— THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE

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AdAge recently drew my attention to this project from the always innovative and provocative Mother London. At the last Internet Week Europe, Mother decided to run an experiment in digital fasting. (I don’t think I need to point out the irony of that). No Internet Week.

I watched the entire piece, and instead of being nudged into rethinking my own internet habits, it infuriated me. Not because the message isn’t important, but that it’s delivered with such a sense of superiority and snobbishness, that it undermines it’s whole point.

The experiment actually starts off well. The diverse nature of the group selected shows how pervasive and cross generational the phrase ‘digital native’ has become (especially with it’s heavy associations with Millennials). The initial days of no digital interactions are actually quite revealing.

Then the wheels fall off.

The shift this film takes is one that you increasingly see across the digital landscape. It’s the idea that somehow ‘switching off’, taking an internet break, is a badge of honor, of one-upmanship, that the Internet is a stark choice of addiction or absolution. I myself have been guilty of this, a few years ago, I posted on here a post called ‘Cabin Porn’. It’s beautiful pictures of isolated cabins, sparked a moment in me where I felt I needed to curb, or at least revel in those moments that were not dominated by the internet. In the intervening years, this idea has gone ‘overground’.  Just today, I saw a rather excellent press ad from Guinness that talks directly to the pervasiveness of phones on pub tables. Bands are increasingly asking their fans to put away their phones and iPads (shudder) when at a gig. While these push-backs are relatively embryonic, they do illustrate a culture where the personal regulation of internet usage becomes a cultural norm.

It’s easy to forget that we are not even a decade into the smart phone era. Indeed, many people online were staggered to recollect that the iPhone only came out in 2007. We are still grappling with technologies that are barely out of their teens, and in the smart phones case, not even out of the 2nd grade.

But these aren’t arguments that this experiment is interested in dealing with. The point taken is that the Internet is somehow a life-sucking, disruptive, destroyer of relationships and interactions. Instead of promoting or contextualizing what smart digital usage looks and acts like, we’re left with a typically British (and deeply Calvinist) sense of self flagellation. That when we binge, we deserve to be punished. To have our toys taken away as punishment. There is no idea of moderation. Simply of absolution.

When sensitive, smart films like ‘Her’ explore our relationships with technology in very human and thought provoking ways, the shrillness of ‘No Internet Week’ becomes even more pronounced. Maybe if it treated the Internet and their behaviors with the maturity it deserves then maybe the insights would have been a bit more useful to others, not just the participants.

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I’m an unavowed fan of Forsman & Bodenfors. While remaning resolutely Swedish in their outlook, their philosophy and output blends digital nous with creative inventiveness and a focus on craft that is hard to beat anywhere in the world. But I find their most recent piece somewhat of a missed opportunity to build a fully integrated digital and film storytelling device. As much because the potential of this idea, is the equal of one of my favorite pieces of creative in the last few years (for the same client; Volvo.) North Kingdom’s ‘Cross Country Travels’ platform.

Leave The World Behind is a collaboration between Volvo and Swedish House Mafia. While not exactly over familiar with Swedish House Mafia’s oeuvre, it’s hard to ignore their international success and place at the center of the exploding EDM movement here in the United States. The collective has now split up to pursue other opportunities (by the sounds of it, Playing MSG to a bunch of bro’s isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – who knew?) Volvo saw an opportunity to create a campaign around this moment, imbuing it with a sense of grandeur and pathos not usually afforded to DJ’s & producers. It’s a smart bit of tactical strategic thinking, placing the brand at the center of a very contemporary piece of culture.

The resultant film – ‘Leave The World Behind’ is a beautifully realized piece that sees the three protagonists go their separate ways and follow their own paths, with help from Volvo’s luxury cars; all soundtracked by a spaced out version of the title track (One of their most famous songs and their ‘breakout’.) Sweden looks suitably epic and sparse, the cinematography giving the film an epic that befits the level of success they enjoyed. It’s part ad, part film, part music video, and it’s great.

But what lets this down is the digital experience. The website (www.leavetheworldbehind.com) has some really nice design touches, and feels immersive and overall well considered, but it also feels like a vessel for video itself, nothing more. It doesn’t contextulise their (or the brands’) story in any way. The journey that the Swedish House Mafia have been on is clearly one of a scale very few performers get to these days (whatever you think of their music.) And ties them closer to the brand than mere ‘Swedishness’. Their significance could be bought to life as a storytelling experience, augmented by avalanche of multimedia that exists around them. User generated and beyond. By ignoring their past in the main interactive piece, it lessens the impact of the film, and creates a disjointed effect. It lessens the drama that the film is trying to elicit. Which itself augments a weak call to action, which seems like a classic case of just sticking a hashtag on something and loosely gathering social sentiment. Whereas it should be generating the very nostalgia that the powers the myth and memory of the band.

