Friday, January 4, 2008
A plan to allow "domestic view" of data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can "see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers" has been recently approved by the USA government. For the good and bad of it, Information age enhances the ability of states to control citizens and of business corporations to enlarge leverage our privacy into profit: better security means more information in corporate hands and less privacy. Furthermore, Information age allows business corporations and states to deliver their message more efficiently than ever before. This means more products, more advertisements and less free public space. Yet, Information age also allows activist groups and their counter messages to be heard by millions. Following is a fresh collection of popular and particularly interesting strategies, case studies and resources demonstrating the two-edged sword face of new media - where counteradvertising, commerce jamming and propaganda remixes make a stand.
1. The Blackspot Sneaker: Cutting Through the Hype of Mediated Reality
According to AdBusters Media Foundation, publishers of the most popular subvertising magazine in the world and a leading activist group based in Vancouver Canada, well made subvertisments need to efficiently "mimic the look and feel of the targeted ad, promoting the classic 'double-take' as viewers suddenly realize they have been duped". With a list successful media projects such as the TV Turnoff Week which was aired on CNN, the Buy Nothing Day videos of 2006 and 2007 and a series of viral TV subvertisments titled The Product Is You, AdBusters continue to demonstrate how TV commercial language can be altered and manipulated to "cut through the hype and glitz of our mediated reality" and reveal "a deeper truth within."
The Blackspot sneaker, designed by John Fluevog, is Adbusters' recent Commerce Jamming project, a first Anti-Brand and your chance to "unswoosh Nike's tired old swoosh and own one of the most Earth-friendly shoes in the world": 100% organic hemp upper, recycled tire sole, made by Vegetarian Shoes in a European union shop including a hand drawn (!) logo plus.
2. Busting Phillip Morris: Why are you buying your food from a tobacco company?
In fact, some culture jamming ads carry indisputable facts about their targets making some disturbing unfamiliar truths to be a little more familiar to the public. "Why are you buying your food from a tobacco company?" showcased a list of popular food products owned by Phillip Morris, the world's largest cigarette company: "...Chances are that you've been helping to promote Marlboro cigarettes without even knowing it. You can withdraw that support by personally boycotting these products" the ad said. "It's like giving money to a health organization that is working to find a cure for cancer - but in this case you are taking money from a corporation that causes it. So next time you go buy food- try it. You'll like it."
3. The Reality of War: Vertigo vs. Australia's Department of Defence
In March 2003 Australia's Department of Defence has withdrawn advertising from all student media across the continent in response to a controversial full-page parody of Defence recruitment advertising published on Vertigo, a student newspaper at the University of Technology, Sydney. The spoof ad satirically portrayed the Department of Defence as "a political tool of an Australian government intent on participating in an unsanctioned invasion of Iraq" and was followed up and reprinted by other student publications.
This act of solidarity was like a golden medal to the Vertigo activists who saw the fact "students are no longer being inundated with inaccurate representations of the Defence Force" as a great victory. Vertigo spokesperson, Jano Gibson argued that "the 'exciting', 'inspiring' and 'feel good' Army ads that appear in uni diaries, on billboards and television differs extremely from the reality of participating in a war" and that Vertigo's parody "simply corrects the omissions of the Department of Defence." For a larger version download the pdf here.
4. Volkswagen vs. a Sick Joke: The Suicide Bomber Polo Driver
Sometimes facts are not the issue neither is the spoofer's opinion and the busted ad is made either "for" a non-existent product, or with a real one simply as parody of advertisements. Rarely, a familiar brand language is mimicked so well that the entire world is successfully fooled. In January 2005, managers at German car manufacturer Volkswagen found themselves in the center of a global row after a meme hack sick video joke featuring a Palestinian suicide bomber in a Polo car was virally distributed across the world via the internet.
The spoof TV advert showed an "oriental" looking man stepping into a Polo car wearing a keffiyeh scarf, known as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. After driving around the city for a while the driver stops near a resonant populated with lots of innocent civilians and detonates, yet leaving the car intact.
The video was punched-lined with the familiar style slogan announcing "Polo: small but tough". Check it out and see for yourself: Even though it is not very clear which "deeper truth" is actually being revealed here, this culture jammer was mimicking the familiar Volkswagen language so well it simply got people to believe it’s a real one.
