WikiLeaks impact update

I’ve seen tons of stories about the implications of the WikiLeaks stuff on media and informationflow and secrecy — but I haven’t seen much evaluating actual impact on public dialogue about the war in Afghanistan. I would like to see someone compare to the impact of the Pentagon Papers in terms of public opinion, etc. Maybe that’s been done and I’ve missed it?

The Times has a story today: “In Midterm Elections, War Barely Surfaces.” It sort of gets at this side of the story, but it’s pretty anecdotal, and doesn’t have much in the way of historical context. This guy makes a good point about one thing that’s changed since the Vietnam era:

“Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t paying attention,” said Representative Patrick J. Murphy, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “Which I think is a testament to the fact that 1 percent of us are fighting these wars.”

What do we know and when do we care about it?

There is nothing that has been raised that will be a surprise to someone who reads the newspaper every day.

Pentagon spokesman reacting to the flood of documents released by Wikileaks

This is probably pretty close to true.

But it could also be restated like so: “Much of what has been raised will be a significant surprise to most of the American public.”

If you see what I’m saying.

The question would be how much of the American public is even really paying attention to the coverage of the Wikileaks material. I was interested to read that Wikileaks decided to essentially team up with mainstream media outlets to distribute this information because the Wikileaks head honcho “is frustrated that some of the site’s other disclosures, such as a database of military procurements in Iraq and Afghanistan, didn’t garner more attention.” (According to “people familiar with the matter,” anyway.) His thinking is sound: As I’ve noted before, in a more frivolous context, mainstream media coverage is the new media’s seldom-acknowledged secret weapon.

Even so, it remains the case that today’s media culture is vastly more fragmented than in the time of, say, the Pentagon Papers. So while it’s easier to distribute information, I think it’s a lot harder to get the majority of the public to pay attention, let alone care, for very long. So I’ll be curious to see what the effects of this incident really turn out to be.

But in the short term, it does seem to have minimized the Shirley Sherrod non-incident as a topic of conversation and pundit-blather, and I’d count that as a big plus.

In The New York Times Magazine: Digital Antiquing

Band handwriting, warped vinyl, flawed images: Digital tools ape them all

Progress toward perfection has genuine skeptics, who insist on sticking with marginalized tools. The newer thing may seem less flawed or simply easier, such traditionalists insist, but it sacrifices warmth, soul, depth, personality, chance and the human touch. They must have a point, because practically every antiquated creative process ends up inspiring some kind of digital filter, effect or add-on designed explicitly to mimic its singular properties. The upshot is a form of progress toward perfecting flaws.

Read the column in the July 25, 2010, New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.

Notable design feature of the “black box”:

It is not black.

The man “credited with creating the prototype of the flight data recorder, or ‘black box,'” David Warren, has died. According to his obituary, his prototype was red. “Today’s black boxes … remain red or orange, to make them easier to find in wreckage,” after a plane crash. Why are they called “black boxes”? The obituary says:

How Mr. Warren’s red box came to be called a black box is not altogether clear. At the time, black box was a slang term in the Royal Air Force for a navigational instrument in an airplane. One story has it that a person who witnessed a demonstration said something like, “What a wonderful black box!”

Uh, good “story.”

In The New York Times Magazine: Taking ROFL (Sort of) Seriously

No Consumed today, but I have a feature on ROFLCulture, here.

[Big] thinkers [are] engaged in the popular debate over whether the Internet makes us smarter or dumber. And that question is interesting, but let’s face it: it’s not awesome. What Tim Hwang and his cohorts basically hit upon was the conclusion that, while that debate drags on, funny cat pictures and so on are really, really popular. And maybe another question to consider is what that means — to consider the Web not in terms of how it might affect who we become but rather in terms of how it reflects who we are. ROFL, after all, is not a seductive theory about what enlightened things democratized culture may one day produce; it is a pervasive fact on the ground. This is how sizable chunks of our cognitive resources are actually being deployed, so it’s worth trying to figure out why that is, what functions this stuff serves and how it differs from or falls in line with more familiar forms of entertainment. Perhaps, in other words, it’s worth taking ROFL seriously. Or at least sort of seriously.

Unconsumption update: On Twitter; also: beloved by Green Thing

1. Finally, @unconsumption is on Twitter. (Big thanks to @mollyblock for making it happen.)

2. Kind words from Do The Green Thing:

Green Thing can’t get enough of Unconsumption. … The Unconsumption Tumblr is a team effort involving several volunteer contributors and who share all kinds of interesting upcycled, recycled, reused, preloved goodness.

3. More in the works. Patience.

4. Please keep helping us spread the word. Thanks!

In The New York Times Magazine: Semiotics of Abandonment

Adding color to the visual language of unused property

This isn’t utopian-future optimism but a kind of joyful celebration right in the midst of challenging reality. More to the point: In the lingering hangover of the real estate bust, unoccupied housing has become a much more familiar feature of neighborhoods, urban and suburban, that is hardly limited to Detroit.

Read the column in the July 11, 2010, New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.

News imagery, analyzed

This photograph was on the front page of my Wall Street Journal this morning. I couldn’t find it online, so I cut it out and scanned it. I found other pictures of this event — the perp walk, basically, of some alleged mafia boss in Italy, supposedly responsible for 80 murders or something like that — but none were as striking as this one.

First of all, please note the T-shirt that the alleged mob chief is wearing. Steve McQueen? A barechested Steve McQueen T-shirt? Where do you even get a T-shirt like that? Is it supposed to be part of disguise? It looks like a 1970s era iron-on, which might mean they’re selling them by the ton at Urban Outfitters, for all I know. But, again: Steve McQueen?

Second, however, please take note of the law enforcement officer — Polizia — on the right. Pretty fabulous, am I right? I mean, that’s not what cops look like in my city, at least. And more to the point, if you look closely at those sunglasses — they’re Dolce & Gabbanas!

C’mon. The Italian polizia hauling off the murderous mob dude in her D&G shades? How hot is that?

In The New York Times Magazine: Fate of a new global tchotchke

Why a plastic commodity became a cultural signifier.

The meaning(s) of the souvenir that tourists carry home will ultimately be shaped by the nature of the surprisingly heated disagreement.

Read the column in the July 4, 2010, New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.

— > By the way: MKTG Tumblr vuvuzela-stuff tracked here.