You may ask why this is a problem. Well, I’m sure for many, it isn’t, and I might be picking on something disproportionally (which is not my intention.) But it highlights a problem that I’ve been investigating (see tomorrow’s blogpost for more…) of just sticking things ‘on’ the internet as opposed to building things ‘with’ the internet. By avoiding building a digital storytelling experience around this (albeit) beautiful film, we are robbed of the emotional resonance that an interactive, immersive digital experience could bring to the brand and band. What we are left with is an advert that happens to exist on the web, which is a missed opportunity all concerned.

(Via Creativity. )

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I’ve always been a fan of the strange, somewhat musty world of British retro culture. From the long forgotten library music worlds of KPM and DeWolfe, to even, dare I say, the pseudo-grotesque works of On The Buses and the Hammer film stable of the 60’s and 70’s. One of the reasons I love them is that they, alongside many other cultural artefacts, paint an altogether different picture of this time from the full-bore swinging version we are led to believe existed back in 60’s.

In the last 10 or so years, the study, reintroduction and reinterpretation of some of the more obscure of these weird-beard archives has led to scene (of sorts) forming around the concept of ‘Hauntology’.  A term originally introduced by Jacques Derrida in 1993. The term was first introduced to me through Simon Reynolds increasingly relevant and vital book ‘Retromania’. He cites both the rise in interest in the work of the pioneering, but relatively unknown British sound architects BBC Radiophonic Workshop as an example of Hauntology at work.

It’s spectral sonic beauty, abstracted from it’s original uses, takes on another context. A hazy document of an imagined time. More recently bands such as Boards Of Canada, have taken that one step further, taking the spectral elements of British ‘B’ culture and blending it with modern electronica to create something both as familiar as the test card, and as eerie as the Shipping Forecast.

So why mention it? Well, namely this video of Hells Angels from 1973, got me thinking all over again about the relevance, and brilliance of this sort of content.

A 1973 documentary about the Hells Angel’s  represents everything that is interesting around retro culture, and Hauntology. The 39 years of age has turned what was clearly meant to be an alarmist shock piece on the rise of biker gangs (and therefore you would assume, lawlessness at large), into a piece that shows what happens when hippie culture, which briefly, the Angels were a part of, is filtered through a British lens.

This is Altamont as imagined through a Little Chef service station in Luton. The Hells Angels in the film might look cool (and no doubt, their iconography and style has been liberally integrated into all manner of fashion types since). But their feeble rebellions are met now with a lashing of comedy and, in the end hopelessness. Hollow bravardo statements are mixed with truly bizarre ‘That’s Life’ on-the-street vignettes. These juxtapositions, while meant to tell a sensationalised story in ’73, now look strangely tame and hopelessly naive. It also highlights one of the reason’s the concept of Hauntology would never really apply to similar American cultural artefacts.

Their assimilation of a quintessentially Californian and American constructs and pastimes (The Hells Angels and Motorbiking in general), is the key element that makes them so bizarre. How exoctic is rebellion on the M25 on the way to a disused canal boat on the Thames? But, in it’s inability to reach it’s own version of exotica, these videos (and many others like them), and the wider Hauntology scene,  provide a fascinating way to appreciate an archive of time when life, was more square, but much more interesting in how it articulated it’s squareness. I’ll be posting more of these as and when I find them.

(Via Dangerous Minds)

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Richard, July 2006. Amazingly, this is London Fields.

Dazed Digital have quietly launched a little online experiment in collective memory. One that is actually close to my heart, as it seeks to immortalize (or memorialize?) East London from 1997 – 2012. The Secret History of East London, from it’s about section, is as much a response to the Olympics and the changes they have imposed on East London as much as looking back at the rapid evolution of a district, that in 15 years, Shoreditch, and then wider East London lodged itself firmly into the cultural conciousness of the city, and the world.

It also serves as somewhat of a pause. A moment to reflect (certainly for me) on a district lived, loved and loathed in equal measure. I vividly recall my first visit to Shoreditch in early 1999. The bars, such as Dragon and Showrooms were just springing up, the Blue Note had passed, the 333 was an essential stop. The area felt new, dangerous, and alive. I’ve still got (almost) all the Shoreditch Twat fanzine’s from that time. (They are still funny BTW). St Martin’s days were inevitably followed by a blur of nights and days in the east-end playground. The move eastward to Hackney started full time in 2005. Shoreditch inexorably became it’s current Essex horrorshow, (punctuated by mini revivals of interest with nights such as Boombox). Then London Fields become a cramped and cliched caricature, full to bursting. And now most recently, Dalston go from no go zone to must be seen zone in under 2 years. The Secret History of East London is an apt title, as it does feel like there is nothing ‘secret’ left in East London. Different venues and experiences get assimilated in record time. (See the breakneck speed of Chatsworth Road’s emergence as an example). The thrill of discovery and pioneering in East London has been blunted. It’s finally just another part of town.

