Archive for the 'society' Category

We made you

This video by one of b3ta‘s denizens is a good example of what makes YouTube so valuable. The video channel has sold much of its soul and is shackled by copyright worries, which is difficult when individuals want to use music and stock footage creatively. Sometimes, something new and interesting emerges, like this.
Referencing recent news events that dominate UK news and liberally peppered with (some admittedly less recent) web memes, it’s a wonderfully ephemeral parody of, er, everything.
Plus, it takes a welcome pop at the boringly rebellious Eminem.


Hard to believe that evidence is not enough


Over the last few years I have been seduced by scepticism. I don’t want to bore you with the details of how I got here, but what it has left me with is a very strong love for science. I was crap at all things science at school, which is unsurprising considering my boredom with logic and a preference for imagination (I did see both concepts as opposites, wrongly).
At the heart of scepticism is scientific thinking is proving very useful at work. Looking at consumer trends, the clarity of understanding the divide between behaviour that is guided by emotion and instinct, and behaviour that is guided by reason and evidence, often proves a good platform for predicting where some trends might be heading.
For example, the media is doing a fine job of frightening us into thinking we’re all doomed. We have the twin demons of environmental disaster and a financial depression (the media’s view, not mine), two ideas which together encourage a very powerful and irrational mindset.
Several surveys over recent months from the likes of MORI, Mintel and, today, CCB fastMAP, show how our immediate financial needs are eroding the once-sacred environmental ethical urge. On the other hand, there are claims that superstition and religion are on the rise.
These two trends are compatible if keeping up an ethical lifestyle, or consuming products with dubious benefits (like homeopathic medicines), cost us money, whereas going to church or avoiding black cats cost us nothing.
Apart from the everyday mundane things that give me comfort (like teasing the kids, beer and watching 24), I find spiritual inspiration from scientific journalism. There are the brilliant Guardian Science Weekly and SGU podcasts, amongst others. And in my RSS reader are ScienceBlogs and the famous Dr Ben.
So it’s no surprise then that I elected to watch David Attenborough’s ode to Charles Darwin last week. This programme included one of the most inspired descriptions of nature I have ever seen: the computer-generated Tree Of Life. Considering the weight of evidence that has accumulated over the last century to support the theory of evolution, I find it sad that dogmatic stubborness still separates millions of people from appreciating the awesome beauty of natural selection.

(WordPress is playing silly buggers with embeddable video. If it doesn’t appear at this point in the blog post, then watch the clip here.)

Footnote: one of the saddest things of all is happening in children’s education.

Fox News = car crash TV

Just like Charles Frith, I too have discovered an almost morbid fascination for US TV news. The laughably biased Fox News with its cerebrally challenged superstar Bill O’Reilly are essential viewing, as is O’Reilly’s nemesis Stephen Colbert (on the FX channel).
Here’s a wonderful example of Fox getting it sooo wrong when, sometime in 2006/2007, its pundits try their damndest to discredit the views of a financier who predicted the current economic crisis.

That apology

This Sachsgate thing, or whateveryawantacallit, one curious thing: that picture behind Russell Brand as he makes his apology. Sly dig or just coincidental…?

Global societal trends can be measured by zombies

There’s one thing guaranteed to make a trends watcher happy, and that’s a daft correlation. Never mind hemline indexes and all that jazz, how about creating a chart that demonstrates that major society upheavals are somehow connected to trends in zombie movie production. Simply wonderful.

Down and dowdy

Ostentation has always been subject to disapproval by middle Britain (aka Daily Mail readers), but with attitudes such as intolerance and jealousy becoming more acceptably mainstream, even the appearance of ostentation is becoming subject to negative comment.

Are we really that miserable? Don’t we want to see people flounce and preen and have a good time? Apparently not, according to this article from the Evening Standard. Out goes the glamour as we turn into grumpy old farts.

Are we in a post-genre era?

The erosion of attention spans as a consequence of the digital era is not a cutting-edge theory. The oceans of information at our fingertips can’t all be read, watched or listened to, so we skim and snack and that habit is going to affect the way we think.
Maggie Jackson’s claim to this idea is doing the media rounds as she promotes her book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. She’s interviewed on the Point of Inquiry podcast.
Those of us who were raised in households where the TV was dominant and where the radio was the rebellious medium can remember how the major youth tribes were influenced by the social conditions of the time. Punk was rooted in the disconnection with a polarised and extreme political landscape (when there was a real difference between the left and the right), and the subsequent movements – New Romantics, House etc. – underlined the attitudes towards sexual identity, drugs, violence, that the young did not share with their elders.
The recent Adbusters post about Hipsters was bang on target: they call the point we’ve reached “hipsterdom”, a point where all the countercultures and tribes come together. There’s no originality and the ability to shock is very diluted.
The culture we now have is one where the more people we know, the fewer we know really well. With music, the more genres we’re exposed to (in original or mashed-up form), the smaller or shorter-lived are their associated tribes. It’s got to the point where adults are now more likely to share the musical tastes of their teenage children than at any other time.
Music genres no longer matter because new media has taken their place. It’s handsets instead of hippies, PS3s instead of punks. Have their been any big, new musical tribes this century? No – certainly nothing new. Some of the new things were Playstation 2 (2000), the iPod (2001), Myspace (2004).
In the UK, mobile phone penetration amongst 16-24 year olds leapt from around 70% in 2000 to over 95% in 2007.
In fact, technology and the digital space now moves so fast that they spread and kill off these tribes. Youth will always find places to meet away from the adults, but it’ll take an unknown catalyst to cause them to do so in society-changing numbers.

Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.



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