We no longer access media, but are instead accessed by it.

What and where, but no who or why

Jung dealt with the collective unconscious and alter egos. After McLuhan, we experience collective consciousness and alter ids. The previous mechanical age was one of internal stability; ours is inhabited by Painted Birds trapped in a strange land.

The metaphor for those coming of age in post- industrial America was “a generation lost in space,” for out there was where it was at. NASA represented the pinnacle of human achievement and Marketing tried hard to tie in to that. Being able to claim that a product was “space age” was even better than if it was blessed by the Pope. The contemporary final frontier is the kingdom within and Neuroscience is the instrument used to probe that. Now NASA needs Marketing that would make a Barnum blush.

Through the surging sea of wireless signals, we no longer access media, but are instead accessed by it. Submerged in and permeated by this noosphere, our mental metabolism needs to work, not to acquire, but to avoid dissolving. People everywhere are regularly exposed to a range of ideas, images, and experiences that previously only a world traveler could hope to match. Much current advertising is based on the assumption that a general audience can be expected to be – at least subliminally – familiar with hard core porn.

The space family Robinsons of yesterday have left and gone away. Today’s pioneers are the Burroughs-esque My Favorite Martians crash-landed here, but through antennas to the brain able to traverse other times and minds. Via Telstar broadcast, people across the globe appeared in our homes by the medium of television. By Internet immersion, we channel and transmute spirits and ideas. The Black Angels of Austin in many senses are The Velvet Underground of New York City fifty years ago.

With the current fusion of mind and electronics, trying to craft media by content and demographics is as doomed to failure as were cavalry charges against the Blitzkrieg. Constantly supplied with a shifting set of histories and experiences, any particular individual can assume one personality one day and another, the next. By the time poll data is tabulated the yield is a series of mistaken identities. The result of what’s essentially futile navigation by a confused compass at the North Pole can be seen in radio which tries to move forward either by jumping in place or by banging its head against the ground. Another example is the strange attempt to shovel what are basically television soap opera commercials onto the Web; here we have history repeating itself simultaneously as tragedy and farce. The radio audience relocated to TV. TV viewers did not just shift their attention to the Web, but essentially changed into something else entirely.

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The William Burroughs Nike commercial

An all ’round great commercial (great concept, great images, great soundtrack, great script, great delivery, . . . and please do COMMENT whatever I left out) is this Nike Air spot featuring William Burroughs as electronic UberShaman.  Striding past his avant-garde disciples — and still possessing the energy and insight of Kerouac’s Bull Lee — Burroughs ascends a video pulpit to address the world — and through the ether-amber of the Internet — for all time.

In a 1965 Paris Review Interview William Burroughs said, “And I see no reason why the artistic world can’t absolutely merge with Madison Avenue. Pop art is a move in that direction. Why can’t we have advertisements with beautiful words and beautiful images?”  Thirty years later, he self-fulfilled this prophesy.

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