On Manipulation, Art, & Designing For Emotions

The premier question in any contest in the United States will eventually always boil down to numbers. Typically, with the number on your bank account balance trumping all others.


In the movie, “love jones”, (and yes, it is spelled with the lowercase type for the initial letters), we find an exceedingly immature couple of artistic types on a romantic roller coaster across the country for the spell of one-hundred and ten minutes. If you are still reading this after I made that particular assessment of one of the most compelling and influential romantic movies of my generation, then I am probably a more respected writer than my PayPal account suspects. No, all jokes aside, in the movie ‘love jones’, the character, Darius Lovehall(played by Larenz Tate) makes a statement regarding artists and definition when he is written to say:


“The true goal of an artist is to create the definitive work that cannot be surpassed”


And like many, I took that particular sentence to heart. In it, and mainly in the ideal of “definition”, and most importantly, in the ideal of that which is “definitive” or “that which defines”, I believe as humans that enjoy creating and have found a voice or an identity within the community of creators, we tend to find the most enjoyment. Until, of course, we begin to pair up with the hustlers and business men, and learn the ideas that drive successful capitalists. Either that, or a bill is late. Whichever comes firstly, of course.


Creation can be easy. Creation can be simple.


For some, it is a matter of reproducing with a canvas. For others it is molding the spark of an idea into an exploding explanation of pain. Regardless of which metaphor best suits one’s particular experience, one thing holds true for us all: food, clothing, and shelter will ultimately be a consideration at some point in our day. As a given coupled with a society of people programmed to glorify the wealthy, to celebrate the most sold above the most well crafted, it is utterly impossible to avoid the cliché in art.


To master a craft demands that techniques be developed and honed in order to not have to recreate wheels everyday. Those techniques that are found to produce the most sought after works(read: purchased), will of course become the techniques that everyone wants to use. This is even– and mostly– from those that have no love for the craft beyond its financial and political usefulness. Even those persons that love the craft can find them Selves mired in consumerist practices to pay bills yielding commercially successful, yet overly formulaic pieces.


Unfortunately, for my Self, these are the very thoughts behind art as design, and writing as blogging. The techniques of the artist: color schemes, closure, continuation, and the like, are used to manipulate the emotional body of the viewer for the purpose of clicks, reduced bounce rates, and increased conversion percentages. In my trade, design is touted as “communication”, but it is not just communication. It is a certain form of communication. When we are speaking of graphic design, the implication is sales.


The ideal of web design is not to just get a response regarding the aesthetic of a site or banner ad, but to elicit an action toward purchasing or returning with a desire to be a part of a community. When someone says,”by design”, they mean something done with the intent to yield a desired result. They mean manipulation. It is art as objectifying tool. Design is the intentional use of “ahs” and whatever onomatopoeia that fits there to change behavior.


And I understand the semiology behind a symbol or cue such as the word,”manipulation”. It has a “bad” connotation. It makes us feel less humane. We begin to itch as the greasiness of the symbol’s expressed meaning vibrates through our nervous system, echoing its perceived sentiments throughout the epidermis. But what is purpose if not manipulative? The very techniques of onomatopoeia, hyperbole, rhyme scheme, and metaphor used by poetic engineers throughout the ages have been with a desired purpose of eliciting a certain response from readers and listeners.


Do we think that AT&T just put a camera in a very well lit daycare center and accidentally arranged their spokesman in the middle of precocious children? Do we not think that at some point prior an assessment of the “cute factor” and its emotional tug on the viewer’s mind had been made by those that must place signatures on lines to signify the authorized permission to spend money on such things as cameras, cameramen, lighting, and well placed witty spokesmen?


And yet, although I probably will not be signing up to AT&T because of a few really entertaining pre-schoolers(my gawd, the “more is better/we want more” girl should be in the advertising history books next to Mikey), I was thoroughly delighted, and more importantly, I am writing about AT&T. That means it was effective and had impact. Yet, the more they attempt to rehash that technique, the more I compare the new batch of children’s responses and exchanges to the ones I was tickled by the most. Design techniques have to be used carefully, no matter how much we think we have something mastered.


Mastery of a few techniques that have worked over time will either lead one to develop their own language(signature style), or it will lead them to be regarded as formulaic. We are all users. It is when we are abused that most of us begin to take security measures. As we should, no doubt. Yet, in being used, in having my senses manipulated, I do want something in return.