So an online exercise like this has the potential to be a strong nostalgic moment. The guys and girls who were 20/21 tearing up the east side of town back when the Libertines were rolling out of the Albion Rooms, are now 30+ and moving up, and in some cases, moving on. Whether settling into an urban (whitewashed) suburbias of Islington, DeBeauvior, Clapton or Stokey, or jetting off to find their fame and fortune. There is (and should) be movement afoot. East London has rightfully established itself as the playground for the young, the carefree and more often than not, the skint. When we were all at St Martin’s it felt right to be there. Safe in the knowledge that it would be that stepping stone. So, when you want to go and earn the big bucks and the power (whether it be in Advertising, Fashion or wherever else) you head to Paris, Milan, Tokyo or my own personal exit strategy – New York City.

But East London has matured, it’s not that stepping stone. It’s a home. A place to settle, and bring up kids. In fact, it’s more of a playground for those (like me) who want to (and can) have their cake and eat it. They can still be plugged into the hipster urban middle class consciousness, but also afford the trappings of expensive meals, and fine wines. The very people who dulled the East London experience, are the ones who made it fun and interesting the first time around. Dazed’s online mausoleum shows shows off the best of East London as it found it’s feet, and some of these moments highlight the best of what made(?) the area so special. But doesn’t answer the question of what’s next. That’s probably half the fun.

So as the warehouses raves fall away to memory,  (I *vividly* remember the Output Records 2005 warehouse party) and are replaced by the gastropub’s and the handmade boutiques, this digital wake for East London is a reminder of all the best things about this contradictory part of town. Dazed might be right, it might not have a future full of innovation, and certainly I might not love London much anymore, but I’ll always have East.

Check the map here.

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This project, premiered at TED 2012 in Long Beach last week. Creative Director Cesar Kuriyama, quit his job, and is now recording one second of everyday in his 30’s. (Which will equate to a 1 hour film of that decade). The video above edits those clips together from 2011 – Feb 2012 (I assume the day of the TED talk itself).

An incredibly simple idea, this is heartwarming, honest and deeply intriguing. The simplest thing to come out of this is something that you forget quite easily.

Alot can happen in a second.

In Cesar’s year, you can instantly pick up real human emotions that feel familair to all of us, but are experienced in unique ways too. Laughter, joy, relaxation, tension, boredom, contemplation, the end moments with his sister-in-law are particularly raw. Kuriyama admits. “We take our cameras out when we’re doing awesome things; we rarely do that when something horrible is happening.” . I’m not sure why this is so inspiring”

I took something else more personal out of it. Do more with your time. Each second counts.

(H/T @nicowen There doesn’t seem to be a TED video up on this yet, when there is, I’ll update.)

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With such a strong brand behind them, Amnesty International are always coming up with novel, creative ways to get their (traditionally0 hard-hitting message across.

But, sometimes those messages can be somewhat preaching to the converted. That’s why this idea from the Amnesty and Activision (creators of the Call Of Duty series) is smart, and in some ways, hopefully more effective in spreading their message.

Anybody who even has a passing interest in gaming will be aware that the Call of Duty series is somewhat of phenomenon. The previous ‘Black Ops’ addition to the series was the highest grossing entertainment product in the 2010. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 broke records itself, and the anticipation for the game was pretty self-evident to anybody who walked past a HMV store the weeks of release. However (as this film touches on), it’s really the ‘stickiness’ of the game that provides the biggest opportunity. Online, players are spending hours completing extra game maps and linking online with players around the world.

Here’s where the power of Amnesty’s message steps in. Supplanting their own ‘map’ into the online experience. Now it’s not just about saving the world from Nuclear disaster, or despotic rogue Russian heavies, it’s about helping victims of war crimes and torture escape their captors. Players buy the Amnesty map on the Playstation store and are instantly transported into the narrative. The hyper realism that CoD prides itself on, becomes the most valuable asset in bringing visually to life the suffering of victims and the visceral danger that these victims are constantly under.

I could imagine that there would be critics of this approach, potentially seeing that their message was being diluted with it’s inclusion in a ‘video game’. But as the gaming continues it’s march from geek pursuit to mainstream entertainment platform, the power of these games to create narratives that smart brands can disrupt and twist, is all too real. Amnesty have taken this to the next level. I for one, am excited to see this in action.

