Monday December 13, 2010
Well, it seems that the server move has passed off relatively well, and although there may have been a couple of hitches along the way, I’m now happily lodged on a new wind-powered server (I fondly imagine a server with a little windmill sticking out of the top; but reality it’s probably not like this – which on reflection is probably a good thing). And I’ve also come to the end of a busy couple of weeks of filling in various intriguing grant bids – one of which I may write about here on thinkBuddha if it turns out to be successful – so I’ve got a bit of time to get back to the business of actually writing stuff. Which is a good thing.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to fill in a questionnaire about my blogging practice, in connection with some PhD research. And it was good to have a chance to step back and reflect on what it is that I do here on thinkBuddha, and why I do it – particularly as I’ve been blogging here now for over five years, and over that period quite a lot has changed. But, anyway, one of the questions that was put to me was this: why don’t I carry advertising on this blog (other than the occasional plug for my own books, or for other things I think are interesting)?
There are, perhaps, several reasons. The first is that I’m almost certain that it would not be worth the trouble. Given the kind of traffic I get at thinkBuddha – respectable enough, no doubt, but this is hardly the hub of a giant media empire – the returns would be vanishingly small. The second reason is that I have no idea what I would advertise. Perhaps I could plug Buddhist kit like meditation cushions and singing bowls. Or iPad Buddhist apps of the meditation-timer, Dhammapada-verse-a-day variety. Or expensive five-star Caribbean cruises in the company of the famous Lama Dorje Logjam (high powered Tantric initiations thrown in free of charge). None of the above, however, feels as if it really reflects what I do on this blog or what my readership actually is. But the there is a third reason that is more principled in nature. And that is that I think that the omnipresence of advertising is something that should be resisted. One of the things I hope to do with this blog is to cultivate a certain kind of reflection; and I find that I can’t really reflect very well if I’m thinking about what tasty breakfast cereals Corn-ios are.
The last couple of decades have seen an increasing starry-eyed obsession with the world of business. These days, the business world is considered – bizarrely – to be something that is inherently good; and this has gone along in parallel with an increasing privatisation of the public sphere. This has meant an increasing infiltration of advertising into every corner of our lives. Schools and universities have deals with IT companies that involve the splashing of logos here and there. So-called ‘free’ applications for mobile devices stream continual click-through advertisements. Film-makers raise capital by shamelessly putting bottles of Dud beer, or whoever the sponsor happens to be, in every single shot. And people then pay for the privilege of seeing this stuff. This is, I think, a very bad thing. Psychologist Tim Kasser, in his book The High Price of Materialism, a survey of the harms of our collective obsession with getting and spending, suggests that we should declare advertising-free zones and suggests that advertising should be considered a form of pollution, on the grounds that the evidence seems to suggest (and Kasser surveys a lot of this evidence) that advertising is bad for our health.
So that is why thinkBuddha is an advertising-free zone (with the exception of the big, handsome book cover, and the banner that says “Buy my book” – hey, nobody’s perfect…). Advertising may have a place, but the omnipresence of advertising and its penetration into every corner of our lives clogs up the imagination and stifles the possibility of genuine reflection.
Anyway, I fancy a bowl of Corn-ios. They are apparently both tasty and nutritious. And much in favour amongst the beautiful people. At least, that’s what the advertisements told me…
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