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The Fading Spectacle of Black Friday - The Atlantic
"BlackFridayDeathCount.com keeps a running list of the casualties incurred by the rites and rituals of the day after Thanksgiving. Since 2006, the site says, Black Friday has claimed 97 deaths and injuries—seven of the former, 90 of the latter—as the result of the tramplings, pepper-sprayings, shootings, stabbings, and other tragedies that can occur when the term "doorbuster" is taken too literally.

Ancient Romans filled their Colosseum with throngs thirsting for fights; Americans fill our own arena—our TVs and newspapers and mobile screens—with, among so much else, an annual event that makes bargain-hunting a matter of athletic competition. Black Friday is a media ceremony; it is also an extremely commercialized, and oddly moralized, form of bloodlust. "People are crazy," we say, watching the news reports and shaking our heads and assuring ourselves that we are not part of the "people" in question. "How could they just trample someone?"

But also, on some level: How could they not? Black Friday is, as an event, messy and sweaty and physical. It turns people into a chaotic collection of eyes and elbows and limbs. Discussion of it demands descriptions of "throngs" and "masses," of individual agency ceding itself, wantonly, to the mysterious mechanics of The Crowd.

* * *

Black Friday may currently be associated with its ability to put retailers "in the black"; it was originally named, however, for human impulses of a much more basic variety. In the 1950s, the Harvard historian Nancy Koehn says, factory managers started calling the day after Thanksgiving "black Friday" because so many workers would call in sick for it. (The scourge was, as one magazine put it, "a disease second only to the bubonic plague.") In the early '60s, police in Philadelphia began using "Black Friday" to describe the crowds of shoppers and traffic that would flow into the city post-Thanksgiving—making their jobs, and consequently their lives, temporarily more difficult. It wasn't until the 1970s and '80s that retailers began to emphasize the connection between the day after Thanksgiving and the start of the (commercial) holiday season.

Today, Black Friday is a series of spectacles in the guise of a series of sales. It is an event that springs from a state of mind. It is the culmination of all the dreams that Alexander Hamilton and Walt Whitman and Andrew Carnegie had for us, when the nation was itself an aspiration: It is social Darwinism and cultural cohesion and a country soothing itself with the salve of stuff. It is the dream of self-improvement, vacuum-packed and bubble-wrapped. Black Friday is insulated, in a way many other pseudo-holidays are not, from the Culture Wars, because what could be more implicitly agreeable to an American—or to anyone, for that matter—than the simple promise of a good deal?

But Black Friday is also, as pseudo-holidays go, more class-conscious than most. It is thus more divisive than most. If you can't normally afford a flat-screen/iPad/Vitamix/Elsa doll/telephone, Black Friday discounts could offer you the opportunity to purchase those items. If you can normally afford those things, though, you may well decide that the trip to the mall, with its "throngs" and its "masses" and its sweaty inconvenience, isn't worth the trouble.

Which is another way of saying what a headline last week, from the Los Angeles Times, summed up well: "Black Friday highlights the contrast between rich and poor." As a spectacle, it may be celebrated by all, but it is participated in, increasingly, by a few. Black Friday stands, both temporally and culturally, in stark contrast to Thanksgiving, which is not a Hallmark holiday so much as a Williams-Sonoma one, and which involves, at its extremes, people who can afford heritage turkeys/disposable centerpieces/vessels designed solely to pour gravy congratulating themselves on how wonderfully non-commercial the whole thing is. With stomachs full of bird and broccolini and bourbon-ginger-apple pie, they settle in to watch the news stories that come out of Black Friday—the stampedes, the stabbings—and gawk in amusement and amazement. "All that for a flat screen," they say, drinking their wine and clucking their tongues.

Who would want to be the recipient of this kind of ritualized judgment? Who would willingly be Truman Show-ed at the hands of Wal-Mart and the local ABC affiliate? The answer is: very few people.

* * *

This may help to explain why, last year, total sales for Black Friday were down 14 percent from what they had been two years earlier. And it may help to explain, too, why retailers have gone out of their way to take the "day" out of "Black Friday"—and all the smarmy spectacle along with it.

