Sophie and Sylvie have decided that it is too much of a bitch to blog in a combined format. They’re going to make separate blogs from now on.

Sophie is at
Sylvie is at

They’ve got a point about the details being boring, and I admit that I didn’t keep up my end. And you know, I disappear from here for weeks at a time, because, obviously, no one actually reads this blog.



Research Presentation – start of year MaHKU

The MPA Under the influence ad campaign, aimed at advertisers.

NYTimes article link

This ad is brutally strong. It says, “Ads make people buy stuff they don’t need.” It could almost come from Adbusters, but it has zero irony.

Graphic design encourages a culture of consumption, increasing unsustainable demand. You cannot buy happiness. Buying things does not sate desire. If you buy a new jacket, you’ll want new shoes to match.

Desire is the root cause of suffering, and spirituality and scientific studies agree. This is imposed desire: it’s not even what we want, but what we’re told to want.

Which brings us back to Adbusters. I agree with the message and the style, but not the smugness and aggressive negativity.

Adbusters doesn’t convince anybody. It just reinforces existing convictions.I don’t even know if anti-ads work. Period. Everyone knows smoking kills. But people do it anyway. Anti-drug ads are awful and stupid and make drug usage rates go up.

But I still love mass culture and capitalism, despite their problems. And you don’t change anyone’s mind with negativity, and you can’t change people by force or coercion.

The use of the word sell is deliberate: buying and selling implies a choice.

My thesis research has three basic questions:

1. Why do people make bad choices?

2. How do you inoculate people against viral marketing and psychological manipulation?

3. Can you defeat advertising with ads, or do you need something else entirely?

Why do we do the things we do?

Our choices are shaped by our genes, by our culture, by our laws, by our peers, and by our experiences. In many cases, these motivations are contradictory: finish everything on your plate, it’s a shame to waste food when other people are starving; don’t get fat, skinny people live longer.

We do not always act in our best interests; we certainly do not always act in the best interests of others. And we advise other people to act in ways that benefit us.

Usually, we have limited information to make informed choices. No one can be an expert on everything, regardless of the sheer liquidity of dubious information available on the web. But we muddle along, making choices anyway and then justifying them to ourselves.

In fact, nearly everything we do is based on a subconscious, instinctual choice, and only later are the rational implications of that choice considered.

Humans are, as Mr. Spock explains, illogical.

Everything in human society (and in human biology) is a construct aimed at manipulating human behaviour. However, we cannot exist without society, we cannot exist without our bodies, and we cannot exist without the experiences of being a human in a human society influencing our behaviour.

(The previous sentence may or may not describe the near-impossible attainment of transcendent enlightenment.)

We can, however, understand the means and goals of manipulation, such as the role of advertising and anti-advertising, psychological tricks in branding, politics, and economics, identity construction through purchasing and community formation, and the emotional context of personal relationships. Without condemning.