This week, University College London student union (UCLU) took the unusual step of banning a single song, Robin Thicke\’s Blurred Lines. It joins around 20 other UK student unions to do so. This is the latest development in the story of how the biggest song of the year became the most controversial of the decade: an unprecedented achievement, though not one that fills Thicke with pride.
Twenty-five years ago, soap operas were delivery systems for melodrama, cliffhangers, women’s issues, comedy and social critique, and, best of all, white-knuckle rides on the narrative express. Now? “Soaps are now just seen as something to fill the schedules,” says Phil Redmond, the TV producer who brought us Brookside and Hollyoaks. “There’s been a loss of vision.”
In the early 80s, the most popular soaps – Crossroads and Coronation Street – lost the plot: they had nothing to say about a Britain mired in Thatcher’s austerity years. Then, Brookside (1982-2003), set in a Liverpool suburb, and later EastEnders (1985-present), set in a fictionalised east London, gave the British soap a new lease of life by returning the genre to its manifest destiny: right down to the specially built cul-de-sac in suburban Merseyside and the faux-East End Albert Square in Hertfordshire, the new soaps were simulacra that told us about how we really lived. Brookside was, at the time, especially radical since it junked that staple notion of the British soap, that the action must revolve around the local pub. Instead, it depicted an all-too-recognisable, fragmented owner-occupying non-society of the kind for which the then prime minister proselytised.
This is a(nother) depressing read. Game developers create a game about game development (very meta) and then release a cracked version of the game in which you cannot win because of game piracy.
The result? over 90% of those playing the (8 dollar) game play the cracked version, and then hit the forums to complain about the piracy “feature” in the game.
When we released our very first game, Game Dev Tycoon (for Mac, Windows and Linux) yesterday, we did something unusual and as far as I know unique. We released a cracked version of the game ourselves, minutes after opening our Store.
I uploaded the torrent to the number one torrent sharing site, gave it a description imitating the scene and asked a few friends to help seed it.
This is a long, but always fascinating read. It’s the transcription of a speech by Steven Soderbergh, a State of Cinema address. He covers a lot of ground, and I could have pulled out any number of quotes, but I thought the one below was particularly interesting: an explanation of why the film industry doesn’t make more, cheaper movies, instead of all these blockbusters. The article starts with Soderbergh’s horror that a fellow passenger on a 5-hour plane flight was watching a number of movies on his iPad by skipping through all the dialogue and just watching the explosive action sequences.
You can read the full article, or listen to the audio of the speech, but the whole thing is worth a read. Snip:
So then there’s the expense of putting a movie out, which is a big problem. Point of entry for a mainstream, wide-release movie: $30 million. That’s where you start. Now you add another 30 for overseas. Now you’ve got to remember, the exhibitors pay half of the gross, so to make that 60 back you need to gross 120. So you don’t even know what your movie is yet, and you’re already looking at 120. That ended up being part of the reason why the Liberace movie didn’t happen at a studio. We only needed $5 million from a domestic partner, but when you add the cost of putting a movie out, now you’ve got to gross $75 million to get that 35 back, and the feeling amongst the studios was that this material was too “special” to gross $70 million. So the obstacle here isn’t just that special subject matter, but that nobody has figured out how to reduce the cost of putting a movie out. There have been some attempts to analyze it, but one of the mysteries is that this analysis doesn’t really reveal any kind of linear predictive behavior, it’s still mysterious the process whereby people decide if they’re either going to go to a movie or not go to a movie. Sometimes you don’t even know how you reach them. Like on Magic Mike for instance, the movie opened to $38 million, and the tracking said we were going to open to 19. So the tracking was 100% wrong. It’s really nice when the surprise goes in that direction, but it’s hard not to sit there and go how did we miss that? If this is our tracking, how do you miss by that much?
The BBC has a story about the results of a “huge survey” they undertook (and then again, on a smaller, more scientific scale), which, they say, leads to the conclusion that there are (now) seven social classes.
Personally, I’m not happy with their use of the word “class” here – it’s playing to the British obsession with class, but I think these are classifications rather than classes.
I also think that the BBC appear to have inadvertently (re)invented the classic Young and Rubicam international market segmentation (cross-cultural consumer characterisations) known as the 4Cs.
My students will remember from class that the 4Cs match social classification against values in coming up with seven groups, which are:
Resigned, Struggler, Mainstream, Aspirer, Succeeder, Explorer, and Reformer.
I’ve always liked the 4Cs, not least because they factor in values as well as income, meaning (for example) that Explorers and Reformers may have less money than Succeeders, but are more adventurous consumers of both goods and media.
The new survey has also factored in forms of “wealth” other than the economic capital that separates the 1% from the rest of us. They call these social and cultural capital respectively. Young and Rubicam bundled these together as “values”, which seems both more vague and simpler.
Here’s a flavour of what the BBC’s survey has concluded:
Elite – the most privileged group in the UK, distinct from the other six classes through its wealth. This group has the highest levels of all three capitals
Established middle class – the second wealthiest, scoring highly on all three capitals. The largest and most gregarious group, scoring second highest for cultural capital
Technical middle class – a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy
The groups are divided as follows: Elite; Established Middle Class; Technical Middle Class; New Affluent Workers; Traditional Working Class; Emergent Service Workers; and Precariat, or Precarious Proletariat.
It seems to be that, unlike the 4Cs with their emphasis on values, these new classifications still give more weight to economic wealth, and also hint that it’s quite hard to shift between groups. In economic terms, this is probably true. The Emergent Service Workers of today are unlikely to ever have the economic capital of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, who have wealth locked up in pension funds and savings.
In fact, the “hidden” economic capital of pensions, savings, and investments is what separates the bottom four groups from the top four – far more than their so-called social and cultural capital.
Marx would dismiss social and cultural capital, of course, as comforting illusions. Follow the money is always the main message.
Which brings us back to that nebulous idea of values, which is something I prefer: rather than the clumsy “precariat”, for example, I understand the terms resigned and struggler. We all know what a succeeder looks like, and also aspirers. I think that values are a more powerful idea, in the end, and tell you far more about a person and their likely patterns of consumption and lifestyle.
I think there’s a lot more nuance than the seven new groups imply. I think “Emergent Service Workers”, with their high cultural and social capital and low economic capital will map quite effectively to reformers but also to explorers. Sometimes, these people will be leading hedonistic exploratory lifestyles; but others within the group will be trying to change the world.
And when it comes to changing the world, it’s far more important that people recognise the values they share in common than it is for people to envy those who have more economic capital.