5. Excuse me - Is that blood in your gas tank? Dave Ward vs. Hammer
"Please download the large version and pass it along to forums, websites and other people who might appreciate it. Spread the meme!" – Those were the words of Dave Ward, a professional photographer who in 2005 created two anti-Hummer spoof ad campaigns. Suggesting the real reason behind the ongoing blood shed in Iraq is to support America's oil demand fueled by manly Tofu hater ego-driven cars of the Hammer type, Ward's anti-war eco-friendly spoof ad became almost as popular as the originals and were massively and virally distributed on Internet.
In July 2006 the second Hummer ad titled "Excuse me - Is that blood in your gas tank?" showed up on Ads of the World, a commercial advertising archive for the best and most interesting creative work worldwide. I bet they didn't like this so much at Hammer's headquarters but in light of recent developments in America's approach to international global climate responsibility you might say this culture jamming attempt might have had some part in making a change.
6. The Madeleine Spoof: Extremely Hurtful and Not Funny
Not all ad spoofs are made with humanitarian causes in mind and some are made for profit or publicity and leave a very bad taste behind. An 'advertising' spoof published in a German satirical magazine named The Titanic included an allegedly double-spread ad for a supermarket, depicting a number of products promoted with the image and name of Madeleine McCann's. This poor-taste parody was later described by Madeleine's parent's spokesman as "extremely hurtful". Not much to say about this one. Perhaps just that it's a good example for a 'not very funny' spoof.
7. Doctors Ought to Care: I smoke for smell
Other spoofs can be very funny and can hardly defined as unjustified by anyone, that is unless you are a lung cancer tycoon. The idea to sabotage the interest of cigarette corporations using their own media weapons is far from being new and came up almost 30 years ago when the Doctors Ought to Care (DOC) organization was pioneered countered development and jamming tobacco ads. In a 1980 paper published in JAMA, DOC founder Alan Blum, MD, wrote that "humor can be an effective tool" in this war. Thus, in one of its poster series, the DOC parodies the classic I smoke for taste advertisement with a picture of a similarly defiant, macho character with a cigarette dangling from one nostril and the caption I smoke for smell.
8. Constitutions Matter: Billboard Liberation Campaign
A very popular form of adbusting, sometimes referred to as Billboard Modification or Billboard Liberation, takes the form of alternation of public space commercials and billboards to make a spoof or parody of the original corporate or political message. Usually it is the company that pays for the advertisement that is being under the attack. In some cases, however, the target can be the medium itself.
It was August 1, 2007, when the deadline for all billboards in the city of Tacoma, Washington to comply with a (ten years old) law requiring the removal of all (well defined) disruptive billboards. Three days later Pranks, a popular blog by Joey Skaggs dedicated to culture jamming and reality hacking published this follow up about hundreds of billboards in Tacoma which "have sprouted a scary blue and red message reading "Constitutions Matter". All adbusted billboards were left carrying the name "Clear Channel Outdoor", a company of Clear Channel Communications and one of the world's largest outdoor advertising corporations. Photos are taken by Pranks from a local city blog named exit133.com.
9. The Li Peng Story: Step Down to Appease the People’s Anger!
Politics, anti-war and freedom fighting were always of the most inviting countermessage battlefields for artists and writers. The story of the Li Peng poem is an extraordinary example of how mass media can be hacked to deliver political counter-messages even under extreme media control standards as practiced by Chinese government. In March of 1991 the overseas edition of the People’s Daily - China’s Communist Party newspaper - featured the following patriotic homesick poem, written by a graduate student from Los Angeles aliased Zhu Haihong. Apparently the poem was a brilliant "qianzi shi" also known as "inlaid-character" poem. Thus, when read diagonally from upper right to lower left the words "Li Peng must step down to appease the people’s anger!" could be interpreted. Li Peng, for those who don't know, was the Premier of China between 1987 and 1998 and the "chief architect" of the 1989 Tiananmen square massacre.
10. The Propaganda Remix Project: YOU Back The Attack! WE'LL Bomb Who We Want!
Lastly, and with no intentions of getting into any blue-red American politics, here is another great example for political counter messages targeting war propaganda: Micah Ian Wright is an American author who works in film and television and also the person behind YOU Back The Attack! WE'LL Bomb Who We Want!, a compilation of his Remixed War Propaganda with introductions by Howard Zinn and Kurt Vonnegut.