Stores, big box and otherwise, have been extending their Black Friday offerings to Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and beyond. Wal-Mart began offering its general holiday deals on November 1; its official "Black Friday" deals will run from Thanksgiving (except in states like Massachusetts, where blue laws prevent such things on holidays) through Cyber Monday. Target rolled out its holiday deals on November 10; the only bargain it will be offering only on Black Friday itself is a 10-percent-off deal on its gift cards. Staples is offering "Black Friday for Business" discounts on Sunday, and has been, like its competitors, introducing other discounts on other days—a move that, a Staples executive told the Boston Globe, "gives customers the chance to shop when and where they want, not just on one frenetic and frantic day."

That's not to say that Black Friday, in the sense of deals-marking-the-start-of-the-holiday-season, is dying. It's actually to say the opposite: that Black Friday has been so thoroughly absorbed into the American consciousness that it has spread to encompass multiple days—and, for that matter, multiple weeks. "It used to be called Black Friday, then it became Thursday, now it’s a week long," Wal-Mart's chief U.S. merchant, Duncan Mac Naughton, told the Wall Street Journal. "Maybe we should just call it November."

Maybe we should. And maybe we should also, while we're at it, acknowledge that aspiration comes in many forms, only some of them involving iPads and flat-screens. Explaining the calendric encroachment of Black Friday, retail analysts, again and again, cite Americans' desire to "shop on their own schedules" and avoid "set times prescribed by the retailers." They cite the wide availability of the commercial Internet. The dissolution of Black Friday suggests that the ultimate luxury good is not, in the end, a thing, but rather the leisure to make one's own schedule. And to decide for oneself whether—or not—to be part of the spectacles we create for ourselves."

[See also:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/28/black-friday-brawl-videos-are-how-rich-people-shame-poor-ones/
http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/black-friday-opportunity-mock-poor ]
blackfriday  2014  class  megangarber  us  capitalism  inequality  classism 
november 2015 by robertogreco
#TheDress and the Rise of Attention-Policing - The Atlantic
"This is a line of logic that will be familiar from most any Meme Event—the logic that says, basically, "don’t look at that; that is unimportant." It’s attention-policing, and it’s reminiscent of so many other strains of rhetorical legislation that play out in online conversations: You can’t say that. You can’t talk about that. GUYS, the attention-policer usually begins. How can you be talking about a dress/a leg/a pair of llamas/a dancing neoprene shark when climate change/net neutrality/marriage equality/ISIS/China/North Korea is going on?

The world, to be sure, is a complicated and often tragic and often deeply unfair place. It contains famines and genocides and war, births and deaths, Katy Perry and Björk, Big Macs and kale and Bloomin' Onions, privilege and the lack of it, llamas that are caged and llamas that are free. And we humans—animals who are striving to be so much more—have a big say in the balance between the good and the bad. We should not be glib about any of that. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that, if you find yourself with the ability to use the most transformational communications platform the world has ever known to engage in debates about the color of a dress being sold on Amazon dot com, you are, fundamentally, extremely privileged. And thus in a better position than most to make the world better. Attention is a valuable thing; we have an obligation to be selective about where we direct it.

And yet. The problem with attention-policing—besides the fact that it tends to be accompanied by humorlessness and marmery, and besides the other fact that it serves mostly to amplify the ego of the person doing the policing—is that it undermines the value of Internet memes themselves. Those memes, whether they involve #thedress or #llamadrama or #leftshark or #whathaveyou, are culturally lubricating. They create, and reinforce, the imagined community. Last night, we needed each other—not just to share and joke and laugh, but also to prove to ourselves that we weren’t going completely crazy. “TELL ME WHAT COLOR THIS DRESS IS,” I texted a friend. “OKAY, PHEW,” I texted again, when he saw it as white-and-gold. I also, on the other hand, mock-disowned a significant percentage of the people I love in a haze of #whiteandgold partisanship—but even that kind of faux-fighting has its value. Theorists of play, from Huizinga to Piaget, have pointed out how powerful the infrastructures of games can be. They allow us to explore ideas and bond in a mutually-agreed-upon environment. Jane McGonigal, the game designer and theorist, suggests that the alternate universes provided by video games allow us to think in terms of collaboration and problem-solving. Games’ constraints, she argues, are actually empowering.

