Commodifying banality

Back in 2004, at a wonderful ‘conference’ called Design Engaged (which was informative, transformational and fun – I made a lot of friends) I gave a presentation about technology and the city – I drew on the ideas of Henri Lefebvre and Guy Debord to critique the trajectory I saw being laid down by telcos for the commodification of public space through ‘locative media’. Nearly a decade later, I’m still worried (that’s another post), but my place of concern is far more intimate – it’s our everyday banalities that seems to be rife for commercial transformation.

The rise of facebook and the forthcoming ad-ification of our timelines, means that the most banal witterings of our inner/outer selves become the place and data resource for people to sell us unwanted shit.

Now… this is not a ‘I hate advertising’ post… I have no time for that level of naive debate. What I’m concerned with is the lack of socio-political aspiration involved in mining our meaningless drivel. The power of social media lies in its transformational collective action – its ability to connect, organise and distribute knowledge and action across the globe. It allows for ideas to spread, inspire and engage people in different ways. Surely there’s a better business model beyond the commercialisation of our continual-partial-distracted attention?

I’m fond of the banalities that come from my friends and contacts, I like sharing some of the meaningless crap in my life, I like social media. However, I don’t want to see it reflected back at me in the form of advertising for weightloss pills. I don’t want my everyday struggles to be turned into a sales opportunity. If this is the only way for the internet to progress, let’s get better at it.

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