Other books from Wright include If You’re Not a Terrorist... Then Stop Asking Questions! and Surveillance Means Security! and hundreds of posters are available on his site The Propaganda Remix Project. When you are there, make sure you don't miss Wright's amazing collection of Hate Mail. All typos, errors, odd word choices, logic leaps, ad hominem attacks, homophobia, and delusions are claimed to be "quoted verbatim". I've found myself spending some time reading there. It's nice to see some folks know how to take some criticism :-)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Well, yes, it has been a little over a year since "they" released IE7 on Windows XP and for Windows Vista, so IE7 Group Program Manager Mr. Tony Chor, who is also an avid blogger, thought "it would be worthwhile to talk about where we are after the year." Why? because of "the positive impact IE7 has made" for Microsoft users, because "as you know" Microsoft "focused a lot on improving security in IE7" making "IE 7 the safest Microsoft browser released to date" and because - yes - "IE7 had both fewer fixed and unfixed vulnerabilities in the first year than the other browsers" they compared with.
Also, says Mr. Chor, "according to internal Microsoft research based on data from Visual Sciences Corporation "over 300 million users are experiencing the web with IE7" making it "the second most popular browser after IE6." I'll save you the rest of the exciting new features and reasons specified by Chor. You can read them all here if you like. The point here is that many angry folks seem to have been waiting a long time for such an opportunity to express their real feelings towards IE7 as well as Microsoft's approach for how to handle their interaction with Internet developer community. I quoted up some of the best onces for you as there are just too many of them. Enjoy.
"Sorry, I can't get past the all-too-frequent IE 7 crashing or hanging at seemingly random times to appreciate anything you just posted." (Internet Explorer has stopped working)
"...It would be sad for IE to fade away in its own delusions of grandeur and support its own misguided standards of how the web should be. Good luck and hope to hear about IE's future developments so I can properly hack my sites to work with its arcane developments." (Joshua)
"From the horrifically god-awful (IE6) to the merely depressingly buggy, nonstandard, and incomplete (IE7)... congratulations!" (Joseph E. Davis)
"... 1 year, still no bug tracking 1 year, still no updates on IE8 features 1 year, still no updates on IE8 bug fixes 1 year, still no ETA on IE8 release 1 year, still no ETA on IE8 Beta release(s) 1 year, still no ETA on IE8 Alpha release(s)" (Sam)
"...Every single day, web authors of all experience, from amateurs to experts/gurus, experience difficulties (from minor to major) with bugs of all kinds in IE 7. When is Microsoft going to finally fix all these proven and testcase-ed bugs?" (Gérard Talbot)
"IE Team called out for biased numbers" (Concerned User)
"I wonder when will you release IE without click to activate..." (n-blue)
"... Let's see... six years for IE7, so you guys are on track to have IE8 by what, 2012? Your problem is you think in terms of years. Your problem is that your company sees the web as a competing platform. Do us all a favor and stop making IE altogether." (Paul)
A few words about my own view. After spending four years with Conceptis development team putting up a totally dynamic yet 100% standard compatible application server there are simply no words to describe how horrible is the fact IE is a closed undocumented software ignoring the fact Internet is not owned by Microsoft:
We had a professional top-gun graphic designer added to our payroll to have the most spectacular GUI ever seen. At least a year was spent on coming up with the basic layout look and language. Aiming to support everyone's Internet experience we took a huge effort to have all of it implemented using 100% W3C standards. We came to a point where IE is supported on the site and design look almost as it should - there is not a single line of code in this project containing the bad behavior of mixing graphic design with code and all graphic instructions are done exclusively via CSS, just as they should be "by the book".
In short, we did our part. Yet, most of the time we spent on CSS development went to solving IE6 particular bugs. There were times when we were certain that eventually we'll bump into all of them, a frightening thought in light of the fact there are hundreds. Now with IE7 around it looks like things are not going to be very different. It looks like we will probably just have to add a bunch of IE7 dedicated hacks to our IE CSS override pool. As explained by a fellow named Gérard Talbot the IE development team still has to fix -
"at the very least 700 bugs, incorrect implementations (all testcase-ed, all demontrable, reproducible) happening in HTML 4, CSS 2.1, DOM 2 interfaces and then implement more or less 500 properties, attributes, methods specified in official W3C Technical Recommendations, W3C web standards (HTML 4, CSS 2.1, DOM 2 interfaces, DOM 2 Core, DOM 3 Core)."
