Archives for category: identity

Social media is wrestling with a scam and sham problem.

Intrinsic to the integrity of all media is truth and trust: that who and what is presented and conveyed is real and honest. Agendas and objectives are inevitable but so too must be principle and honor.

Luxury is having what you want, how and when you want it.

It involves exclusiveness and status, distinctiveness and differentiation. Luxury denotes essential quality and limited access. Once defined by scarcity luxury’s expressions have evolved in our time of abundance.

Regardless of the adjectives and adverbs used to describe luxury over time, its intrinsic value is precise and unambiguous, discreet and exceptional.

Luxury is always about singular and extraordinary experience in the moment.

Millennials are making it luxe to be more ethical and environmentally aware

Every generation is different until they turn out to be similar. Like families, they are happy and unhappy in their own way, rebelling against what comes before and what is now, until their brief time on earth gathers seniority and becomes their own, and they embrace it in their own special way.

In a political season that rages against a backdrop of transformational social, economic and technological change, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety and decline that is affecting the body politic.

Hostility towards elites, anger about social inequality and racial oppression, growing nativism, and economic displacement caused by globalization and technological innovation, are driving public discourse and propelling politics in unprecedented directions.

A couple of recent accounts of social disenfranchisement offer some rationale for where we find ourselves today as a people and society. Understanding where we’ve come from and where we find ourselves now, so that we may better anticipate and influence where we’re going, seems critically important in challenging times.

The period of 1960-1970 is receding into history but still animates social and cultural behaviors and values in the present, As time passes increasingly the decade assumes sepia hues and is fading into the fragile, evanescent vaults of personal memory.

The decade’s hallmarks of political radicalism, fervent social change, artistic revolution, and individual freedom and liberation, continue to exert powerful influence and attraction in the present, drawing inspiration from its utopianism and wildly optimistic belief in the possibility of a better world.

The decade is now the subject of academic analysis, commercial appropriation and nostalgia. A host of scholars and seekers mine its archives for meaning and inspiration, and measure its impact, influence and presence. The period is now commonly understood as a cultural revolution during which new vocabularies of fine art, music and media were explored, and new energy and perspectives were injected into the arts and politics, reinventing expression, reshaping social values and political priorities, and transforming individual and collective identity.

Naive, narcissistic and fleeting, nevertheless, the decade recast how we see and interpret the world.

The new year is an auspicious time to revisit the importance of design thinking in business and culture.

The unlimited space and volume that is the Internet has not only provided vast resources of information and knowledge to our fingertips but also the capability to investigate “knowing” as a way to cultivate emotional intelligence and nurture a better understanding of behavior and ourselves.

Jenna Wortham in her Digital Diary on the NY Times’s Bits Blog writes about the disparities between the rich complexities of actual experience in contrast to the banal reality of technological and digital representation of these same personal experiences.

Her blog account centers on her use of Instagram’s new video sharing feature which produces brief moving pictures expanding the wildly successful, initial Instagram app that centered on the production of still images enhanced with photo editing tools and image treatment features, to be posted on social media and shared with friends.

However, Wortham’s experience with the new video app doesn’t match the imaginative identity-affirming characteristics of the first generation of the Instagram. The video product is unable to capture the magic of the moment nor commensurate with the depth and richness of her experience as recalled in her memory.

The prosaic result of video – its faithful reproduction of reality – contrasts with the rich tonalities and coloration treatments of still images authored and shared in Instagram, and inadvertently, the feature impedes the romantic and sentimental impulse to share these images, experiences, and manufactured identity. The benefit of Instagram and many social apps is their capacity to convey a heightened experience and perception of value and meaning in a specific moment, and impart an added impact and power through the act of sharing them with others.

In this regard the best social apps do not simply capture and document events and people, nor only celebrate relationships and connections. They preserve and share the best of the moment and elevate seminal experiences that define personal and shared meanings, extraordinary things, individual and collective identities, and pieces of our lives that resonate with emotions, tell our stories, and earn a permanent place and a measure of immortality.

