Browse Category: Shoot the messenger

Gossip, factual misreading and communicative decoys as counter strategy.

Dead Media Revival

Garnet Hertz is working on a doctoral dissertation in Media Theory & History based on the “The Dead Media Handbook” as initially proposed by Bruce Sterling in 1995 in his “Dead Media Manifesto” (
His plan is to actually publish a book, taking into account, and using the work, notes and collections assembled on

Hertz’ curatorial vision on the project is to “dissect the topic of “new” media from an engaged historical, theoretical and technical perspective. At its basis, this project assumes that changes/revolutions in communications technologies are a liquid but consistent cycle. Although inconsistencies and true revolutions do occur, this project will not focus on these: instead, common threads and trends will be explored. “The Dead Media Handbook” is a field guide in the world of hype.”

“As a response to the hype of the internet, CD-ROMs and VR systems of the day, Sterling saw that an archaeological media-analysis was required of earlier mediaforms to gain a wider perspective on “new” media. “Plenty of wild wired promises are already being made for all the infant media. What we need is a somber, thoughtful, thorough, hype-free, even lugubrious book that honors the dead and resuscitates the spiritual ancestors of today’s mediated frenzy. A book to give its readership a deeper, paleontological perspective right in the dizzy midst of the digital revolution. We need a book about the failures of media, the collapses of media, the supercessions of media, the strangulations of media, a book detailing all the freakish and hideous media mistakes that we should know enough now not to repeat, a book about media that have died on the barbed wire of technological advance, media that didn’t make it, martyred media, dead media. THE HANDBOOK OF DEAD MEDIA.”

Read about Hertz:
and his PHD proposal:

Homeless advertising

The sisters Augustinessen of St. Monica give shelter to homeless people in their cloister in the Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam. For offering beds, baths and bread to homeless people they rely on gifts. To raise money bt renting advertisingspace on the back of warm coats they donate to the homeless.
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Anamorphic deformation

An anamorphic image appears distorted, because it is constructed on an elongated grid, rendering it unintelligible until it is viewed from a specific, extremely oblique point of view or reflected in a curved mirror, or with some other optical device. “Anamorphosis” is a Greek word meaning transformation, or more literally “formed again.” Road signs such as “SCHOOL CROSSWALK”, maximum speed marks and directional arrows are everyday examples of anamorphical designs. Stretched out when painted on a road surface, the signs are easily understood by the drivers who must view them obliquely.

The Magic Mirror is an optical toy. The tubular mirror is placed verticaly in the center of the blue circle and then when the reflected design is viewed in the mirror the hidden picture is revealed.
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Word of mouth machine

Truth to tell
In her article on Rumour Clinics Andrea van der Straeten asks whether rumour can be employed as an artistic material. Departing from an activist position one could investigate rumour and gossip as potential strategies to rethink the distribution of messages and counter deceptive media. Can messages which possibly contain truth be used against messages which are likely to be untrue? Continue Reading

Offline skills of encrypting

With the many digital posibilities which are available for encrypting messages one would almost forget the analogue technique of backmasking.
In the seventies backmasking became populair as a method for proving that rockbands were hiding satanic messages in their music. By spinning vinyls backwards one could discover Freddy Mercury singing “It’s fun to smoke marijuana”, The Beatles anouncing the death of Paul mc Cartney and Led Zeppelin singing an ode to their “sweet Satan”. Recently Marilyn Manson fans have refined the classic technique of backmasking and find out their hero hides all kinds of uninteresting reversed messages in his music.

Since the 1950’s subliminal advertising has been a topic for discussion. Invisible and hardly audible hidden messages would nestle themselves in our subcontious minds. Coca cola and several popcorn brands were accused of increasing their sales by including ultra short advertising messages in films.
Subliminal advertising in the shape of backmasking functions at its best when it is applied to non-technological verbal communication, for the simple reason that when a message is not recorded, it can not be played backwards, and so the subliminal advertising will not reveal itself.

If you want to start practicing live verbal subliminal advertising it might be wise to improve your speaking skills. The Backchat trainingtool will guide you in learning to speak backwards.

Maybe you want to become a backmasking detective? In that case you can not do without a reverse tape recorder .

Rumor Clinics

In a short article Viennese artist Andrea van der Straeten researches the history of American Rumor Clinics.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor which set off a wide diversity of rumors and fears in America, the first-ever medical operation in the area of communications was carried out: The Rumor Clinic -a place where communication that has gone out of control is to be patched together and “cured”- was opened in Boston in March 1942.
When WO II ended the clinics were shut and the concept seemed forgotten. But the racial tensions of the 60’s that lead to the murder of Martin Luther King made it advisable to employ both new and proven methods of fighting rumors: In July 1967, the first Rumor Central was opened in Chicago, on the model of the previous rumor clinics.The Clinics used newspapers as a medium: colums were published to correct false rumors, the new Central swapped printed matter for the more contemporary means of telecommunications.

The question rises where the once numerous publications of sociological and psychological research on the effect of rumors have gone to, now that we most need them. The standardworks date back to shortly after the second world war and are hardly applicable to the global establishment of Net culture. Since the nineties another focus has become clear: rumor as an event and strategy in communicative processes, rumor as a “medium”.
Read article published in Springerin #4/ 01 Rumor Clinics | Andrea van der Straeten

Quasi-subjects weaving relations

Quasi-objects, quasi-subjects:
Circulation in the Virtual Society

“Michel Serres describes how human relations emerge from the circulation of quasi-objects. Sociality takes place in the wake of things as they pass between humans. This makes the fate of the human powerfully tied to that of the object (…) Technologies supporting generalised communication do not so much speed up the circulation of objects, but rather increase the circulation of subjects and their avatars. Bits of us are fed around global networks. We should then speak of how the circulation of quasi-subjects creates what we usually recognise as sociality. This paper describes a double movement – that of the quasi-object and that of the quasi-subject – at work in new technologies. Drawing on an empirical study of the adoption of groupware technologies in two organisations, the paper displays how relations are spun out and unravelled along two different vectors. Going one way, the increasing rapidity with which new versions and upgrades of software are introduced across the regional sites of an organisation lead to the production of power differentials. Here, the objects weave the relations. Going in a different direction, the use of email as the primary means of conducting ‘official’ communications leads to entirely different strategies for organising and maintaining relations of mutual accountability. Here, quasi-subjects are sent out to hold things together. The tensions between these two movements is discussed in relation to the ‘virtual society'”

Paper by Steven D. Brown and Geoff Lightfoot
presented at Sociality/Materiality: The status of the object in social science
at Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK, 9-11th September, 1999.

SMS activism

During the 2004 Republican National Convention held in New York prior to the presidential elections, activists employed large scale SMS text messaging as a means of immediate information. It informed demonstrators about the moves of police forces, and it alerted independent journalists of where cameras were needed to document protests, legal observers of real-time rights violations and activist medic teams of where people were in need of medical attention. Continue Reading