A few years back, a writer friend who worked at a prominent blog explained to me that her employer's sensationalist, runon headlines were crafted with the help of a cutting-edge A/B testing system. Each article would go live with multiple versions of the same headline; the version to draw the most clicks would become the canonical version. This, I thought, this is the future: algorithms drawing on user feedback to adjust our texts on the fly for maximum impact.
In 2012, I was among the millions of Americans who noticed that Barack Obama and his campaign staff had started writing some kinda weird messages to me. They'd arrive with subject lines like "Hey" or "Would Love to Meet You." They got talked about at dinner parties. After Election Day, explanations were offered in the press. These weren't the brainchild of a mad creative subject line marketing genius. No, they were carefully tested beforehand among multiple variations sent to smaller groups of supporters, and only the most successful versions made it to the full campaign email list. Obama's campaign raised hundreds of millions of dollars through email direct marketing.
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.
Portrait of a confident businesswoman
This week, LeanIn.org and Getty teamed up to release a new collection of 2,500 stock photos that aim to "represent women and families in more empowering ways." The need to do this was quite clear; stock photographs had become something of an internet sensation for their lingering embrace of a range of visual clichés, many of them sexist, such as the notorious "Woman Laughing Alone With Salad." As depictions of broadly-applicable situations and people that could be used in a wide variety of publications, particularly for marketing purposes, stock photographs claim to represent generic ideals for easy illustration. Their effect is, in fact, the inverse—it is specific ideologies they illustrate, in order to continue their reproduction.
"I Have a Website." JPEG version of screenshot from One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op.
One year ago, a system developed by artists Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied began taking screenshots of now-defunct GeoCities webpages from the late 1990s as they would appear on hardware and software from that time. Every twenty minutes, a new screenshot is automatically uploaded to their Tumblr, One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age Photo Op. Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the project; to celebrate, Espenschied restored the three most reblogged and liked home pages posted there, as tracked by Lialina. This article covers the why and how of this restoration.
It may seem strange to say this about the likes of "Cute Boy Site" or "Divorced Dads Page," but the remains of the GeoCities web hosting service are a vital part of our cultural legacy. In its dial-up heyday, GeoCities was where non-specialist internet users made their first-ever webpages. Today, it exists as a vast, if partial, repository of the anxieties, hopes, and dreams of those creators, and offers a snapshot of the early popular usage of a now-ubiquitous cultural form, the webpage.
Austin Lee, Profile Picture (2013). 11" x 14" Acrylic on canvas.
Postmasters Gallery is now showing a solo exhibition of work by Austin Lee, a young painter whose work you should really not purchase. If his prices remain flat for long enough, it's possible that in the future, when all my babysitting bills are paid, I might stumble across it in the Postmasters sub-basement and offer whatever I happen to have in my wallet. Recent history shows us that the artworks that I have come to own do not significantly appreciate in value. Therefore, an important tip to prudent buyers: do not purchase this painting, or really any other painting by Austin Lee. Are you following my logic?