I wrote a work thing for Venture Beat. It’s about our efforts to personalise digital experiences and how that might be having the opposite effect.
“In our attempt to engage everyone individually we are unwittingly creating a beige web, a homogenous echo chamber that is aesthetically and tonally normalized. And so we have to ask ourselves the question: when did personalization become so important? Who asked us for an individual experience? When did this become our mission?”
There were some absolutely fantastic talks at yesterday’s Interesting conference (I hesitate to call it a conference really, but I can’t think of a suitable synonym), but the one that really resonated with me for all sorts of reasons was Kim Plowright’s, called “try and explain what it feels like to preserve memories and talk about dementia and death on social media, whilst still occasionally making people laugh (and how her Mum would’ve had her guts for garters if she’d realised what she was up to)”.
One thing that Kim said during the five or ten minutes she was on stage was “Without memories we kind of disappear”. As much as she was talking about how dementia robs us of so much of what we call our ‘real selves’, she was also talking about why she felt the need to record the last few years of her parents’ lives in a series of very candid photos.
I’ve always struggled a bit with my motives for doing what I’m doing right now: writing down tiny chunks of my life, and yet I’ve found myself doing it again and again for about a decade and a half. Even with the opportunity that social media gives us to ‘over share’ today, I still want something that is somehow mine, something that’s not part of a larger network and feels cohesive and has some meat to it.
I want to have a bit of control over my memories.
(Strangely as I’m writing this I’m listening to Adam Buxton interview Michael Palin about his diaries, proving there is nothing new in the world.)
With a background in advertising, working at big firms and on accounts such as Tesco, Roberts became interested in the history of advertising outdoors, and the ethical issues it raises. Big billboards, he says, “trespass on people’s field of vision… Now takes on commissions from advertising agencies and interior designers, many of whom ask him to recreate the weathered, old designs and create “faux” ghost signs, using the illusion of historical authenticity for marketing purposes.
Fair enough, it sounds like Sam himself discourages the creation of artificial ghost signs, but the very fact that there’s agencies out there who think this that ‘the illusion of historical authenticity’ is a good thing, is a little terrifying.