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Friday, January 28, 2005
Momus writes about Vice Magazine at Design Observer, asking whether hipster irreverence and nihilism function as constructive criticism, or are simply part of the consumerist cycle they seek to parody. The comments link this excellent spoof, The New York Hipster Exodus ('The 32-year-old heir to the Tallulah Flour fortune has been in New York for only six months, most of which he's spent inside a 5,000-square-foot loft on Washington Street in the meatpacking district.'). I suppose the closest the UK has to the hipster is the urban media type, making this a good opportunity to link the upcoming upcoming Nathan Barley TV show, born screaming out of Charlie Brooker's (sleeping) TV Go Home site and the mind of Chris Morris. Teaser posters have already started to appear on the underground (with an URL I can't remember right now).

One got the feeling that the original Nathan Barley item (he was the focal point of a documentary in TVGoHome's fictive listings, which I'll coyly call 'C***') was satire with a real distaste for its subject matter, and no pretensions to any ironic subtext. Vice's screeds are different; informed by the fact that it's a publication by and about the cutting edge/counterculture/cool/whatever, which demands a certain level of understanding and interpretation from its readers, or else it becomes meaningless. Hence we have the defining features of our age, cyncism and irony, and never really meaning what you say. As another commenter puts it, '[this] calculated apathy is just a way for people to protect their "coolness," and to not let it be distilled by the super-fast spread of ideas we witness everyday'. This thread is also an interesting read, with the overall feeling that if you strike the right attitude, whatever you do is above criticism.

Which brings us to the rather ghastly concept of the Brand Hijack, a whole 'new way of marketing'. Basically, hijacking advocates claim that companies who relax and let their consumers run wild with the sacred tenets of their brand are actually doing themselves a favour. Because, what do you know, the consumer is king. Their hacks will take your brand into new markets and open new doors. The inevitable book is subtitled 'marketing without marketing,' but quickly seeks to reassure its target audience - marketers - that they're by no means out of a job. Instead, in this brave new world of marketing, they 'will become cultural anthropologist[s]', decoding consumer 'passion' and ensuring that it is re-directed back into the brand.

The book has an interesting case study of Red Bull, a drink that scores very low on taste tests yet is priced 'about eight times higher than Coke'. Red Bull's management exploited the time it took to approve the drink in various global markets (the unusual ingredients needed qualifying) and the subsequent rumours about its legality and chemical content (see this 2001 Salon article, Liquid Cocaine). Rather than vouch for their product's wholesome nature, they let the rumours spread, even turning a blind eye to Red Bull 'bootlegging', and introducing it into new markets by word of mouth. 'The company's marketers encouraged the [drug use] association by sending subtle cues, like tossing empty Red Bull cans onto the floors of club bathrooms.' What has this got to do with Vice? Perhaps it's the realisation that however edgy, ironic and out there you think you're being, there's always someone ready to recycle your authentic angst into just another sales pitch. The resulting pitch just makes other people madder and even edgier, and thus the cycle begins all over again...

Elsewhere. Hacked objects are enhanced items in the Sims world, with whole sites devoted to them, like Sim Slice. Hacked objects are in-game items that have had their properties enhanced - an easy thing to do. Apparently, it's a widespread problem in the Sims. As virtual worlds proliferate, there have been teething problems as the huge popularity of entering into whole new realms of interaction prove surprisingly popular, and easy to abuse.

Strange and enigmatic maps, ancient and modern. From the unusual, like the premise that the ancient world was comprehensively mapped by extra-terrestrials, to the in-depth, like the Pop vs Soda distribution map (thanks Will) / vintage watches at Watchismo / many links for Philip Johnson at Arch News Now / freaky instruments and effects at Eowave / scanned sketchbook, via this ask me-fi thread.