MASSEDUCTION the new album by St. Vincent seems to have taken an age to come out following the amazing eponymous album, but it’s only been a couple of years. I was alerted to the fact that it might be imminent after her bizarre performance of the single ‘New York’ on the BBC’s Later… with Jools Holland alongside performances by Beck and Robert Plant. I’m still having a good listen, I love her voice, and I’m finding it just as good as the last album and it’s not too much of a departure from its eclectic sounds and electronica. It reminds me a lot of Prince in places, but that really isn’t a bad thing.
I’ve been reading a lot of stuff recently, not just Philip K Dick short stories, and there’s been a bit of clash in my head thinking about three books in particular:
- The Circle by Dave Eggers
- Off – Your Digital Detox to a Better Life by Tanya Goodin
The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott
The Circle is a near-future science fiction story based on the rise of information and social networking giant ‘The Circle’ (imagine Facebook merging with Google) from the point of view of Mae a new starter at their headquarters in fictional Bay Area city San Vincenzo. It’s actually not at all science fictiony in the traditional sense. It starts of introducing the organisation and its utopian targets and page by page descends into painting a picture of a future that feels only a few steps away from contemporary digital-obsessed culture.
It reads like a novelisation of an extended Black Mirror episode. All the ideas the developers at The Circle come up with sound quite plausible and well-meaning. The privacy issues surrounding each one are largely left to the reader to deduce and it worries me that some people might read it and think ‘wow I wish the future was like this!’. The Circle eventually comes across as essentially a cultish monopolistic power intent on superseding democracy by allowing everyone access to everyone’s information.
It’s a powerful book which sits comfortably alongside 1984 and Brave New World in creating a picture of how might feasibly arrive at the dystopias contained within the other books. It is one of the best books I have read this year.
Off is a very small book I picked up from Amazon Vine. It is a self-help guide for those who recognise that they are spending too much time staring into their phones and not actually having real interactions with people or actually being properly ‘present’. Ever been out with friends and found that you are all sitting there staring at social media on your screens and not actually talking to each other properly? Well this book is for you.
All the individual behaviours that are caricatured in The Circle and form the underpinning of how the fictional organisation can come to power are challenged by Off. The advice at times is rather reductionist and can come across as patronising and trite, but for some people it may be entirely necessary.
We are all spending too much time checking likes and comments on our posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (, WordPress!) etc. It’s really not good for the functioning of your mind or your body. There’s lots of tips and tricks from Goodin to try and help ween you off your devices and get some decent sleep and quality time with chums. Also take a look at itstimetologoff.com.
Finally, kind of in-between Off and The Circle lies The New Rules of Marketing. It’s in its seventh edition I think and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide in over twenty languages. The subtitle is How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly. I got it to help with my job as I’m a little more involved now helping the external communications team in their efforts to promote our company.
All the individual behaviours that are caricatured in The Circle and form the underpinning of how the fictional organisation can come to power are the underpinnings for The New Rules. Meerman Scott is quite convincing in his argument that the days of flashy expensive television commercials and killer press releases written by PR teams ad agencies are long gone. Now everything you need in terms of marketing your services, product, cause or charity is available at very low or for free in the form of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (, WordPress!) etc. This book tells you how best to go about exploiting these free resources.
I’m cutting and pasting here so you can see how the three books are causing some messy thoughts in my head. On the one hand I dread the seemingly inevitable future painted by The Circle as big data extends its tendrils everywhere, people become ‘like’ junkies and individual privacy is continuing to be eroded, and I want to follow the advice of Off. I’m finding Facebook increasingly tedious and I worry about how long Siggy and I spend on social media.
On the other hand I want to try hard and follow Meerman Scott’s sagely marketing advice in The New Rules of Marketing and really put myself out there in my spare time to promote my novels, and of course try and follow his advice as much as practical at work. And of course I’m wondering how to increase traffic to this blog. Doing posts with a title which doesn’t indicate the content like ‘Weekly Ramble No. 32’ probably isn’t helping 🙂
The featured image by the way is an adaptation of something from The British Library’s Flickr collection.