A Book of Emptiness, Indeed

“Consumer” talk started with capitalists, for obvious reasons. Democratic voices, alas, have never caught on to the important prejudice inherent in such a thing.

To this very day.

Consider this item from today’s New York Times Book Review:

Lest you doubt that the work reviewed, Ruth Ozeki’s new novel, the unintentionally comically titled The Book of Form and Emptiness, is really as bad as this headline suggests it might be, here’s what a Google Books (Amazon having done away with this crucial feature in its drive to herd people into its atrocious Kindle DRM prison) content search reveals:

Excerpts from The Book of Form and Emptiness

So, this is a book about how “the American consumer,” high on “the religious ideology of consumer capitalism,” is reproducing a “crazy” world by clinging to “our fucked-up consumer culture.” Ozeki must imagine that, by placing it at the bottom of a trippy, personalized, magical-realist tale, she is somehow making such stale, unreflective, apolitical overgeneralization fresh, sharp, and liberating.

But, here at TCT, we have to ask, again: With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Ruth Ozeki seems like a lovely person and is certainly a very fine writer. But, no matter how you package it, more standard-issue “consumer” claptrap simply won’t do. There is no such thing as “consumer capitalism,” “consumer cuture,” “consumerism,” — or, for that matter, “consumers.”

Nobody who misses such elementary facts is going to do anything but sow even more confusion in our reeling, careening, truth-skirting global society.

We have met the enemy, and it is NOT us.

Consuming Research?

monocle image Approaches to Social Research, by Royce A. Singleton and Bruce C. Straits, is a lovely, well-written book about what social scientists call “research methods,” i.e. the techniques for maximizing the relevance and minimizing the imprecision of the evidence against which honest social hypotheses and theories should be judged. I like the book, really.

One of the topics it covers is the “validity” of concepts and measures. In social science, a concept or measure is more valid when its “goodness of fit” to reality is higher. For concepts, the question of validity is answered by judging whether a particular definition “adequately represents all facets (the domain)” of the particular aspect of reality its purports to describe.

Quite so, and quite important. Is it childbirth or stork fly-overs we’re talking about here?

Funny, then, that Singleton and Straits, in explaining the reasons people ought to read their tome, say that “You may be a consumer of research.”

Really? How, pray tell, might I possibly consume research? Would putting Approaches to Social Research through a wood chipper do the job? Perhaps exposing it to a few bursts from a flame-thrower? Would refusing to read it at all count as a form of its destruction, which is, after all, what “consumption” has to mean in any sane universe?

What S & S mean to say, of course, is that, if you pay any credulous attention to today’s shared non-fictional world, you are by definition going to be a USER of social research, and therefore ought to have some knowledge of the basic rules and standards for conducting, evaluating, and reporting such research.

So, despite its inarguable and flagrant violation of one of the bedrock rules of social science, the “consumer” vocabulary is now so triumphant, so breezily familiar, that it sails right past even major experts on the importance of holding to robust, unbiased definitions.

Would that we could consume this confounding reality…

Let Them Eat Funnel

moneyfunnel Corporate marketers have a problem. Tracking people’s behaviors is easier and richer when the targets reveal themselves on their home computers than when they are using their “mobile devices.” There are, of course, plenty of dollars and labor being thrown at solving this problem, and a solution will undoubtedly be found.

All quite predictable and normal.

While brushing up on this topic, I did, however, find this lovely little passage from the “Results” page at the Tapad agency, which is one of the vendors groping toward making “mobile devices” equal to desktop appliances in their surveillance capacities.

Drive new customers into the purchase funnel by delivering efficient app installations
Retarget both site visitors and app installers to progress users through the funnel ultimately generating sales

Leverage Tapad’s unique cross-platform audience targeting solutions to focus impression delivery on consumer profiles most likely to engage with campaign messaging.

More evidence that “consumers,” despite the supposed liberation inherent in that insult, are merely so many “profiles” to be reorganized for overclass benefit.

When I hear the word “consumer” — from anybody — I reach for my revolver.

Does the USA Really Have Public Broadcasting?

pbs anchors
"Anchors," indeed!

One look at PBS or listen to NPR screams the answer.  There are corporate sponsors on which the “public” endeavors are made to rely.  These sponsors run ads in the “public” media they sponsor.  In a nation of immense class and race polarity, where illegal wars, the world’s highest incarceration rate, and mass unemployment never end, we get Antiques Road Show and Nightly Business Report and the stuffedest of stuffed shirts mimicking corporate TV news on the one and only “public” television network?

In any event, the obviousness doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to analyze the beast’s behaviors.

Toward that end, take a look at this from FAIR.