Saturday, November 19, 2005

Intellect is property.

  A number of pieces of information have collided recently in my head, causing a coalescing of thought. Two pieces are anecdotes of children given handsomely homemade gifts - one a fully functioning shop made lovingly by a grandad. The children, sadly, let the toys languish, not knowing at all what to do with them.
  In Joel Bakan's the Corporation I am also reading about the marketing concept of 'the Nag Factor', in which products are sold to kids so that they can nag their parents for said items. Happily, they understand the demographics of parents well enough to describe such types as "the indulgent" or "the conflicted parent". Indulgers are working parents who splurge on gifts to feel less guilty about not seeing their kids enough. Conflicted parents don't wish to buy such things but end up doing so anyway, due to the nagging. Thankyou, corporate salesmen, for helping parent's lives in this way! Now they will always know what to buy!
  In the same book, you can read about the lives of Chris and Luke, who sold themselves as sponsorship devices to companies to fund college. A pleasant fairy tale of empowerment, responsibility, and corporate goodness.
  Another is a Guardian piece on ads. Can you believe it, 99% of the adverts we see each day entirely pass us by! It's as if we just don't care enough to scrutinise each personally! The most amusing thing about all of this is that anyone thinks that better advertising would make us buy more. Perhaps we have only limited personal resources and wants to buy things in the first place?
  Finally, there is an interesting essay on personal property, also in today's Guardian.

  The coalescing thought took all this information in. What if... what if the main point of advertising is not actually to sell things?
  There is so much of it everywhere. How much impact does it actually have? The article I mention above shows that at least some people in business are not surprised that the impact is low.
  Another point is that education is also on the agenda of the salesman. Children are educated to want and to nag. The lives of people can be co-opted for sponsorship.
  And, finally, this education is having an obvious effect. Some children do not comprehend how to play with none-branded toys. The love and devotion of the handmade, the 'bespoke', passes them by. They cannot imagine the possibilities of such toys. Such tales anger me quite severely: what has happened to imagination?
  The answer that I am led to is: it has been colonised entirely by the corporation. We are raised to want and to nag. We are forever surrounded by adverts that we barely notice and do not remember. Our intellects are filled up with the remnants of the intellectual property of others and we are losing the ability to have our own. It is actually necessary for corporations to do this. In order to sell more, they must take our own resources and abilities away so they can sell them back to us in a more plastic, more wrappable, more lucrative form.
  It seems that children are, ideally, not supposed to imagine, they are supposed to buy into the imaginations of marketers. How can parents not be complicit in this assertion of ownership over part of their child's mind? How can they refuse the recycled demands from the adverts that shout from inbetween each and every cartoon?

  I don't know. We are asking others to question what is everywhere the biggest and most neon statement, to privilege their own thoughts of the suggestions of others. And that is a state of development that we are not really taught how to reach.


Blogger Atum said...

People in the main have no idea what they are missing. The function of the faculties, such as imagination, being sold to children, hurts me horribly - 'but why,' cries Mr.Dad, 'should it matter where our Jeffrey's imagination comes from? Isn't he just interacting with the world that he needs to (the coroporate world)? Should we be encouraging him to be an outcast to his peers at school? Should he be cynical at an age when he should be innocently playing?'. See above for my post about Mr. and Mrs. Dad.

3:48 PM  

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