And this isn’t even touching on the way TBBT portrays women. Most notably the fact that until recently the only female character on the show had no understanding of science or nerd culture, and the episode in which it’s treated as a miracle that a woman is in a comic book store – “she must be lost” they say. Even Amy Farrah Fowler isn’t the geek girl representative we may have hoped for. She’s portrayed as distinctly asexual and when she mentions sex it’s always played for laughs, because of course intelligent, socially awkward women shouldn’t think about sex at all. Another troubling thing about Big Bang is its insidious homophobia. We are supposed to laugh whenever Howard and Raj do something which could be considered as homosexual. The closeness of their friendship is the target of jokes as is their fear and disgust at being mistaken for a gay couple. Again Amy Farrah Fowler’s frequent references to lesbian experimentation are treated as absurd. We are supposed to laugh at her possible attraction to Penny and at Penny’s discomfort when she alludes to this. Considering Jim Parsons (who plays Sheldon) is himself gay, as is Sara Gilbert (who plays the recurring character Leslie Winkle), you would think – or at least hope for a more accepting attitude towards homosexuality. Similarly, with guest stars such as Wil Wheaton, a champion of nerd culture, you’d think they’d refrain from ridiculing nerds the way they do.
When Netflix released the new season of sitcom Arrested Development last month, the tepid initial reception made investors rush to sell the stock. After watching all the episodes in a single marathon session, however, one fan decided to experiment with the format. Rearranging the show’s original nesting-doll narrative in chronological order, Andy Gilleand shared his work on Reddit – and became an instant hit. So what are the wider implications of such bootleg efforts?
The number of smokers in the US has halved since the 1960s – and the trend is continuing downward, spurred by regulations and increasing health consciousness among consumers. The question facing the tobacco industry and their declining market is simple: can they shift consumers from one old habit to another more modern habit?
America’s second-biggest tobacco company, Reynolds American Inc., is launching an updated version of its Vuse e-cigarette brand in a bid to diversify beyond traditional cigarettes amidst dark markets, packaging bans, tax hikes and social stigma. Sales of e-cigarettes are estimated to double this year, to $1 billion (annual) in America, but still only represent 0.5% of total tobacco volume. Digital vapour cigarettes are anticipated to be the future, with its new ‘perfect puff’ technology, but only by being culturally relevant can new e-cigarette brands such as Vuse stand out in the increasingly crowded category. Will this high-tech alternative be enough reason for smokers to switch entirely?
(continue: How Vuse hopes to make smoking ‘cool’ again)
Who’s the better assistant: one who does what they’re told, or one that knows you so well they’re able to anticipate your next move and tell you what to do?
Google Now, a new addition to the Google Search mobile app, is an intelligent ‘predictive’ assistant that provides the right information at the right time without being prompted. Named Innovation of the Year for 2012 by Popular Science, Google Now is hailed to irreversibly change the way we interact with the web. Yet, riddled with privacy and ethical concerns, the reality is not so simple. (via Google Now: the power of context)
Sandra Mardin, semiotician, explains how handbags have taken on the mantle of primary storytelling devices for fashion brands.
There is a central paradox at the heart of a handbag: the less useful it is, the more necessary it becomes. This contradiction transforms an ordinary handbag into an object of adoration. Once its primary function of carrying objects is no longer so important, there is an empty space to communicate a bigger story. The bag becomes what semioticians call a cultural symbol, an artefact that tells an underlying story about the people & society of an era.
The rapid rise of smart technologies can make creating and maintaining meaningful human relationships a challenge. In response, EatWith offers its users an authentic dining experience coupled with the opportunity to form new social bonds. Touted as the Airbnb for dinner parties, EatWith is a community marketplace that lets members enjoy authentic and intimate dining experiences in other people’s homes. Currently available in Israel and Barcelona but with the ambition to spread worldwide, EatWith enables locals to open their kitchens to people from all over the world. By doing so, it provides the opportunity for a new kind of serendipitous socialising within an intimate setting. (via EatWith: social dining experiences)
From offal to breast milk, experimental eating is grabbing headlines, and Mexican street food chain Wahaca’s new grasshopper dish is no exception. While the high protein content is a potential selling point, the real offering is a taste of authenticity – the introduction of genuinely ‘foreign’ foods to a cosmopolitan London.
Previously the preserve of the occasional enthusiastic journalist returning from South East Asia, an emerging culture of experimentation has seen creepy crawly snacks gain traction in the West. Yet despite this, the ‘yuck’ label remains; novelty – and a degree of bravado – are still intrinsic to their appeal. With the recent horse meat scandal eroding consumer confidence in affordable meat, is the time right for novelty sustainable dishes like Wahaca’s grasshopper fondue to broaden their remit?
(…continues @ A taste of authenticity: Wahaca’s grasshopper fondue)
It is mainly consumerism, rather than the hippie movement that massively contributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. In fact, the “sex sells” truism has been attributed to Hugh Heffner, who anecdotally coined it in defense of his, at the time (1953), controversial magazine Playboy. And while sexual innuendo has been used to sell anything from cars to chocolate, actual sex was confined to sketchy alleys, blacked out windows and red light districts.