And what are memes if not games? They are small; they are low-stakes; they are often silly. (Sorry, #llamadrama.) But they are also communal. They invite us to participate, to adapt, to joke, to create something together, under the auspices of the same basic rules. That is not a small thing. That is, in fact, a huge thing—particularly when it comes to the very concerns the attention police like to remind us of. If we have any hope of solving the world’s most systemic and sweeping problems, we will have to come together. Inequality, climate change, injustices both enormous and less so … these will require cooperative action. They will require us to collaborate and compromise and value diversity. The dress makes a pretty good metaphor for all that. Also, it is totally white and gold."
attention  megangarber  2015  attentionpolicing  #thedress  memes  games  play  seriousness  condescension  marmery  humor  humorlessness  playfulness  culture  society  twitter  internet  web  online  compromise  collaboration  problemsolving  interaction  community  cooperation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
I don’t know what to do, you guys | Fredrik deBoer
[See also the notes in this bookmark, which reference this article at one point: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:13419c858fc0 ]

"So, to state the obvious: Jon Chait is a jerk who somehow manages to be both condescending and wounded in his piece on political correctness. He gets the basic nature of language policing wrong, and his solutions are wrong, and he’s a centrist Democrat scold who is just as eager to shut people out of the debate as the people he criticizes. That’s true.

Here are some things that are also true.

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19 year old white woman — smart, well-meaning, passionate — literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” Not repeatedly. Not with malice. Not because of privilege. She used the word once and was excoriated for it. She never came back. I watched that happen.

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20 year old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn’t a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20 year olds from rural South Carolina aren’t born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone.

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22 year old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war. Because apparently we have to pretend that we don’t know how metaphorical language works or else we’re bad people. I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself.

These things aren’t hypothetical. This isn’t some thought experiment. This is where I live, where I have lived. These and many, many more depressing stories of good people pushed out and marginalized in left-wing circles because they didn’t use the proper set of social and class signals to satisfy the world of intersectional politics. So you’ll forgive me when I roll my eyes at the army of media liberals, stuffed into their narrow enclaves, responding to Chait by insisting that there is no problem here and that anyone who says there is should be considered the enemy.

By the way: in these incidents, and dozens and dozens of more like it, which I have witnessed as a 30-hour-a-week antiwar activist for three years and as a blogger for the last seven and as a grad student for the past six, the culprits overwhelmingly were not women of color. That’s always how this conversation goes down: if you say, hey, we appear to have a real problem with how we talk to other people, we are losing potential allies left and right, then the response is always “stop lecturing women of color.” But these codes aren’t enforced by women of color, in the overwhelming majority of the time. They’re enforced by the children of privilege. I know. I live here. I am on campus. I have been in the activist meetings and the lefty coffee houses. My perspective goes beyond the same 200 people who write the entire Cool Kid Progressive Media.

Amanda Taub says political correctness “doesn’t exist.” To which I can only ask, how would you know? I don’t understand where she gets that certainty. Is Traub under the impression that the Vox offices represents the breadth of left-wing culture? I read dozens of tweets and hot take after hot take, insisting that there’s no problem here, and it’s coming overwhelmingly from people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

Well, listen, you guys: I don’t know what to do. I am out of ideas. I am willing to listen to suggestions. What do I do, when I see so many good, impressionable young people run screaming from left-wing politics because they are excoriated the first second they step mildly out of line? Megan Garber, you have any suggestions for me, when I meet some 20 year old who got caught in a Twitter storm and determined that she never wanted to set foot in that culture again? I’m all ears. If I’m not allowed to ever say, hey, you know, there’s more productive, more inclusive ways to argue here, then I don’t know what the fuck I am supposed to do or say. Hey, Alex Pareene. I get it. You can write this kind of piece in your sleep. You will always find work writing pieces like that. It’s easy and it’s fun and you can tell jokes and those same 200 media jerks will give you a thousand pats on the back for it. Do you have any advice for me, here, on campus? Do you know what I’m supposed to say to some shellshocked 19 year old from Terra Haute who, I’m very sorry to say, hasn’t had a decade to absorb bell hooks? Can you maybe do me a favor, and instead of writing a piece designed to get you yet-more retweets from Weird Twitter, tell me how to reach these potential allies when I know that they’re going to get burned terribly for just being typical clumsy kids? Since you’re telling me that if I say a word against people who go nuclear at the slightest provocation, I’m just one of the Jon Chaits, please inform me how I can act as an educator and an ally and a friend. Because I am out of fucking ideas.