I enjoy watching Aaron Macgruder’s The Boondocks. I think his series of cartoons have become a staple in the US Black culture, if not US culture en totale(which brings up a good design discussion: you know, US Blacks historically never saw an all-White cast performance and assumed it was “just” for White people;and hell, even if we did, we would just figure out away to disrupt the Jim Crow policy!). What makes his brand so compelling is that he has found a signature that is not formulaic, but if mishandled could easily be. He has not just blended adult humor and children’s animation, he has fused hip hop and anime, two very distinct cultures of art with rich contextual histories. That is Aaron being creative;but there is also a method, a purposeful use of the creativity. For The Boondocks is satire, and it is effective satire. Not only is it entertaining visually, and sonically, it adds another element of social commentary, that actually deals with critically salient topics.


I look at the Boondocks’ use of anime and its score in the same vein as I might look at a web site that uses a nationalistic motif for its color scheme. The colors red, black, and green immediately elicit certain reactions in certain people. I look at the topics discussed in the Boondocks as the content of the web site. No matter how great the design, and how masterful the designer utilizes certain techniques, if the content is garbage, well, garbage in, garbage out. I do not mind being used, I mind being taken advantage of. I do not mind a person needing to recognize what emotional strings they should be pulling to get me to something I find valuable. I mind you doing such and your overall product is that bullshyt.


When it comes to money, there are great advantages to possessing a great product as well as great advantages in being able to be accessible. I do not want anyone to think I am against earning money, or convincing others to give me money. I support the art of design. I support the formulation of techniques and the study of semiology for the purpose of understanding how symbols and cues work within the cultures that they work within.


I do not support mediocrity well hyped, although I might be inclined to applaud the hype and its practitioner. I do not mind being used;I use the oxygen and the plant life as well as meat of sentient beings to further my own physical and biological existence. Life is the only ecosystem, and I respect my place in it, and realize that something or someone must use me in order to exist in the same manner that I MUST USE others to exist.


I do not mind creative means to capture my attention created by someone that must use me. I, too, create means using cues and symbols that evoke emotional responses for the purpose of eliciting certain behavior for things that I need. Michael Jackson was a master at capturing my attention and with good purpose. A masterful entertainer that provided me with good entertainment, and insightful content with which I was pleased to give my money and attention towards.


Michael Joseph Jackson is not history’s greatest entertainer because he made a lot of money;Michael made a lot of money because he was history’s greatest entertainer, there is a nuance there that must be taken into consideration. And I do not want to give my attention to those that just want a lot of attention without being also great at their craft. Design how you need to appeal to who you need to, but please be ever mindful of what you are offering as content. Do not design the greatest titles for links that lead to lackluster bodies of content. It is a waste of my time, and it only serves to weaken your brand.

Thirty Days Of Poetry Challenge(Day fifteen(2012))

Like Osiris
Across the lines of time
but I create days
you just count the ways
but your perspective: ego centic
I’m beyond heliocentric
I’m naturally scripted
But you sense only what sight did
and seeing for you is written as predominantly blinded
short sighted
See I’m still standing
while your riding deep on the planet
how it was planned
but if you need to believe
I’m headed for death on crosses
or simply falling asleep
By all means…
sunset or sunrise
I’m always doing me…

I Am Me By Universal Law…

There is a guy who played with hot wheels and tonka trunks during his childhood. He only had a couple and had to trade other children for theirs in order to possess more. He spent a considerable amount of time playing “that’s my car” while growing up. He didn’t study Neitchze like myself, or ponder the ideas of Elijah Muhammad like me, but he studied the make and model of all of the lines of Mustang and Impala. He can tell you which types of exhaust pipes you should purchase, just as fast I can tell you which speech a particular quote of Malcolm came from.

And when I went out and got a degree, he went to work and bought a real car. He put as much work into that car as I have put into this blog and my literary career. He put those big rims on his car, like I’m putting all of these big thoughts into your head. That guy is one of my best friends.

My interests don’t have to be the interests of every member of the black race. That should not be a consideration, actually. The customs and cultures of every people on the face of the earth at some point converge the material. Is the Mexican any less a contributor to his community because he has mastered the art of car design? Is the white guy who has been practicing his pitch since he was in the backyard throwing wiffle balls at his father’s hands any less a contributor to his race because he plays baseball?

My “blackness” is not a limit, it is not a “scope”. There is no range of expression. I am black. The apple is an apple because it is. We as a people who have been forced to unite under very trying conditions should still not be forced to have to act and like the same things. As a political group, sure, there are things that I expect…being able to dance isn’t one of them. Sorry.

There is this dichotomy within the American Black community that has to be addressed. My background doesn’t infringe on my foreground, the universe is the greatest artist and writer. My story is perfect for the universe. My degree, my educated-ness doesn’t stop me from walking through the projects and my family waving at me.