There is one particular comment on this thread which I thought should be brought in full as it pretty much sums up my personal feelings towards the subject discussed. Here it is, exactly as posted on the official IE blog by owner of a web development company Adam Tichy on Thursday, December 06, 2007:
"I'm a web developer, not a literary scholar, therefore I cannot quite find proper words to describe my total disgust with IE. I honestly can't wait long enough for that horrible thing to just crawl into the depths of forgotten projects and die.
"Most of my customers provide consumer or business internet services and they rightfully insist that the web applications work properly in all major browsers. Since MS packages this crap together with the OS it is a small wonder that in whatever diminishing numbers, the IE is still out there in force. It makes my life a living hell! I have to either seriously compromise the design and functionality or essentially build several variants of the sites just to make it work for the ignorant IE6/7 crowd.
And I'm not so sure the smaller number of support calls is something to boast. Judging from the stats on my sites, more and more people access them via the "other" browser(s). If this trend continues (and hopefully it will) you will be receiving even less support calls in the future. 300 million my foot."
[Above illustrative image courtesy of Alex who bumped up a confirmed bug by Microsoft. Confirmed since medieval ages of IE 5.]
Thursday, December 6, 2007
If you made a reactionary old fashioned stuck in the past bad guy angry you must have done some good. Thus, my congratulations go to Twitter this morning for joining the lauded halls of the sites banned for speaking too freely. As reported by mashable.com, the United Arab Emirates has just decided that its residents shall corrupt their souls no more and avoid tweeting with each other as much as they probably have until now. Anyone attempting to access Twitter's website from the UAE gets the above message, translated as follows:
"We apologize, the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates. If you think this site should not be blocked, please visit the Feedback Form available on our website."
Other than newly added Twitter, mashable also mentions some other members of this respected list including MySpace, Facebook and of course devilish YouTube that got himself banned from Beijing, Thailand, Morocco, Australia, and others. Should we be surprised? Not necessarily. Apparently there are even some American folks struggling to block MySpace in schools and libraries. I wonder if that's due to their ability to spread ideas freely, having such a horrible interface or simply the number of female silicon body parts one must observe every time he opens his MySpace inbox.
For more information and a detailed list of other Internet destinations being "inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values" of additional bad guys check on Access Denied Map: Mapping Web 2.0 Censorship from globalvoicesonline.org, who also offer the following show your support badge.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The Microsoft IE7 folks at Redmond must be fastening their seat belts at these moments, getting ready for their largest challenge ever as the world's most superior Internet communication software has just been released as a public Beta. Firefox 3 Beta 1, AKLA 3.0b1 is now available for download with 3 operating systems and more than 20 languages already in supported list.
The rumors about Firefox 3 have been with us for a long time and a lot has been written about the third version. This Internet tool is not going to be just another crappy recycled version of the previous engine with additional bells and whistles and a few "new exciting features" stolen from others and implemented badly (have you seen the exciting new tabs on IE7? how exciting). Firefox 3 is developed as a completely new software, with much of its core re-designed from scratch. The Beta 1 is the ninth developer milestone and includes many new core functionality features and changes to the platform scheduled for Firefox 3 (see 3.0b1 release notes).
New Firefox 3 Beta 1 features:
- Improved security features such as: Better presentation of website identity and security, malware protection, stricter SSL error pages, anti-virus integration in the download manager, and version checking for insecure plugins.
- Improved ease of use through: better password management, easier add-on installation, new download manager with resumable downloading, full page zoom, animated tab strip, and better integration with Windows Vista and Mac OS X.
- Richer personalization through: one-click bookmarking, smart search bookmark folders, direct typing in location bar searches your history and bookmarks for URLs and page titles, ability to register web applications as protocol handlers, and better customization of download actions for file types.
- Improved platform features such as: new graphics and font rendering architecture, major changes to the HTML rendering engine to provide better CSS, float-, and table layout support, native web page form controls, colour profile management, and offline application support.
- Performance improvements such as: better data reliability for user profiles, architectural improvements to speed up page rendering, over 300 memory leak fixes, and a new XPCOM cycle collector to reduce entire classes of leaks.
