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Toxic Green Sex and Secret Fat Cancer

Those of us who love language like to argue that there's power in words. According to an article in today's New York Times, some words are more powerful than others, especially six of the seven found in this entry's title. To get better press pickup and to enhance the findability of their clients' stories on the Web, public relations professionals now use, unsurprisingly, keyword density tools to analyze their press releases.

I found this article disappointing in two ways. First, I'd love to know how the New York Times editions published over the last month or, better yet, year fare in keyword density analysis. How many buzzwords make their way into Times articles or headlines, and how often? And even if the Times successfully avoids keywords, what are their most common words? Such graphics seem ripe for posting as a Web-only adjunct to the article.

Second, it would have been nice to get some analysis on how newer technology is trumping their use of older keyword-based technology. Referral and crowd-sourcing sites, such as Digg, must mitigate some of the effects of targeted keywords. The localization of search renders much of what's not in your immediate vicinity invisible. And semantic tools, which move far beyond simple keyword matching, are getting better and more mainstream every day. How are marketers responding to the inevitability of such technological enhancements?


Blind Justice

People demand, not unreasonably, a certain degree of insight into human nature from certain professionals. Physicians fit in this category, as do attorneys and judges. They're the ones who see us at our best and our worst, who keep the wheels of our day-to-day lives greased, and who are often the ones we turn to to fix things when our lives are somehow broken.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court overturned a Washington, DC, handgun ban, deeming it in a 5-4 decision that the ban violated the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia wrote for the majority:

There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: . . . it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. [A PDF of the opinion is available for download on SCOTUSblog.]
Regardless of which side of the case you fall on, I think we can all agree that Scalia showed little insight into human nature with the above statement.

Can you imagine waking one night to find a stranger in your house, point a handgun at him, and dial the phone for help? Add to that a twitchy intruder who, no doubt, is frantically trying to talk you out of shooting him/turning him, while he scans the room for likely escape routes.

And even one does manage the wherewithal to multitask under those conditions, imagine how pleased the cop will be to hear from the 911 dispatcher that a gun is involved in their latest call.


People Are Born without Earlids

The 1964 presidential campaign spurred one of the most influential TV ads in history. Known as the Daisy Ad, this spot aired only once but is still widely discussed in media circles as having changed the course of political advertisement. In it a little girl's counting of daisy petals transitions into a countdown to a nuclear blast.

Whether or not the commercial tipped the balance in Lyndon Johnson's favor over Barry Goldwater, we'll never know for certain. However, it certainly left an indelible mark on the psyches of Americans as to the danger of nuclear power. The creator of that commercial, Tony Schwartz, died yesterday.

Adman, agoraphobe, audio documentarian, and media thinker, Schwartz left perhaps an even bigger mark, if not as spectacular, in radio. Unlike many who predicted that video would kill the radio star, Schwartz was convinced that radio would live on because it connects with humans in a more visceral way.

He once said, as quoted in the New York Times:

The most important thing to realize is that people are born without earlids. So what determines what people hear or listen to? Very simply, they listen to anything that concerns or interests them.

I remember when I was looking for a mortgage, I heard every mortgage commercial. The day I got my mortgage, they stopped running them. I don't know how they knew.
This is so crucial to remember, especially now when true literacy no longer means just textual literacy, when the death of the recording industry doesn't mean the death of music, and when the struggle among multiple media for our attention doesn't mean the death of story and narrative art.


The Digital Revolution Is at Hand! (but first we need a revolution)

Two days ago Intel anthropologists released their "Technology Metabolism Index" (via Wired).

The map is a color-coded display of technology adoption by country, grays representing the latest adopters and reds representing the earliest adopters. Counter to our relative wealth, the United States makes a poor showing while such African nations as Mauritania, Senegal, and Kenya appear eager for the latest in technology.

This is actually not that surprising. Compared to the US, African nations tend to have smaller populations and more homogeneous cultural trends, more government regulation of industry (and, thus, less system standardization), and less legacy analog technology to convert from, making early adoption more feasible.

Particularly interesting, though, is their observation about Estonia's and South Korea's early adopting habits.

As for Estonia and South Korea, her team found that they both have agile governments, strong offline social networks, and major upheavals in living memory (the transition out of Communism and the Korean War). That raised the counterintuitive question: could turmoil actually be good for preparing people for disruptive technologies?