(Via Edward Boches)

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(Photo – Cabin Overlooking the Pacific by Mark Wickens)

Cabin Porn has spread like wildfire these last few weeks. Surely some of that is down to it’s title, (There’s no better link bait than porn is there?), beyond that, there’s actually something a little bit more interesting going on underneath this staggering collection of beautiful shots of Cabins. All collated, they start to reflect a rising sentiment that has swept over social networks (and therefore the ‘Digerati’) at the beginning of 2012.

“The Joy Of Quiet”

The article in the New York Times popped up towards the end of the 2011. It raised a very pertinent question at the end of a very exhausting year economically, socially, politically and crucially, technologically.  Have we lost the ability to enjoy peace and quiet?. An even handed argument for the profound benefits of technology, and social networks was presented, but also sounded a warning. In the whirlwinds of our technological advancements, we were in danger of losing our ability to switch off, to enjoy those moments of peace and quiet. To just be. That place where actually we can do some of our best, and clearest thinking.

At the end of a transformative ‘social’/internet enabled year for me, it really hit home.

It seemed as though I wasn’t alone in this reflection. ‘Quiet’ was something many of us had been ignoring. See, the idea of doing nothing in the 2010’s, especially in the peer pressure-24/7-content-factory that our social feeds have become are now persona-non-grata. Everyone is now multiple media node. (And as the article points out for teenagers, who have grown up with the web, this is even more true). No-one is off. People now even pay to be removed from their devices. I know that I personally have Freedom installed on the machine and on more often, ready and waiting to shackle the Internet’s Pandora’s Box of delights. But this is great for desktop, but what prevents you picking up the iPad or iPhone?. Nothing, but your own willpower.

Social connectivity is pervasive.

The article clearly hit home. Some of the people that I respect the most in my twitter stream posted it, many of the people that I know had made significant life choices in 2011 (looking at you UberBlond) wrote about the moment of pause that the article reflected. This unassuming article  stuck in the middle of the NYT, seemed to stop alot of people in their tracks. It resonated in other ways, in the way that many people had renounced their previous careers, to pursue something more, something that they loved and in that way, created their own level of quiet. Their own freedom. The article suddenly took on more multi-faceted elements.

At Christmas, the pace of media (naturally) slowed. A quirk of the British holidays (gawd bless ’em), meant that the time off was actually rather lengthy. I for one spent lovely languid days in a deserted London, catching up with friends, loafing about in the Cow in Notting Hill, escaping the East London fug, and generally taking shit out of fourth gear. It was great.

I also took a long hard look at how much I was sharing, (which in truth, had moved towards more talking as opposed to sharing as my interactions with multiple Twitter people, who I would now call friends, had evolved). I reflected on how much time I would refresh my feed, even if only for that extra new tweet on my phone. It was getting a bit nuts.

I vowed to try and create a space in 2012 for the Joy Of Quiet myself. Naturally in January, this can look like a hollow ambition, more akin to Protestant guilt than actual change. I’m skeptical of cold turkey. However, I do believe in moderation. That moderation through January has helped slowly subside that killer FOMO moment. I haven’t opened up Twitter on my iPhone since January 1. I have a renewed focus, more time to write, (and I mean write) things, like this. Long things, thoughtful things. (I know Mr Tait & Mr Kinsella are sharing the same sentiment with their blogging habits). More time to sit, read, listen to music, drift away, and wander. Things that I’ve loved doing from the moment I first moved to London. More focus on what I want to do and achieve in 2012. (Big moves, big things).

While I adore things like Twitter, and Instagram, and have been life-changing platforms for me, they also aren’t going anywhere, it’s OK to miss out, to keep quiet sometimes.

Which brings me back to Cabin Porn. If the Joy of Quiet was the written manifesto of evolved internet interactions is 2012. Then Cabin Porn is it’s visual doppelganger. Take a close look at these photos. The most interesting images here are not the beautifully stylised homes on Lake Tahoe or in an exclusive upstate enclave. They are the ones of little shacks, seemingly period pieces from gritty Westerns or rural Apalachian nowheresvilles.

Their remoteness, and therefore disconnectedness, is the true appeal. They are places to write, to create, to contemplate, to escape. They are the 21st Century communes. They remind me of a hippy utopia, or films like Vanishing Point. They are silence. Incredible, magical silence. Even with all the technological, social, economic and cultural upheavals around us, sometimes we just like to “Get Back to the Garden” (as Joni Mitchell put it). We would do well to keep these images in our mind, lest, go and explore them ourselves. Cabin Porn is the The Joy Of Quiet.

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