Sure, I can write in syncopated seconds, and enunciate every syllable with a crispness that would make Frederick Douglas proud. I can also cook crack and bring it back with at least a two third measure extra on it. Now what?

My political ties to the Black peoples of the US do not infringe my habits, or hobbies. I define Black. I add to and take from that definition by my presence and activity. I create the new paradigms that others will CHOOSE to conform to. I borrow from other cultures what I feel like, and remix them with a Mile Davis cut, and give them to you in my Malcolm X voice.

I am Black by social conditions, I am ME by universal law.

“The Fucks Your Problem?”

ART is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions.

SCIENCE is comprehensive information on any subject, but the word is especially used for information about the physical universe.

I don’t know.

Like most people, much of my daily musings and ruminations center around the question of Life’s purpose for me. We all should act in a manner that is consistent with what we would like to achieve here in the multiverse, Life, existence, whatever, and in that expression of free will, we ought to develop an understanding of our particular set of traits and patterns of opportunity. Our particular social rhthym should be highly studied once it has developed strongly enough not to alter once we begin to observe it. Continuing…

I said all that because I just made a statement on twitter that sort of shook me. I simply said, “Check out a few of my pieces of artistic science here: http://jayfarand.deviantart.com/”. In that statement, the use of the term “artistic science” caused me to think a bit about how I put words together. Even more so when I’m discussing myself at a very honest pitch. It would be extremely naive of me to think that those moments of clarity don’t come with a more macrocosmic understanding of the totality of what is “J. Farand” or “Owl” as you know me. I don’t fear death any more than I fear being late on a bill payment. It is not something I want, but if it happens…*Imhotep shrug*. What I do know about accepting the reality of death, and the reality of anything really, is that you are better able to deal with it. If no one were to accept death, then the whole field of cryonics would be null and void. Read that again.

In order to even cheat death, you have to first accept the reality of death. That is true for most things we run from. In accepting death, you can begin to plan in a more mature fashion. You can begin to assess your purpose for living on earth better. I will not be here forever. No matter how much I respect the process of growth and learning, I DON’T have all damn day. I have to scientifically assess what the hell I’m doing here before I get my chance to roast marshmallows with my friends in hell. The scientific process of assessing purpose is no different than any other process. We make a hypothesis andd we experiment with that hypothesis, we observe that which has been hypothesized in various conditions while controlling for one particular condition.

1. We make an assumption about why we are here.

2. We make note of how that assumption holds true through various situations, while remembering that each circumstance is different, therefore must be compared to more normal conditions.

3. Remember that the observer alters the observered in a very real way.

4. Rewind and repeat…

We all have things that have interested us on this path. We all have found reasons to do the things we have done. But how many of us have dedicated our lives to something until death? I have yet to find something that exists in this multi-dimensional place we call the universe that doesn’t serve a purpose for something else that exists in this universe. The universe itself is the organism that we are simply cells, possibly simply protoplasts, of. But my body creates and manages my cellular society in such a way that each cell created has purpose and is purposeful. If my small portion of mind, the portion of my own mind and body that I am often unaware of, unconscious of, can do this for me, what am I that the mind of the universe has done for something much bigger? What are you the cell of that needed you to exist?

Purpose. Nia.

For me, these ruminations and musings allow the clarity to be defined as a purpose. If I name it, I’m keeping that name to myself, until the world gives me a name because I can no longer contain my life’s purpose within myself. Similar to a practice of the elders. I plan on taking the two names and owning them both. I think you should do the same.

Be a little confident in your hypothesis of your life’s purpose.

In the American Black culture, we name a thing by its actuality. Sometimes based on an event, physical characteristics, attributes in actions, or behavioral quirks. This is not something isolated to our particular section of pan-afrikan culture, these are the practices of our elders that have even been lost in most of the cultures that exist today raised on the continent of Afrika proper. The purpose of the American Black has always been to remind humanity of what evil incarnate looks like in thought and in deed. We are the children of people who were sold by the rich and mighty. We are the children of people were maimed, raped, sliced open during pregnancy, forced by law to be illiterate and we are still affected by that trauma. No other people in the known history of seven continents has our story. None has our purpose. No other ethnic or cultural grouping of black afrikan descendants has our story. None. We as a people have a great purpose in Life’s scheme. And so do you…

Erykah Badu’s Window Seat: All The Groupthinkers Get Down On The Floor…

The voice that is heard is often the opinion that gets voiced the most afterwards…


“Can I get a window seat…don’t want nobody next to me…I just want a chance to fly…a chance to cry…” – Erykah Badu, “Window Seat”(2010)


So, I’ve been on a twitter Hiatus, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been losing hits to the blog. Eh…what can you do right? Sometimes spiritual health is more important than ratings and hits. In essence, I’ll still be away for awhile, but I’ve sort of grown accustomed to blogging at this rate of one post a day, so, I’ll attempt to keep it up.



