Elena R's Blog

Monday, March 28, 2005

Ah, the Joys and Pains of the Internet!

Everyone uses this network on a regular basis, whether they want to admit it freely or keep it clandestine from others. This network enables people to touch those who are halfway across the world, to go Christmas shopping without having to face the horrific crowds (even those undesirable taxes), and for just a few minutes a day anyone can indulge in their favorite topics. This is not something that you can buy at the store or advertise in the newspaper because it is the Internet! Many people use it, but few people are not fully aware of the history and mysteries of the Internet. Well, Christopher Locke goes into profound details about the evolution and transitional periods of the Internet. With a touch of humor, a dash of playfully cynical thoughts, and a concentrated dose of the illuminating reality of cyberspace it helps to illustrate the inescapable power of the Internet.

Some of the more interesting discussions Locke has in the book The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual are highlighting the humorous corporations' view of the consumers and the struggle to maintain their patriarchal influence over society. Locke makes a very controversial, but effective point that companies do not like humans because humans have multifaceted longings that the companies can only fulfill to a certain extent. For example, the companies can accomplish the task of giving people a temporary sense of power by displaying advertisements for fast cars that can take them to the limitless boundaries of the world. It may give people the need for speed and to assume the identity of a rebellious, yet emancipated loner who only wants to head off into the sunset. People see these visualizations and associate with the theme of liberation from the turmoil of society. They soon picture their hair flowing through the wind and imagine the intense power rush as they drive full speed with their car on the winding highway. So, in order to assuage these incessant desires and hidden social insecurities, some people follow their impulses to purchase the very same car believing that it will provide them eternal release from reality. However, the company cannot produce a product that gives people millions of dollars, abolishes discrimination, poverty, or creates the perfect spouse because the sad concept is that nothing is meant to be perfect. There are certain aspects and dreams of individuals that are just too far off into the abstract world to fulfill. The truth, as Locke explains, is that the companies create products and advertisements in order to make the public believe that they are attempting to solve a majority of society's general problems. It is all about the power of persuasion through the use of brightly colored words and beautiful faces that cleverly convinces the public that companies actually care about the desires of the consumers. These ads even try to make the company appear to be on the side of the little people. However, the only intention of many companies is not to be a public psychiatrist, to be the shoulder to cry on when tragedies become overwhelming, or to just be a friend. The big objective is to sell, sell, sell! It is not about making people's lives easier, but to complicate it by insisting that they buy the product that is only an illusionary solution to their apparent dilemmas.

Furthermore, it is amazing to see the assumptions that companies have about consumers. Locke made an interesting point about the unawareness of "Joe Six Pack", who spends his time watching television and is a couch potato because television is his only "objective" window to the world. However, the emergence of the Internet transforms Joe into a knowledgeable person and in the companies eyes, a potentially dangerous individual because he is now connected to people beyond the domestic borders. Although it sounds frivolous, knowledge is a powerful tool, especially with the Internet because people can now find out from others in the world about the issues that are thriving. Some companies may have made the premature assumption that people are not suppose to question or have suspicions about the companies because people are suppose to take the information at face value. Yet, as people learn, the more they begin to question certain systems and organizations around them. They discover contradictions or hypocrisies of companies and may spread the word that companies may not uphold their public image. Some companies underestimate the intellectual capacity of consumers. They fail to realize that once they press the "connect" button, they are venturing outside of their backyard and into a cyberspace world, where limitless information is accessible to the Internet surfers.

Also, Locke creates a comical approach to the whole concept of firewalls. He reveals how a majority of companies have these firewalls to protect any detailed and confidential information. Yet, the only secrets they can conceal are that they are all "talk". They have nothing significant to hide, but they try to convince the public that they have substantial information they want to protect for their consumers. However, the reality is that the companies know how to talk a good bluff and they know how to shuffle the dice, but there is no monopoly board to play on. Levine emphasizes how eventually the companies will have to give up their obsession of protecting their information. They will have to become more flexible because this way it establishes a much more open relationship between the consumer and the organization.

In addition, Levine explains how the Internet has become an interactive television with more advertisements and more focus on incorporating fantasy into reality. More and more advertisements display unattainable and over-exaggerated concepts on the Internet. For example, with Jif peanut butter the image of the mother holding her daughter creates the perception that Jif makes women into All-American mothers. If they buy this peanut butter, they can establish a more closer connection with their children. It may work for some people, but there is no product that makes you more or less of an individual. For mothers who have children that throw tantrums, who are disobedient, or physically active buying a jar of peanut butter is not a resolution into being a better mother or having charming children. It make sandwiches or snacks taste better, but the embracing hug may not last with the child once the sugar kicks in. It also mentions that if you choose this peanut butter, then you are very selective about what your children eat. The phrase "choosy moms choose Jif" reflects the quality and the good taste of the product, but what if someone chooses a brand other than Jif? Does that make the mother less "choosy"? Jif is a good brand of peanut butter, but some people may assume that they are exceptionally selective when they buy this brand, instead of buying the cheaper store brand. It is these types of clever phrases that motivates people to buy this and other mainstream products on the market. So, advertisements paint a bright and alluring portrait of reality as being simple. When in fact there are several levels of reality that only a few products can be of use for.

Finally, the Internet is one of the best ways for someone to have a voice and an outlet for free expression. The Internet is a place where people can provide personal commentary about a variety of subjects, whether they are serious or comical. One of the important aspects about the forums on the Internet is the emphasis on providing support and intense responses to certain issues. If the person does not provide support for their position about the matter, then they can be prepared to be emotionally cremated. For example, take the Terry Schiavo case that is dividing the nation. When people cannot show defiance or support about the matter in their town, they have the option to escape to the Internet where their voice can be heard. In this forum, everyone gets their opinions across to others on their personal feelings surrounding the controversial situation. In fact, one of the best parts about the Internet is the high level of encouragement to participate and provide intellectual feedback. As Levine mentions, the level of self expression on the Internet gives people the opportunity to maintain their stability within the rat race. While at the same time creating a different and anonymous image on the Internet. They can be the conservative and time-orientated worker. Yet, when the sun goes down, the keyboard makes loud typing sounds. People can come home to release an alluring and secretive side that a company has never seen before. A side that is more relaxed and free to be just a curious web surfer. Just as Levine mentions, the Internet is there so that consumers can do as those traders did in the ancient times. They establish interpersonal connections with people from all corners of the planet, exchange stories, experiences, and make relationships with others that last a lifetime.

One of the points that is invigorating is made by Jessica because she goes into detail about how companies are apprehensive about losing their control over the consumers. She even goes further to make the suggestion that companies should face the inevitable and accept the fact that the web is a friend, not a foe. Also, Meghan gives an interesting and brief summary about the history of the marketplace. She even gives an account of the transition that is occurring due to the influence of the Internet.