The most unintentionally funny magazine in the world is Adbusters. The world’s got to be pretty good if the only thing you have left to bemoan is Ronald McDonald. The letters to the editor are a scream – the bitterest people alive complaining about the pettiest problems imaginable. But behind all that inadvertant mirth, Adbusters has a theory: Advertising is designed by the greedy corporations to brainwash us into accepting their rule. Any decent economist can point out the hole in this theory. If the capitalists are so greedy, why don’t they free ride? Why waste money making capitalism popular, when your firm captures such a small slice of the benefit? Economist Dan Sutter develops this argument with great panache in his forthcoming book on the economics of the media. Yet recently I’ve begun to think that the Adbusters position can be partially salvaged. Less than a decade ago, I drove from former West Germany to former East Germany, and was struck by how much more beautiful the West was. Houses in the West had flower boxes. Houses in the East did not. I reflected that the aesthetic gap between West and East used to be vastly greater. And I recalled how people I knew who toured the Soviet bloc were more likely to sadly describe the “greyness” of communist life than the machine guns at the border. The upshot is that the private pursuit of beauty in the West had a striking externality. Every time a West German put a flower box in his window, he was making capitalism look prettier than socialism. And while intellectuals may say they couldn’t care less about such things, I suspect that sheer aesthetics changed a lot of minds about East versus West. What does this have to do with advertising, and commercialism generally? Corporations do not advertise to create support for capitalism, any more than West Germans planted flowers to fight communism. But advertising does more than just sell one firm’s products; it also contributes to the beautiful image of the whole system. Flip through a popular magazine, or wander through your local mall. Even if you don’t remember a single product, you get an overall impression of a world that is colorful, fun, glitzy, and sexy. And that probably leads more people around the world to admire capitalism than Milton Friedman ever did. In other words, Adbusters is right to insist that advertising persuades people to like capitalism more. It does. But contrary to Adbusters, the corporations don’t intend to do it. It just so happens that in their quest to make a buck, corporations make the whole capitalist system look marvelous. If you share Adbusters’ anti-capitalist ethos, this will just cement your desire to squelch advertising to help make capitalism as ugly on the outside as it is on the inside. But if you appreciate the benefits of the free market, you’ve probably been underestimating the social benefits of advertising. After all, if the real arguments for capitalism fail to persuade, it may win anyway just for being so good-looking. CATEGORIES: Economics and Culture


T F m
March 24, 2010

MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design has acquired the @ symbol into its collection. It is a momentous, elating acquisition that makes us all proud. But what does it mean, both in conceptual and in practical terms?
Contemporary art, architecture, and design can take on unexpected manifestations, from digital codes to Internet addresses and sets of instructions that can be transmitted only by the artist. The process by which such unconventional works are selected and acquired for our collection can take surprising turns as well, as can the mode in which they’re eventually appreciated by our audiences. While installations have for decades provided museums with interesting challenges involving acquisition, storage, reproducibility, authorship, maintenance, manufacture, context—even questions about the essence of a work of art in itself—MoMA curators have recently ventured further; a good example is the recent acquisition by the Department of Media and Performance Art of Tino Sehgal’s performance Kiss. The acquisition of @ takes one more step. It relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that “cannot be had”—because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747’s, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @—as art objects befitting MoMA’s collection. The same criteria of quality, relevance, and overall excellence shared by all objects in MoMA’s collection also apply to these entities.
In order to understand why we have chosen to acquire the @ symbol, and how it will exist in our collection, it is necessary to understand where @ comes from, and why it’s become so ubiquitous in our world.


T F m
March 23, 2010

AdobeTV | Learn Illustrator CS4

AdobeTV | Learn Illustrator CS4


T F m
March 22, 2010

AdobeTV | Learn Photoshop CS4

AdobeTV | Learn Photoshop CS4


T F m
March 22, 2010

Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters | Journal of the mental environment

Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters | Journal of the mental environment


T F m
March 22, 2010

Rhizome | General Information

Rhizome | General Information


T F m
March 22, 2010

AIGA | the professional association for design

AIGA | the professional association for design


T F m
March 22, 2010

join AIGA – AIGA Colorado

join AIGA – AIGA Colorado


T F m
March 22, 2010

Interaction Design Association | IxDA

Interaction Design Association | IxDA


T F m
March 22, 2010