for the New Yorker today? I routinely skip over the fiction and don't know anybody who reads it. Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Gopnik, and Seymour Hersch are the names I follow. In a world of insanely rapid change and daily threats to our existence (read: the Bush administration), reality is more compelling than fiction.

What surprised me is the simplicity of Vidal's argument: novelists aren't famous anymore because they don't command media attention. This is something of a tautology. We have to ask why novelists aren't famous anymore, why novels aren't such a focal point for society anymore.

Fiction is a form of virtual reality, a way of getting into someone else's head. We have new ways of doing that now. But more than that, the novel is losing its central role in society as the subject is becoming thoroughly fragmented. As Ian Watt pointed out in his Rise of the Novel, modern fiction is an 18th century product, the purest art form of the bourgeoisie, the place in which the bourgeois subject is constituted. Already 40 years ago, Roland Barthes was suggesting that the death of the author was nigh, the result of the birth of the reader. Our age of participatory media is a fulfillment of his prophecies. If we increasingly understand ourselves as nodes in a network (or multiple networks) rather than as Jeffersonian individuals, then a medium constituted by the latter model of subjectivity is obsolete. This is not to say that there won't be any great novels in the future, but remember that there was a time when poetry was a popular form. I know that some of you will consider me a philistine for saying so, but who reads poetry anymore? Fiction will slowly move in the same direction.


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i’m a big sister, and i’m a girl, and i’m a princess, and this is my horse

On evenings like this one I feel like I'm the most uninformed person on the planet. Well, maybe not quite the last one…

I was wondering what one of my favorite bands, Underworld, was up to. It had been an awfully long time since they'd produced an album, which isn't necessarily something unusual for the group, which has a lot of side interests, such as the graphic design group Tomato, but still it seemed like a long time had passed. Soon enough, I discovered the Riverrun project of which the title of this post is only one track. Underworld, it turns out, have released three album length tracks on their site Underworldlive. Accompanying each piece is an image gallery and, even, in some cases, a video for your video iPod. Classic Underworld, darker, moodier and less danceable.

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