I Mean Business: the e-cigarette store and how we sell technology

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E-cig store in Les Sables, France

On February 22, Rhizome held This is the ENDD, a one-day forum on the e-cigarette. A version of this article was given by the author as a PowerPoint lecture. Video of the talk can be seen here.

Last fall, I spent a month in Arles, a small town in southern France, which has a population of 50,000. This being France, a large number of the residents smoke, and the town has three cafés-tabacs, where you can buy cigarettes. It also sports two different e-cigarette stores, both on the same street, the main drag in the town. It's clear that the stores are not there to sell the cigarettes, but rather, to showcase them.

I presume both these stores will not exist in five years (that may be a generous estimate). Whether or not e-cigarettes replace real cigarettes, as many e-cig providers claim, the needs that the vape stores answer will change as our relationships with these objects shift. They are designed for a particular moment in the history of the e-cigarette, when it's still a little out of the ordinary, when we're still not totally sure what to do with it, how to normalize it, and whether or not it's actually here to stay. There is an immediacy, a consistency, to our associations with smoking and cigarettes (good and bad, the Humphrey Bogarts and the health threats); trading them in for an electronic object is a mental leap that's hard to ignore. These stores exist to help consumers make the leap.

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Welcome to the Internet Smoking Room

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Following the conclusion of This is the ENDD and Pinar&Viola's front-page exhibition, this project can be found here permanently.

This weekend, to coincide with This is the ENDD: a Forum on the E-Cigarette, the front page of Rhizome.org will present The Smoking Room, created by Pinar&Viola and programmed by Gui Machiavelli. In this lush chatroom, you can wield strange new kinds of e-cigarettes and blow virtual smoke shapes while talking to friends and strangers.

I know. Vaping is not smoking. This is rule #1 of vaping culture, a distinction of paramount importance for vapers (who rightfully want to avoid the social stigma of the cigarette) and e-cigarette manufacturers (who want to avoid tobacco-style regulation). Therefore, in their marketing of this emerging technology, the manufacturers have trodden a fine line between reminding potential users of the good, old-fashioned "benefits" of smoking, and establishing their product as something new and hi-tech and detached from bodily consequence. In a word, as something virtual.

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Feb 22: This is the ENDD, a Forum on the E-Cigarette

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This is the ENDD logo by Nick Bastis
 
 
This event has occurred, for documentation of the entire program click here.
 
NJOYs. Blus. Smokefrees. V2s. All manner of customized vaporizers. This is the moment of the e-cigarette, or more precisely, the Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (ENDD). Day by day, the broader public is learning (and contesting) what it means to "vape": how one does it, where one can do it, and what it means to do so. As individuals, industries, and governments stumble towards definitions, Rhizome has commissioned a group of artists and critics to present analyses—historical, political, social, anticipatory—of this technology and the discursive field that is emerging around it.

Rhizome is dedicated to art and ideas that create richer and more critical technology cultures. With this program, we continue our examination of influential, technological objects from interdisciplinary points of view, in the context of artistic research practice.

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Call for Papers and Projects on E-Cigarettes and Vaping Technologies

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We’ve been spotting them more and more in the wild, at galleries, house parties, restaurants, parks, various Bloomberg protectorates. Puffs of white and circular neon flickers; brushed aluminum spires or hyper-real stage props. We are, of course, speaking of e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers, from branded and capitalized (NJOYs and Blus) to bespoke and forum-fussed. What are these disagreeable objects? Are they all use or artifice, nicotine delivery à la Rube Goldberg or Richard Prince simulacra?

In February, Rhizome will present a one-day symposium in New York dedicated to vaping technologies, reading the e-cigarette socially, politically, aesthetically, economically, against its outmoded grain, as it were. On the topic, we're noobs, so we’re casting a wide net for histories, essays, artworks, workshops, and polymorphous contributions to shape this inquiry to be held online and off. Be in touch...

Deadline for Proposals: November 12, to zachary[dot]kaplan[at]rhizome.org

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