Christopher Howse

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I sent an email to Christopher Howse of the Telegraph today, regarding the below opinion piece published today:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/8791990/Teenage-talent-at-the-Labour-Party-conference-seen-as-fairground-freakery.html

The full text of the email is below:

 

From: majidsalim@live.co.uk
To: christopher.howse@telegraph.co.uk
Subject: Re: Teenage talent
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2011 10:04:57 +0100

Hi Christopher,
 
I really enjoyed your article about Rory Weal at the Labour Party conference.
 
I think the British have a strange realtionship with intelligence at an early age. We are all told stories about Mozart writing music aged six, but if we see young people doing intelligent things there is sometimes a popular reaction in tabloid against this sort of thing. This may well be because people see the 12 year old at Oxford or the 16 year old at a party conference and thing they are mimicking an adult, without realising that this might be natural behaviour coming easily to them that reflects these young people’s real interests and abilities.
 
I do feel sorry for young people who are thrown in front of the feral media at an early age without and insulation against its animal rabidity. I have an IQ of 154, have published an academic paper and have a postgraduate degree, and that kind of academic excellence was inculcated into me at an early age. However, in spite of clever thoughts I was reguilarly having at school and in other arenas, I do feel that my headmasters never quite forgot that I was not to be entirely eaten alive by the school’s desire for headlines, or by inclusion in any larger media machine. The touchpaper of my real conceptualisation of the media was only lit at a later stage in my life.
 
I regularly email the media and know that thousands of people have read my emails. The media rarely if ever contact me back, but nonethless – I know. To be honest the media’s silence in response to my original and intelligent emails does start to look suspicious, as if I were just another prole I would not be faced with such a monolithic muteness, but rather would have a pappering of disinterested emails back.
 
It is a strange sort of fame when sometimes you have the private imagining that an astronaut who you have just read about in the Telegraph has already heard of you, but cannot justify the cost of stating so in any kind of public way because they have not been furnished by the media with the necessary apparatus to do so. For all I know I may be a world icon of some description, but only in the privacy of people’s minds. Whilst that is a nice thought, I cannot help but think about the money I could make were I not such an retrenchantly uncontactable individual.
 
Good bye, good luck, and best wishes,
 
Majid Salim

 

Reality television

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This is a post about reality television.
 
Does anyone know what has happened to the losing contestants of X Factor? We know about a couple, Eoghan Quigg and of course the winner, who is having her album produced by Akon, but what of the rest? Have they returned to their normal lives? Are some of them on the dole? How can it be that people who have been on television for three months in front of twenty million people end this period signing onto Jobseekers Allowance? Surely that kind of saruation media exposure should result in a lifetime career of some description or other in public life, the media or celebrity.
 
The fact that many of 2008’s X Factor contestants have made no money from their fame is true of many other shows, including Big Brother and Britain’s Got Talent. What we are seeing here is instant, disposable celebrity. There people are literally taken off the streets – often with the cameras literally watching – and celebrified with hyperrreal editing and Hollywood style close ups. Once the series is over they are back on the streets again, with many hundreds of column inches having being written about them, to the considerable profit of newspapers, and no money to their name.
 
I think any media paradigm that makes people no money after spending three months on television in front of twenty million people is exploitative. The media industrial complex makes tens of millions of pound of members of the public across several shows on TV in precisely this way, and 80% of the people who appear on these shows make no money and have no hope of a lasting career in the media or public life. The media these days is exploiting members of the public in the same way coffee brands exploit Third World coffee producers – pay them half a penny for ten tonnes of coffee, which is sold at a profit of two milllion pounds.
 
According to wikipedia:
 
In the Marxist view, “normal” exploitation is based in three structural characteristics of capitalist society:
 
1) the ownership of the means of production by a small minority in society, the capitalists;

2) the inability of non-property-owners (the workers, proletarians) to survive without selling their labor-power to the capitalists (in other words, without being employed as wage laborers);

3) the state, which uses its strength to protect the unequal distribution of power and property in society. 
 
1) refers to the media, and 2) refers to the way that many of these people, who desire to be famous, can only do so by auditioning to appear on reality TV programmes. I don’t think the state has a part to play in this debate, so let’s ignore 3) (the media is after all (purportedly) self-regulating).
 
The media may well argue that this is a case of caveat emptor – if you want to be famous badly enough to ausition for reality TV, you can’t complain about your terms and conditions. But exploitation is exploitation. Perhaps some day soon the current trend towards celebrifying memers of the public who have no qualities worthy of lionising other than a desire to be famous, and demeaning them on television for huge profits, will be considered unsavoury.

A paradigm shift in the media gestalt

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We live in an online world. Advances in information technology has led to a twenty four hour news culture, where websites are updated every minute and the global media can react within minutes and bring news of events around the globe to our living rooms, desktops and handheld devices almost as soon as they happen. In many ways the online news culture makes newspapers seem obselete: a twenty four hour news cycle, in the case of national dailies, is considered by many to be too slow, and once printed, articles cannot be rewritten or updated. As newspaper sales decline it is likely that in the future more and more of our news will be delivered to us online, via mobile updates and desktop tickers.

I have come up with an idea that I believe to be the best implementation of information technology in creating a news source that reflects the way we live our lives today. It is called the news exchange. It is a website where news articles are displayed and are available for search. Each news articles is linked to a single advert. The price the advertiser pays for that advert is worked out on the fly according to the number of clicks per hour the news article gets – the more views, the more the cost per click to display the advert for the advertiser. Real time prices for advert cost are displayed alongside the news article so that people have a metric to gague the article’s interestingness this hour, and advertisers know what they have to pay.

This idea for a news environment borrows from the idea of a stock exchange. With the world Wide Web we have seen people conduct studies on meme transmissions, in other words the spread of ideas. This is something that was not possible with conventional forms of print media. The news environment I propose is a market place for memes, where each meme is given a market price. An advertiser might choose only to advertise with the more expensive adverts, therefore identifying their brand with only the most intersting things happening in the media gestalt. Advertisers would set an upper and lower limit they are willing to pay for articles, so if an article gets many clicks and the advertiser can no longer afford it it gets passed to an advertiser with the money to advertise with more popular articles. The idea could be developed and a separate marketplace could be created where articles are sold to advertisers in auctions.

With a newspaper, the amount of space on the page is fixed, the article is unchangeable and the price for the advertising space on the page is predetermined. With the news exchange we see all three of these variables dynamically alter, on the fly, according the market conditions. It is a paradigmn shift in news media that would render extant legacy forms of media such as newspapers and television obsolete.