Even 2011’s Fifty Shades of Grey attributed its success to the rise of e-book readers that don’t reveal the book cover during a commute. But soon enough, the book’s physical edition not only became prominently displayed on said trains and buses, it even appeared on supermarket shelves next to the lunchtime 3 for 1 specials.
“What EL James has done is clearly taken erotic fiction to the mainstream. It’s not that women weren’t reading it, it’s just that it wasn’t available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s. So more power to her,” says Gillian Green at Ebury Publishing for The Guardian. “It’s like we’ve got permission to enjoy it – she’s the acceptable face of saucy fiction.”
Critics, however, remain puzzled by the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, since erotica has been done before and far more juicily, take for instance Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden (1973). So EL James’s success is typically attributed to the recession, when publishers would predictably turn to sex as a last resort to sell.
However, there may be far more to it and erotic fiction could be just a part of the entire sex category going mainstream. For example, a new company called Smile Makers have already taken steps towards disrupting the category through innovative design. Their intention is to take the world of sex toys into the health & beauty aisles with other consumer products; while their line of vibrators follows precisely the erotic fiction icons of male sexiness such as “The Millionaire” and “The Tennis Coach”.
One may argue that multinational chain Ann Summers has already succeeded in making sex mainstream, through its focus on women and its home parties. But we have yet to see sexual fantasy sold in pharmacies and the health & beauty sections of the “Big Five” supermarkets.
Finally, this would potentially also affect the sexual innuendo employed in other industries. Sex will still sell, except not through indulgence and ‘being naughty’ but through wholesomeness and ‘good for you’.
A new project at Selfridges is the latest experiment in the power of silence. A quiet oasis in the midst of a hectic shopping environment in central London, it testifies to a growing interest in the benefits of quiet introspection.
UK department store Selfridges has launched a No Noise project based on their Silence Room, re-opened for the first time in over 90 years to offer a quiet oasis in the midst of the hectic shopping experience in central London. The campaign invites customers to “celebrate the power of quiet, see the beauty in function and find calm among the crowds.” Launched immediately after the frantic seasonal sales, the campaign has effectively turned the natural tendency of the post-Christmas wind-down into a shopping opportunity.
(via How Selfridges made noise about being quiet, Canvas8)
Rebellious fashion brand Diesel is encouraging people to go offline. Is this just controversy for controversy’s sake or does it reflect a real and growing disillusionment with online experiences?
At a time when most brands are anxious to find even better ways to connect with youth and catch up with the fast-paced digital age, Diesel has taken the counter-intuitive approach and invites the world to disconnect, take a step back to the pre-internet times and do ‘real’ things.
The occasion of the call to go offline is the international relaunch of the 1993 classic YUK shoe, which pre-dates the internet. Therefore, the act of putting on the shoe is presented as an opportunity to step back in time, “do stuff, meet people and have real offline fun!”
In this spirit, Diesel asks its audience a few key questions regarding their connected life, such as: “When did sharing become annoying, and liking just a pointless online gesture?”, and “Why do you know what your friend’s lunch looks like, and how is this making the world a better place?”
But how can Diesel connect with fans while promoting disconnection?
Indulgence and “dulce” come from the same Latin word as softness and the word indulgence variously signals “release from penalty,” “dissipation,” “special permission,” and, of course, “luxury.”
The word itself is fraught with censoriousness, says cultural trends expert Andy…
presented at Semiofest 2012
Massimo Leone, Department of Philosophy, University of Turin
1. You shall study semiotics; choosing a good university course with a good teacher; reading books, articles, essays; going back to the classics, avoiding compendiums, readers, and also most online materials: they are not good (for the moment);
2. You shall practice semiotics; initially through purposeless analysis; through interpretation for the sake of interpretation; annoy your friends with semiotics;
3. You shall befriend other semioticians; meeting them regularly not only on the web, but also in congresses, symposia, colloquia; remember to celebrate semio-festivities;
4. You shall not turn semiotics into a rhetoric; semiotics’ purpose is to help other people to understand meaning, not to convince them that you understand it better than them;
5. You shall not turn semiotics into magic; semiotics is a discipline, one should be disciplined in learning and in practicing it;
6. You shall not turn semiotics into religion; semiotics is only one out of a multitude of options; respect other disciplines and ask respect from them;
7. You shall not turn semiotics into science; let’s face it: semiotics is part of the humanities; thank god meaning will never be ruled by the laws of necessity;
8. You shall not turn semiotics into mystery; if nobody understands you but other semioticians, you are a failure;
9. You shall not turn semiotics into bar conversation; if everybody appreciates you except other semioticians, you are a failure too;
10. You shall not be worried that your mother doesn’t understand what you do; most people who do new things have skeptical mothers.
(photo from Tim Stock’s presentation on Semiotics and Framing Cultural Insights)