I know, writing these words, exactly how this will go down. I know Weird Twitter will hoot and the same pack of self-absorbed media liberals will herp de derp about it. I know I’ll get read the intersectionality riot act, even though everyone I’m criticizing here is white, educated, and privileged. I know nobody will bother to say, boy, maybe I don’t actually understand the entire world of left-wing politics because I went to Sarah Lawrence. I know that. But Christ, I wish people would think outside of their social circle for 5 minutes.

Jon Chait is an asshole. He’s wrong. I don’t want these kids to be more like Jon Chait. I sure as hell don’t want them to be less left-wing. I want them to be more left-wing. I want a left that can win, and there’s no way I can have that when the actually-existing left sheds potential allies at an impossible rate. But the prohibition against ever telling anyone to be friendlier and more forgiving is so powerful and calcified it’s a permanent feature of today’s progressivism. And I’m left as this sad old 33 year old teacher who no longer has the slightest fucking idea what to say to the many brilliant, passionate young people whose only crime is not already being perfect."

[also posted here: http://qz.com/335941/im-fed-up-with-political-correctness-and-the-idea-that-everyone-should-already-be-perfect/ ]
freddiedeboer  politics  politicalcorrectness  discourse  2015  culture  pc  jonathanchait  liberalism  liberals  amandataub  megangarber  alexpareene  left  patriarchy  marginaalization  weirdtwitter  gender  race  ableism  racism  sexism  homophobia  inclusion  exclusion  intersectionalpolitics  progressivism  debate  discussion  prohibition  allies  kindness  empathy  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Sonic Boom - The Atlantic
"How digital technology is transforming our relationship with sound"



"Sound, at its most basic, is simply a wave of pressure and displacement—a mechanical vibration that bounces around the surfaces of the world until it alights on an obliging eardrum. Some sound waves are audible to us; many are not. Some sound waves are pleasant to us; many are not. There are subtle subjectivities built into the act of listening. As Emily Thompson, a Princeton professor who studies the cultural history of sound, put it to me: “One man’s noise is another man’s music.”

The problem with this otherwise delightful diversity is that sound, whatever a single mind makes of it, is generally shared. (“Blindness separates people from things," Helen Keller once remarked, while "deafness separates people from people.”) Long before homes were built around Bourbon Street, human dwellings were designed around shared auditory experiences. The Huns arranged their pop-up towns in ways that would ensure human voices could be heard in a kind of relay: empire by way of earshot. Plato limited the size of his model Republic to 5,040—the number of people that could have been addressed, at the time, by a single orator."



"Which brings us back to noise’s pesky subjectivity. “If you can measure it, you can make it be quieter than some regulations say,” Berens says. “But that doesn't necessarily correlate well with whether people are annoyed by it."

