[nSLUG] Slightly OT: icons and how we sometimes feel

D G Teed donald.teed at gmail.com
Sat Apr 14 23:05:00 ADT 2007

On 4/14/07, Rich <budman85 at eastlink.ca> wrote:
> On Sat, 2007-04-14 at 08:34 -0300, D G Teed wrote:
> > I was reading an interview with the Author of "Made to Break"
> > regarding planned obsolescence.
> >
> > He made a statement about icons in our culture which I think
> > has some relevance to how people sometimes feel about
> > Macs, types of Linux, and more.
> >
> >         GILES SLADE: Yes, younger people don't want to hear anything
> >         negative about the iPod. I might as well put a turban on and
> >         grow a long beard. It comes down to the social value of
> >         consumer goods as icons. If I'm saying something negative
> >         about your tribe's icon, it's as if I'm attacking you
> >         personally. Also, younger people have much less sense that
> >         things should last. I find that really disturbing.
> >
> > He has the turban part and many other details mixed up in his
> > interview, but
> > I think this sociology remark is interesting.  Why do people want
> > to attach to brands as deeply as tribal people would feel about
> > their icons?  I grew up in the 70's and then there was an
> > embarrassment
> > to wear clothing showing brands.  People ripped off the leather
> > tab on Levis.  This was the practise among ordinary
> > teenagers living in the sticks, who wore white Adidas shoes
> > with 3 blue stripes all winter long, not radicals of the left.
> >
> > Something to think about.
> I mentioned this to my wife, who just happens to be a sociologist, and
> she had this to say:
> I agree with the author's statement that you quoted in principle, I do
> not agree with his comparison between turbans and modern consumerism.
> >From a sociological perspective, the turban is a ritual and ceremonial
> symbol that dates back thousands of years. Where modern consumerism as
> we know it today is probably less than 60 years old.  So it begs the
> question which society is more stable?
> When we attach our self worth to disposable goods and services that are
> designed to harm our own best interests then we need to reexamine our
> collective wisdom.  People in western societies have lost their own
> power of innovation much like the Spanish did after they colonized South
> America and raped the continent of all its wealth. For hundreds of years
> thereafter they imported all of their goods and services there by
> depleting their ability to create ... they killed the craftsmen and
> within a few generations ... killed the crafts.
> In today's society, by following the same mindset we become the
> architects of our own demise.  When people personalize "things" they tie
> their own identity to consumer goods.  Considering these consumer goods
> are disposable in their view, does that make them disposable as well?
> Television has played a large part in suppressing innovation and
> rewarding consumerism.  It is what sociologists call rote learning.
> There is no interaction or debate.  A person's wants are now dictated as
> their needs. Without these goods and services, a person is somehow seen
> as inadequate or an underachiever.
> Those who are working with Linux to produce a far superior product are a
> threat because they demonstrate that one doesn't need the newest
> equipment [ software or hardware ] to perform well.
> Your question "Why do people want to attach to brands as deeply as
> tribal people would feel about their icons?".  It is because their
> innovation, skills, and artistry have been discouraged.  It is evident
> in every institution in our society, including schools, the work place,
> and even now in our own leisure activities.  The individual intelligence
> and innovation is scorned because it is a threat to the corporations and
> all of our institutions.  Someone who does not fit the collective mold
> is considered weird or an outcast.
> It is in the best interests of multi-national corporations (who own and
> operate government globally) to keep the masses in "group think" mode.
> It is evident daily in media where globalization is elevated to a
> position of distinction. Corporations have been personified and now have
> more rights and less responsibilities than the individual. We have
> become our own worst enemies.
> We in the Linux community should feel extremely proud of our
> accomplishments because we were self taught, we broke the mold.  Yet,
> somehow we feel on the defensive.  Why aren't we celebrated by our
> peers?

That was an amazing analysis and worthwhile read, at least to me.

Incidently, what I think the author was trying to say in the first two
sentences was that saying anything negative about the iPod
before young people was similar to being a member of the
Taliban, or something like it, within our predominate culture.

Thanks for those comments.  The one about being
a threat because we demonstrate there is no need for the
newest hardware and software, could be also characterized
by saying Linux/Open Source demonstrates there is no
requirement for proprietary software.  I would say Open Source,
and IETF standards have been part of a force to push companies
away from proprietary formats and methods, which used to
be the gold mine maker in the software industry.

Recently the proprietary stuff has been moving into
hardware drivers: first soft modems, then popular brand
3D graphics cards, and wireless devices, and printers
which only accept raster bitmap dump from Windows driver
(e.g. HP JetReady printers).  One reason this has happened is
to save on hardware costs by offloading tasks to drivers, but
it makes the vendors afraid of losing their Intellectual Property.
Only the major computer brands like Dell, HP, IBM, etc
could put a stop to this, by requiring Linux drivers as
part of the hardware component deliverable.  The day
that happens, Linux on the desktop will become a full success.


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