The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'public opinion'
In the 1990s, Two Russian-born, US-based conceptual artists calling themselves Komar and Melamid created what they intend to be the world's most unlikeable song. The 22-minute opus is assembled from a palette of elements determined (through a poll) to be the least desirable aspects of songs, and includes things like an operatic soprano rapping about cowboys over a tuba-backed bassline and bagpipe breaks, a children's choir singing inane holiday ditties and advertising Wal-Mart, and someone shouts political slogans over elevator music. It is, in its own way, awesome:
The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer (the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most unwanted ensembles). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and "elevator" music, and a children's choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commercials and elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200 individuals of the world's total population would enjoy this piece.Komar and Melamid also produced what their research pointed to as America's most wanted song; it's somewhat less interesting, being a schmaltzy assemblage of Kenny G-esque sax, FM electric piano, R&B female vocals and husky male vocals, not to mention the obligatory guitar solo and not one but two truck driver's gear changes. It is, quite literally, a statistical average of early-1990s commercial radio music; if you're morbidly curious, there's a MP3 here. They also did a survey of what the American public liked to see most in paintings, and produced the resulting work of art, an autumnal landscape with wild animals, a family enjoying the outdoors—and, standing in the middle of it, George Washington.
From the artists' own website:
In an age where opinion polls and market research invade almost every aspect of our "democratic/consumer" society (with the notable exception of art), Komar and Melamid's project poses relevant questions that an art-interested public, and society in general often fail to ask: What would art look like if it were to please the greatest number of people? Or conversely: What kind of culture is produced by a society that lives and governs itself by opinion polls?
(via Boing Boing)
Forget spin doctors: the latest in public-opinion management is "strategic communications" firms, who will, for a fee, use psy-ops techniques to control public reaction to anything from disease outbreaks to coups:
A shadowy media firm steps in to help orchestrate a sophisticated campaign of mass deception. Rather than alert the public to the smallpox threat, the company sets up a high-tech "ops center" to convince the public that an accident at a chemical plant threatens London. As the fictitious toxic cloud approaches the city, TV news outlets are provided graphic visuals charting the path of the invisible toxins. Londoners stay indoors, glued to the telly, convinced that even a short walk into the streets could be fatal... While Londoners fret over fictitious toxins, the government works to contain the smallpox outbreak. The final result, according to SCL's calculations, is that only thousands perish, rather than the 10 million originally projected. Another success.
"If your definition of propaganda is framing communications to do something that's going to save lives, that's fine," says Mark Broughton, SCL's public affairs director. "That's not a word I would use for that."The consultancy in question, Strategic Communications Laboratories, allegedly has expertise in areas including "psychological warfare", "public diplomacy" and "influence operations", including operations in a number of foreign countries (an example cited at their exhibit at the recent London arms fair involves benignly overthrowing an unstable Asian democracy to head off the threat of an insurgency, a scenario not unlike what happened in Nepal recently). It's hardly surprising that, in the post-9/11 age, they are gearing up to grab a slice of the lucrative homeland-security market.
Government deception may even be justified in some cases, according to Michael Schrage, a senior adviser to the security-studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "If you tell the population that there's been a bio-warfare attack, hospital emergency rooms will be overwhelmed with people who sincerely believe they have all the symptoms and require immediate attention," Schrage says.
The problem, he adds, is that in a democracy, a large-scale ruse would work just once.
(via Mind Hacks)