We’re sitting in Acentech’s offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the middle of a reverberant room—a small chamber, about 20 feet long by 15 feet wide by 15 feet high, that exists for no other purpose than to encourage echoes. The chamber’s walls and ceiling are composed of concrete blocks; those blocks have been coated multiple times with thick white paint to seal their pores. This means, says Berens, that “there’s no place for the sound to go—nothing to suck it up.”"
megangarber  sound  digital  2014  history  humans  hellenkeller  blindness  deafness  blind  deaf  music  cities  urban  urbanism  stress  noisepollution  noise 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Are Your Facebook Friends Stressing You Out? (Yes) - Megan Garber - The Atlantic
"as liberating as it is to erase the divides that separate formerly fractured identities—as nice in theory and in practice as it is to live an all-purpose, one-size-fits-all existence—the mingling comes with costs. Social expectations from the IRL realm haven't quite caught up to Facebook's assumptions (some might call them "impositions") about how social lives are lived. Facebook wants us to—really, forces us to—conduct our digital lives with singular identities: identities that can be harnessed and streamlined (and sold to and analyzed). We, however—as people…as cultures…as societies—tend to expect that identities will be what they have been since the advent of society itself: prismatic. Varied. Contextual. These tensions will inevitably clash. They will come to terms with each other as Facebook adapts to users' expectations and, more to the point, as users adapt to Facebook's. In the meantime, though, users are bearing the brunt of the conflict. And that is, yes, stressful."
social  pretense  relationships  personhood  socialnetworking  socialmedia  megangarber  2012  presentationofself  identity  stress  facebook 
january 2013 by robertogreco
How TED Makes Ideas Smaller - Megan Garber - Technology - The Atlantic
"But: We live in a world of increasingly networked knowledge. And it's a world that allows us to appreciate what has always been true: that new ideas are never sprung, fully formed, from the heads of the inventors who articulate them, but are always -- always -- the result of discourse and interaction and, in the broadest sense, conversation. The author-ized idea, claimed and owned and bought and sold, has been, it's worth remembering, an accident of technology…

A TED talk, at this point, is the cultural equivalent of a patent: a private claim to a public concept. With the speaker, himself, becoming the manifestation of the idea…what TED has done so elegantly, though, is to replace narrative in that equation with personality. The relatable idea, TED insists, is the personal idea. It is the performative idea. It is the idea that strides onstage and into a spotlight, ready to become a star."
bylines  copyright  print  conversation  chrisanderson  sethgodin  elipariser  creativity  ownership  ideas  stardom  personality  conferences  interaction  discourse  2012  networkedknowledge  sinclairlewis  chautauqua  megangarber  ted  innovation 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Webs and whirligigs: Marshall McLuhan in his time and ours » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism
"And so are our media, made newly social. Facebook & Twitter & Google+ & all the rest swim with time’s flow, rather than attempting to stanch it. & they are, despite that but mostly because of it, increasingly defining our journalism. They are also, as it were, McLuhanesque. (Google+: extension of man.) Because if McLuhan is to be believed, the much-discussed & often-assumed human need for narrative may be contingent rather than implicit. Which means that as conditions change, so may — so will — we. We may evolve past our need, in other words, for containment, for conclusions, for answers.

McLuhan’s vision is, finally, of a world of frayed ends rather than neat endings, one in which stock loses out to flow — a media environment, which is to say simply an environment, in which all that is solid melts…and then, finally, floods. And for journalism and journalists, of course, that represents a tension of rather epic, and certainly existential, dimensions."
journalism  media  marshallmcluhan  paulford  digitalmedia  stockandflow  time  2011  megangarber  realtime  web  internet  endings  storytelling  unfinished 
july 2011 by robertogreco
WikiLeaks and continuity: What if we had a news outlet exclusively focused on follow-up journalism? » Nieman Journalism Lab
"Sure, you could say, bloggers both professional and amateur already do that kind of follow-up work; legacy news outlets themselves do, too. But: they don’t do it often enough, or systematically enough. They often lack incentive to, say, localize a story like the War Logs for their readers. Or to contextualize it. Or to, in general, continue its existence. An independent outlet wouldn’t prevent other news shops from doing follow-up work on their own stories or anyone else’s, just as PolitiFact’s presence doesn’t preclude other outlets from engaging in fact-checking. A standalone shop would, however, serve as a kind of social safety net — an insurance policy against apathy.

As Lab contributor C.W. Anderson remarked on Monday: “I wonder what it would take for a story like the ‘War Logs’ bombshell to stick around in the public mind long enough for it to mean something.”

I do, too. I’d love to find out."
wikileaks  jayrosen  2010  megangarber  journalism  media  digitalmedia  socialmedia  wiki  updates  follow-up  continuity  timeshifting  timestretching  futureofjournalism 
august 2010 by robertogreco

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