Wednesday, December 27, 2006

This Is Going On My Resume

It's been blogged about here and there, but Time magazine went and named us Person of the Year. As in, everyone: the empowered and informed public. One of the more astute observations on this choice was made by Jeff, who wrote:

YOU. As in "You who are blogging, getting your news from the net, checking out videos on the Youtube, and otherwise not buying our damned magazine". It is lame (as in lamer than usual) choice, and has a whole lot of "We couldn't figure out what to put up so we punted."

That pretty much sums up the cynic in me: it was a total puntjob, not unlike last year's "the soldier." Blah. Are empowered Internet users really more influential than, say, Donald Rumsfeld? Or Bush, whose response to the September 11 attacks has, for better or worse (OK, for worse), reshaped the face of foreign policy?

Nevermind. I know what Time was trying to say: that empowered users, user-created content, and the benefits the Net is bringing to consumers is becoming influential. Sure, the new marketer in me agrees 100%. Whether or not that's "more influential" as a whole than some of the individuals in the last year is open to debate, and it's a debate from which I'll spare you.

To me, Time's decision reeks of bandwagoning. It seems like a gratuitous choice made not because of consideration of what they were doing, but simply doing for the sake of doing. It is not dissimilar from another interesting new marketing story that popped up last week: "griefers" (people who intentionally make others' lives miserable on MMOs) attacked a CNET interview in Second Life. CNET was interviewing "Second Life millionaire" Anshe Chung, AKA Ailin Graef, when:

a griefer sent "animated flying penises" at the building for 15 minutes. After relocating to Chung's own theater, the Prick Assault followed and managed to crash the server.

Joystiq's coverage links to a page on SA with pictures and videos, but is embedded in posts relating to SA's own pseudo-griefing group Second Life Safari. Except SL Safari aren't griefers in that they barrage press conferences with animated cocks. They specifically go after the, ahem, animal element on Second Life. And by animal element, I mean furries. If you don't know what a furry is, first, I apologize for having to introduce you to this knowledge. If you decide to click that link and eat from the fruit, there's no going back. You have been warned.

The first link takes you to a SL Safari page regarding an email conversation with a specific furry on Second Life. What's most interesting is the lead-in:

We created the Second Life Safari because when the mainstream media covers Second Life they dance about madly and act as if an economically active virtual world is the greatest thing to happen to anyone ever. Publications like the New York Times ignore the rank, semen-stained underbelly of Second Life, perhaps because so much of it is unprintable.

In any case, they miss a lot of journalistic windfalls. They're can't talk about the truly juicy stuff that is going on in Second Life, which we love to report on!

But not everyone likes what we do. Take BabyWolfie, who didn't appreciate our visit to BabyTiger's den, which we chronicled in the last update.

Last week, BabyWolfie and I had a "Seriouse" chat about Second Life, "ISP Rights", and what it takes to slay a dragon. He's a darling little diaper wearing furry. The best thing about him, though, is that he's not just any old yiffing fucktard. He's a Second Life employee. Specifically, a "Live Instructor", who gets paid to teach newbies to script. They must be desperate if they're hiring someone with the identity--and writing comprehension--of a baby animal. Intrigued yet? Read on!

Not that I'm coming down against sexual freedom. If you want to pretend to be an anthropomorphic animal who wears diapers and shits in those diapers because you're pretending to be a baby anthropomorphic animal, and get your jollies by doing this with other like minded individuals in a rendered virtual environment, knock yourself out. I'd be a hypocrite if I said or believed otherwise. But SL Safari really has raised a good point, and in my Second Life experience, it rings true: if I had to guess, I'd say about 90-95% of that game is devoted to sex and empowering users in their sexual fetishes/deviancies/lack of social skills and sex lives. Rather than go out and dance at real night clubs, you can dance in fake nightclubs. Rather than hire a real prostitute (or find a real sexual partner), you can hire virtual prostitutes.

I'm unsure about that statistic, but what I am sure about is that with all this talk of user-created media and content, user-empowered experiences like Second Life, it might behoove new marketers to remember - before millions of flying cocks come at you during what's supposed to be a serious interview - that the freedom the Net affords caters to the childish, the socially inept, the sexual deviants in ways that the real world can't, and when you forget that, you're leaving yourself open for a lot of "grief" (pardon the pun.)

I don't mean to demean what myself and other new marketers do. My company, Edelman, has a Second Life office. CC Chapman's company, crayon, has an office there - I visited it today as a matter of fact, just to poke around and see what it was like. But for Christsakes, new marketers who ignore the lower end of the Net's bell curve are running an incredible risk for themselves and those they represent, be it in an agency relationship like I currently use, or in a direct-company relationship like I used to do at WizKids.

So it is with a grain of salt that I must take Time naming me Person of the Year. I'll still put it on my resume of course (credit to Seth for that joke), but I simply don't feel that new marketing has grown up to the point where it can say that it's anything more than a gimmick. And new marketers are partially responsible. We've sold it to our bosses, our clients, our colleagues as little more than a gimmick. We approach it with the mindset of old marketers, as something to exploit and to use and abuse as we would any other media outlet (see my post regarding the PSP ads online).

This seems kind of pessimistic. I want to stress that I really do view this optimistically: empowered consumers are the way of the future, even if I don't agree that we should be People of the Year. So next time, I'll talk a little more about my optimism regarding this space, and blogs specifically.

1 comment:

Roger said...

I can't speak for Second Life, because I haven't played it--but I wouldn't completely agree with your argument here. The net only offers "unheard of freedoms" because it is so new, and people haven't invented ways of controlling and regulating it. Did you ever read the essay "A Rape in Cyberspace?" It's pretty elementary, and focuses on the early BBCs, but the story is interesting in the way it talks about how ideas like "rape" are dealt with in an online environment. I am a firm believer that what is "online" isn't completely different, nor is it the utopia or dystopia people say it is, it is simply new and different and people haven't fully developed the conceptual apparatus to "deal" with it yet.