The Mozilla folks say they do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download the Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone release as it is intended for testing purposes only. In addition, If you blog this new further (you should!) please do not link directly to the download site but to this Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone announcement so that everyone will know what this milestone is, what they should expect, and who should be downloading to participate in testing at this stage of development.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
The hints kept coming. After unveiling Android, their new mobile phone software, it appears that Google's plans go way beyond another proprietary new software. Instead a consortium of top tier wireless companies is already on the run, developing Android to be "the first complete, open, and free mobile platform" As Linux for mobile still has some troubles gaining an honorable spot, and giving the history of previous Google attempts to move things around, allow me to bet this might work and the world of mobile computing is about to be changed completely.
Companies in the alliance, already counting more than 30, say their purpose is to "accelerate innovation in mobile and offer consumers a richer, less expensive, and better mobile experience" and plan on releasing an access software development kit next week. Yesterday we learned that Federal Communications Chairman Kevin Martin supports Google's Open Handset Alliance saying "more openness, at the network, device, or application level, helps foster innovation and enhances consumers' freedom and choice in purchasing wireless service." More about the new open platform for mobile phones and the Open Handset Alliance in this official video.
According to InformationWeek Google partners include T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm and Motorola. "Google is picking holes in the traditional hegemony of telecommunications providers," says Google analyst and author Stephen Arnold. "This is just using what Google's already got. There will be much more to come." Google refer to their Android platform "the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices."
Google's Android competes directly with other smartphone software available in the market today. This include software from Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Palm, and Research in Motion. According to CNET the new Android platform consists of "an operating system, middleware, a user-friendly interface, and applications." and we can expect the first Android phones to be purchased sometimes between June to December 2008. There you have it - one Android the bad guys did not expect.
As opposed to mobile operating systems, Android will not be tied to a specific device but will support a long list of devices from major players such as Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and LG as well as Wind River Systems Inc. that joined the alliance as a Linux commercialization partner. A minimum of 200MHz ARM 9 processor is required to run the new system, promised to be "flexible, compatible with small or large screens, keyboards and other input methods."
According to Wikipedia an Android is "a robot designed to resemble a human, usually both in appearance and behavior". The term was first mentioned by Albertus Magnus in 1270 and was popularized by the French writer Villiers in his 1886 novel L'Ève future. I wonder what Magnus would have to say about the new Android.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel criticized Myanmar regime on Friday for cutting off Internet access saying "They don't want the world to see what is going on there". Yet, even though protests seem to have been successfully forced down by the Junta and number of dead and missing persons might be left unknown forever, pieces of information continue to flow nevertheless thanks to some brave people and proxy servers.
We know how Japanese photographer journalist Kenji Nagai was murdered because we watched this citizen journalism video posted to YouTube and broadcasted on Japanese television. We can see for ourselves how really far was this soldier when he shot Nagai who was holding his camera. We know bodies were dropped in front of monasteries as warning signs and that most, perhaps all, of these monasteries are now empty of their residents. We don't know where the monks are, how many are dead and how many are being tortured in the Junta's basements but we do know the Myanmar dictatorship now seeks four more alleged monk 'ringleaders' after 25 of the 29 monks suspected of being protest leaders are already in custody.
We know soldiers were singling out people with cameras. Watching this CNN video can help us imagine what they are expected to be dealing with when they are found. We know citizen journalism now changes the rules of the game, but we also know the high price some need to pay for it as fate of Moezack is still unknown and his blog has been totally wiped out by someone. Other popular bloggers such as kohtike, niknayman and soneseyar which continuously posted news and photographs of ongoing protests have also been shut down priorly to the "damaged underwater cable" eliminating Internet access completely in Burma.
It seems bad guys are winning at Burma, AKA Myanmar, but so does citizen journalism. The news are bad, but at least we know that.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Back in 2001, when I was a journalism student at Koteret I had the privilege of taking the classes of Moshe Negbi, the Israel Broadcasting Authority's legal commentator, a senior lecturer at Hebrew University and an avid soldier of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of press. Negbi was the first person to make me understand the real importance of freedom of press. More impotent, he showed me exactly how things work in reality and why where there is no freedom of press there is usually no freedom at all.
For those of us who didn't know that, in some countries a journalist can be thrown in prison for years for a single offending word or photo. In others, including mine I am afraid, journalists can be prisoned for not fully cooperating with the censorship authorities or or even get killed for doing their job, allegedly or in fact, being too 'close' with the wrong side.
Killing, jailing or even threatening a journalist removes our only option to know what the truth is, rather than what our politicians want us to know. Free journalism is the only way our right to be informed can be protected.
Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom since it was founded in 1985. The above ads are all sourced from Ads of the World, an advertising archive and community.
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