Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hoaxes as Reinvention

One of the public relations stunts that P.T. Barnum executed which was not a hoax was being the first private citizen to send a transatlantic telegram. In a move that would make the yet-uborn Marshall McLuhan proud, Barnum openly admitted that the content of this first telegraph was not important. The medium itself was the message. Barnum was reinventing himself and his personal brand within the early electronic/communication revolution. (coincidentally, Barnum had a 5th cousin who later got rich building telegraphs)

There is a fascinating new book about the collision of science, industrial technology and show business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Madness in the Making

With this in mind, over the next several months, this blog will be mirrored, and eventually moved to my academic website at the Mass Media Department's website at the University of DC.

But between now and then, there will be more posts on this site.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

another "coming thing"

I came across these videos on YouTube. After this month's Rick Rolling experiments, my first thought was that these were clever hoaxes. Or meta critiques on hoaxes such as Michel Gondry's latest rubiks cube video. 

Whatever these interface/projections are, I know that it's important, but I don't know how or why quite yet. I do know that it is going to change things. Take a look for yourself:

It reminds me of a running gag from "Brisco County Jr." From wikipedia:
Another main theme was that Brisco was always looking for "the coming thing" which he found with great regularity. While many were technological (motorcycles, blimps, tanks, and denim), many others were cultural. This includes references to future musicals such as "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Hello, Dolly" as well as cultural events such as Elvis impersonators, Led Zeppelin and sobriety tests.


Whatever this is, it's certainly a coming thing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hoaxes and Advertising Part 6

Only one hoax got loose this year around April Fools day, that I came across. A story from a satire site was forwarded around the HBCUs (including the one where I teach) On the satire site itself, the contrivance is obvious. But when cut-and-paste text into an email forward, the satire-turned-hoax was enough to get some people worried enough to continue forwarding the email. Here is the original site:

Here is an excerpt of the email forward I received: (names and email addresses removed)

> ------------------------------------------------
> Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008 15:56:27 -0400
> From:
> Subject: Federal Judge forbids Poor Black mothers
> from naming their children
> It just haaaaad to be Deeeeeetroit!!!!!!!
> ----------------------------------------------------
> I do not like a lot of the names that I am hearing
> but I strongly disagree with this ruling!!#$%@
> This is a da-- shame!!!
> ----------------------------------------------------
> From: _______________________
> Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:11 AM
> Subject: Fw: Federal Judge forbids Poor Black
> mothers from naming their children
> WOW... I have no words. No words at all.

The satire site then followed up with another story which, when again out of context, only seemed to "collaborate" the initial hoax story:‘naming-rights’-judge/

Regarding the continuing connection between hoaxes and advertising -- particularly their connection through the concept of negative irony, I came across another mention of Judith Williamson, and a brilliantly creepy hoax/satire website by Axe/Lynx.

But what's brilliantly insidious is that the marketing website gives the embed code, allowing bloggers to put the video directly into their personal blog. This instant decontextualization can suddenly take this "viral video" from the Axe website and have it "masked" within another. Almost the exact equivalent of the text cut-and-paste: this fast decontextualization and recontexualization of media hoaxes will very quickly move from text emails to video and other rich media content.

The one counter-factor to the spread of media hoaxes is the addition of "Comments" sections. "The People's News" satire site has an enormously long comments thread - debunking itself several times over. YouTube also allows for lively discussions of the video content. So the open-ness of digital recombinant media has an upside as well.