Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Spam Vs. Media Literacy: Machiavelli's Choice

Dropped into our school student discussion folder this afternoon:
Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused animals neglected animals....This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising.

My response:

In other words, it DOES cost you something to visit the site -- you're paying with your time, your attention, your subconscious recognition of products and corporate signals, and your willingness to be exposed to advertising. Some might even say your "cost" here is a little tiny bit of your soul. Or your independence in a mass media culture. Or your integrity.

Then, by telling ten people to tell ten people, you're also doing the work OF those advertisers -- shilling for them, bringing your friends in to see their ads knowingly. Do the ends (animal rights orgs get little tiny donations) justify the means (advertisers get you, and you give them your friends)?

I'm not suggesting people shouldn't go to these sites. I am suggesting, however, that when you go, you know the stakes of going. It is important to remember that advertisers don't give money away out of the goodness of their hearts, and that it is in advertisers' best interests to get you to think that anything with no MONETARY cost has no COST/VALUE, which isn't at all true.

Personally, I feel more secure about myself (and feel more sure that I was not being suckered in by advertisers) when I make an actual cash donation to the organizations in question. At least then I'm not selling off my integrity, piecemeal -- I'm actually choosing to support an organization I trust with my own time and money rather than perpetuating the overwhelming blanket of signals and cues of a corporate culture. I like myself better this way -- and isn't that what counts?

posted by boyhowdy | 3:40 PM |

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