If you are on a mobile device, click link here for video(mp4 format) of Erykah Badu’s Window Seat


So what should I find when I check through a few of my other favorite social media sites….Erykah “On and On” Badu has put out another video(of course, we are going to discuss Erykah Badu’s Window Seat, did you not see the video and Erykah Badu’s booty?). Not one to critique the grand mind and artist that most brothers in the community credit with transforming Dre from Outkast to Andre3000, well, let us say I wouldn’t dare critique this piece without due diligence. The video opens up with a voice over of the original broadcast of President Kennedy’s arrival in Texas, and the news of gathering crowds to see the former President before his assassination. Before the crisp static of the broadcaster’s voice begins, we are told that the video is “Inspired By Matt and Kim”. That inspiration would be the video of indie group “Matt and Kim” that stripped down to their born day skinnies while walking down New York City’s Time Square.



Although I must say Mz. Badu is looking real nice for a sister that has had three children. I’m not going to even qualify my manhood. She looks right. And yes, fellas, I saw the bubble bounce. Of course, I also read the words “Evolving” written across her back. The question is what does one take away from this? What does the evolution of Mz. Badu mean for the rest of us who have gotten over the fact that we probably will not ever get a chance to palm the exposed one’s callipygian? In the retelling of Black Afrikan Amerikkkan(Black African American) history, will we not recall this as that time Erykah Badu got naked in that video? Will Black history remember the artistic penetration Erykah was pioneering when Erykah Badu went nude in a video?


And yeah, I’m being slightly facetious with Erykah Badu’s Window Seat. I understand the degree of courage it must have taken the sister to strip naked in downtown Dallas. The question remains, and lets not get too persnickety here…I witnessed the culture of Black Women in the US go from yelling about a rough neck, to practicing the 5% teachings, to practicing the ancient rituals and beliefs of the
Yoraba. We all have had our spiritual transitions, and even our political ones. The question is, what is Mz. Booty Badu’s naked commentary on groupthink going to influence? You do realize that Erykah Badu’s Window Seat, her exhibition, will now also be a part of a particular range of groupthink?


Well, before we discuss this, what exactly is groupthink?


The phrase coined by William H. Whyte in 1952 as the title of an article in Fortune Magazine.(source). In that article it is written,”Groupthink is becoming a national philosophy…Groupthink being a coinage — and, admittedly, a loaded one — a working definition is in order. We are not talking about mere instinctive conformity — it is, after all, a perennial failing of mankind. What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity — an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.”


The phrase is given considerably more concentration through the work of Irving Janis. Irving Janis in 1972 “used the term ‘groupthink’ to describe the type of decision making that occurs in groups that are highly cohesive, insular and have directed leadership.”(Newell, Lagnado, Shanks, 2007, p. 202) Janis is quoted as stating that “groupthink-dominated groups were characterized by strong pressures towards uniformity, which inclined their members to avoid raising controversial issues, questioning weak arguments, or calling a halt to soft-headed thinking”(Jani & Mann, 1977, p. 130).


Janis considered and put together a model of the groupthink, and delineated the symptoms of groupthink:


-the illusion of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encourgaging extreme risk taking;


-collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings that might lead members to reconsider their assumptions;


-an unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of the group, inclining members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of decisions;


-stereotyped views of rivals and enemies as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate;


-direct pressure on any members that express strong arguments against any of the group stereotypes;


-self-censorship of doubts or counterarguments that a member might have in order to create an illusion of unanimtiy within the group; and


-the emergence of self-appointed ‘mindguards’ who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter shared complacency about the effectivenss and morality of the group’s decision.


Now, back to bare back Badu…


We are given a metaphor. The butterfly. Well, the reversed butterfly…(I coined that if you do porn). The naked woman. The black naked woman. The assassination. The social group as herd. The human as fish, and prone to form schools as such. Much of what is addressed as the bootyful Badu returns to her nativity, commits a very real act(that guy behind her probably doesn’t have much time to wait to get those clothes she’s so daintily tossing behind her…), this is a real act of transformation…but how much is it diverging from groupthink? I don’t know yet…what are your thoughts?