Monday, February 19, 2007

Britney Spears' New Haircut (or, What's the big deal? Sinéad O'Connor's been doing it for years.)

topic: Western Man is externalizing himself in the form of gadgets. (William S. Burroughs)

Traditional tools are extensions of man's physical being. They are invented to do man's work faster or to do work that man cannot do otherwise. Prior to the development of electronics, the work performed by tools was mainly physical. Examples: a saw cuts, a lever lifts and a ship travels. Written words and symbolic images are a tool which perform mental work, transmitting an idea, they are extensions of man's mental being. Before the electronic transmission of words the work performed by them was disjointed from the writer. Like sending a message in a bottle, the writer was insulated from the reader by time.

Through electronic media the transmission of ideas has become instantaneous. We are no longer insulated by a time barrier. We are plugged in to devices, which, at their essence, are an extension of our nervous system. While plugged in we are exposed to a bombardment of information.
The above was inspired by the writing of Marshall MacLuhan

In the same way physical tools have increased our ability to do work faster, or previously impossible, the electronic tools have allowed us to transmit data farther, faster and with greater detail than before.

It seems that in essence, humans are consumers. Americans are the ultimate consumers. The new ultimate product is celebrity, it manufactures, promotes and sells itself. There is also an endless supply. From a wealthy hotel heiress to an average guy on a reality show, people are lined up like lemmings ready to dive off the cliff into a sea of paparazzi. Behind the rows of cameras and microphones, we wait ready to take in the news, reviews, gossip, slander, spectacle, meltdown, rehab and redemption.

Celebrities are such a fixation that they've eclipsed sex as our major collective fixation. This is the logical product of a diseased culture combined with a medium that has evolved fasted than we've been able to cope with. We will never touch the celebrities, we are voyeurs, peering into their manufactured world.

Through electronic media we receive ever more information from visual stimulation. In contrast tactile stimulation makes up less of our perception of reality. Electronic transmission satisfies our need for instant gratification and acts as a conduit through which the celebrity delivers his/her product to the consumer. This relationship between celebrity product and consumer is symbolic. The product doesn't actually exist. The celebrity for the most part doesn't know it's being sold, likewise the consumer isn't aware he/she's making a purchase. The government doesn't even tax it. The conundrum is, the product is still there. Somewhere in the media? Somewhere in our minds?

Pop will eat itself. It seems pop will also feed itself. Maybe the more valid question is, which way does the influence of this relationship go? Celebrity to consumer? or vice versa?
Maybe it's like the alternating current that powers our media devices, always imperceptibly changing direction and invisibly generating the great big buzzzzzzzzz.

In her prime Anna Nicole was the best. Monica Leigh is now my new favorite Playboy Playmate. Smokin' like she just blew a fuse.

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