Roughly five years into the app era of computing technologies it’s apparent that the most successful apps provide a real-time capture, documentation, and repository of experiences, largely free of cost, at least for now. Housed in massive and growing server farms and digital warehouses across the globe, digitized experiences and shared moments are being archived and stored for what almost promises and qualifies as an eternity in our evanescent world.

Although these contemporary technologies are revolutionary, and are transforming the definitions of shared media, the desire to save and preserve experiences in memory and retain the parts of ourselves that reveal our very nature, is not. The refuge of immortality in memory has been a powerful motivation since the earliest evolution of human identity and consciousness.

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

Lines 182-191
Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
William Wordsworth

The very nature of experience is changing as a result of computing technologies. The impact of devices, screens, multi-modal experiences, and living increasingly in virtual worlds, is blurring the processing and perception of time itself, and altering our sense of who we are and how we define identity.

Douglas Rushkoff’s book, “Present Shock” explores the changing nature of identity, time, and experience. The book is a comprehensive examination of both the inherent disorientation of our always-on world and subsequent alteration to our perceptions of time. Rushkoff considers the challenges and opportunities that are implicit in the radical reconfiguration of identity and experience brought about by advancing computing and digital technologies, highlighting the contradictions and shifts that are fundamentally altering the present, and reshaping our senses, perceptions, and concept of identity.

Rushkoff’s mediation is at once liberating and profoundly disorienting:

“A Short Lesson in Perspective” is a searing and raw testimony by the late art director, Linds Redding. His March 2012 journal entry has been shared and commented on by many in advertising and marketing over the past several months, and has received renewed attention since his death in November from esophageal cancer. His account of his illness is heart wrenching, but it is summation of his life in advertising and his ultimate judgment that it was wasted that is so brutally honest and terribly sad.

Redding describes his life in advertising with remarkable candor and acutely describes both its attractive magic and the industry’s subtle capacity to self-deceive creative people, and how the logic and momentum of agency life relies on the vanity of clever people and their strong urge to express ideas to propel the agency and the industry forward in the service of commercial advantage.

But, ultimately, confronting death, Redding concludes that his professional life has been … “a con. A Scam. An elaborate hoax.” He bitterly laments lost time, wrong choices, and decades of forfeited experiences that he might have shared with friends and family, rather than pursuing a professional calling and daily grind that far from being meaningful and important, was voracious and unrelenting, cynical and intoxicating, and merely a business proposition wrapped in a creative veneer; driven by personal delusion and creative sleight of hand, characterized by an endless loop of client demands, technological advances that compelled larger commitments of time, constant spinning of product finess for commercial advantage, and the squandering of precious time sacrificed over and over and over again.

Redding’s depressing summation of a life not lived wisely is filled with regret and consumed in sadness. It reminds me of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 110:

Alas! ’tis true, I have gone here and there,
And made my self a motley to the view,
Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
Now all is done

Undoubtedly, Redding’s anguish and final conversion is sincere and personally tragic. But if we accept his conclusion that all his time and effort were completely wasted, and we accept it without argument, then there is no consolation, and we are left with only despair and no possibility of peace.

At the end of his account Redding advises the reader to “Lock up and go home” and spend time with “the wife and kids”. Good advice regardless of one’s profession, interests, and preoccupations, and a sound assertion of  a more balanced and healthy approach to work and life. Redding’s piece is useful to consider in the context of one’s own professional life and our own sense of professional purpose, and how we define and justify why we do what we do, and how we find ourselves in the places and in the situations that we do, and whether we should stay, or reassess, and ultimately, if we should change the trajectory of our lives. It is a sobering exercise and a worthwhile challenge and mandate. It is also singularly relevant and universally part of being truly human.

At this wonderful time of year filled with hope, redemption, and joy, and with a new year fast approaching, it is a good time to reflect and find some measure of hope, redemption, and love in our struggle and our lives. This time of year affords a special opportunity to assess personal meaning and our values, as we look forward to emerging possibilites of fresh meaning and renewed purpose with a clear conscience and a comprehensive heart.

From Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”:

Time will run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled Vanity
Will sicken soon and die,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And Hell itself will pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering Day.