Last week I learned a curious new verb. According to the OED, to gazump is to make a higher offer for a house than someone whose offer has already been accepted by the seller, and thus succeed in acquiring the property. An Urban Dictionary definition is more straight-forward, to buy something already promised to someone else.
All of the tube and train advertisements have been pulled.
‘Non-essential’ workers are house-bound, their roaming eyes aloft dark, fleshy pillows no longer held hostage for the duration of the commute by the proposition of hair plugs, a new mattress, dinner on demand.
Marketing budgets have been halted, or diverted from the public to domestic sphere, as the economy tanks and businesses scramble to compress fiscal haemorrhaging.
I was re-shelving returns during my first shift at the library, earlier in the year, when a particular dewey decimal code led me to the location of Naomi Klein’s No Logo. Feeling compelled, I duly swapped one book for another.
It’s been twenty years since this book was first published, so it doesn’t shock in the way I imagine it once did. Yet its basic tenets are still relevant – the rise of corporate branding since the 80s has seen the hijacking of the public domain, co-optation of culture and community, the duplicity of ‘choice’ as conglomerates dominate, and the outsourcing of employment and along with it risk, responsibility and rights – no space, no choice, no jobs.
In response to the book, The Economist titled its September 8th, 2001, issue ‘Pro Logo: Why brands are good for you’ and ran its lead story ‘Who’s wearing the trousers?’. As its title suggests, the article argues that in our increasingly competitive brandscape consumers hold the power, “Brands fall from grace and newer, nimbler ones replace them”.
While it is true that we ‘vote’ through our purchases, it can be difficult to align our ‘vote’ with our values, without the full picture. ‘Brand’ is always an edited narrative, which can be as much about concealment as it is about articulation. From the context of lockdown, it has been a relief to escape the noise. In the Brave New World we have the opportunity to rebuild when we emerge, I would hope for two things:
- greater respect for physical spaces in the public domain, where educational institutions, parks, public transport and infrastructure would remain free of advertising or product placement
- consumer demand for transparency ensures that only ethical brands survive
While speed refers to the rate at which something occurs, the rate to which it now refers is almost exclusively quick. This simple transformation, that speed now means going fast, in itself speaks volumes of our accelerated age.Jeremy Millar and Michiel Schwarz (1)
This chapter aims to validate a suspicion of acceleration; it argues our acclimatisation to this condition; expresses concern for its impact on the mind and body; and examines the three realms of conflict raised in the research question – individual reflection, labour and common space.
Published alongside a twinned exhibition at The Whitechapel and Photographer’s Galleries in 1998, Speed—Visions of an Accelerated Age gathers essays and art that address ‘the defining theme of our age’. Editors Millar and Schwarz write, ‘Speed is all around us; we can feel its effects even if we are unable to see it. Speed is both forceful and immaterial, like the turbulence from a moving vehicle, like the thrust of a jet, like a good idea. Speed can blow us away’. (3) Comparably, actress Fanny Kemble recounts her first railway journey in 1830, ‘You can’t imagine how strange it seemed to be, journeying on thus without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace’. (4) As speed continues to ‘blow us away’, it is no longer ‘strange’ but our habitual mode of existence.Read more