Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We are the washing machine

The future as projected by American advertisers of the 20th century was of course bright and sparkling. But what gadgets and appliances made that possible? And were they "automatic" as advertised? What the hell do we mean when we say that word?
Over at Gizmodo, they ask the million-dollar question: what does "automatic" mean? It's safe to say that mid-century advertising culture didn't invent the concept and that it was, in some fundamental sense, an instantiation of a wider twentieth century fascination with with the automatic in its many guises. What is advertising, after all, but an attempt to generate reactions from consumers automatically. Edward Bernays, the "father" of public relations, explained the goal of PR and advertising this way: “Touch a nerve at a sensitive spot and you get an automatic response from certain specific members of the organism.”