MEDIACORE: AN ANALYTICAL MANIFESTO

0. Mediacore as a phenomenon can only be written about in the form of a brand manifesto because mediacore only exists as a series of improbable precepts.

1. It is, because we are feeling grand: a challenge, a shallow artistic investigation; a claim to think.

2. It is born out of the realisation, gained slowly then suddenly, as all existential realisations are, that capitalism dictates that we have to do mediocre shit to stay alive.

3. [And no we are not above making ‘mediocre / mediacore’ puns. In fact, it is probably our most saleable skill.]

4. Right now, an under-analyzed and reported upon majority of people in the developed world are engaged in making this mediocre shit. It is collectively, in one form or another, called ‘media’. In this case, the inverted commas are expansive, allowing almost any form of production of communications, messages and entertainment, in any industrial or post-industrial sector of the economy, to be in some way classified as ‘media’.

5. The variety of mediums, platforms and other channels utilised in the production of media is not the message of Mediacore.

6. Mediacore only exists through its messengers — but the message of these messengers is not the medium.

7. Think: the weaponized Nathan Barleys, the Soho (or SoHo, or Mission, or Pantin) elites, the storytelling elites –

8. except the joke is: they are not elite, because so many of them are doing it.

9. They — we, because we write of what we know, because we are what we know — are the faceless hordes now employed in indefinable, mid-level ‘media’ jobs’.

10. We are not unique. Even though we continue to believe that we are unique.

11. This is one of our key qualities — an ability to ignore screamingly obvious and salient evidence and data points that should, by rights, change the stories we tell ourselves, the wider world.

12. Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Flailing In Socials. Proof: here is an example of our ‘work’:

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No. We died before you did. We’ll die again when we tell you: the CMO wrote it.

13. Our claims to uniqueness are rather being destroyed however, by the fact that the fact that the lions share of what our economy makes now, and will continue to make in the future will be, or can be classified as ‘media’.

14. Yes, in the future, the brunt of this work will be done by machines of various different presences, and intellectual complexions.

15. But right now it is being done by their human precursors.

16. And what in we might claim as a cosmic joke, if we believed in a) higher supernatural powers, b) humour, it appears that one of the hallmarks of the Mediacore class is the behavioural ticks and style choices that make them appear machine-like.

17. Or, to use the pejorative: drones.

18. More formally: with current projections estimating that approximately 68% of all UK adults of working age will by 2030 be employed in ‘media’ we thought it timely to identify the hallmarks, aesthetic and intellectual, of this emergent and important new coterie of consumers and workers.

19. For ease of understanding, our base analysis takes in anybody who works in the following fields, or those adjacent to them:

  • Advertising: all those involved in the commissioning, development and making of any and all aspects of commercial communications, irrespective of mediums used, and audiences targeted
  • Lobbying: as above, but happen to be working to influence our political masters and their adjacents via the medium of, well, media
  • Marketing: as above, but happen to be working for the entities that are called ‘clients’
  • Public relations: as above, but have journalists, journalist-manques and other ne’er’dowells as their audience
  • Influencers: as above, but their qualifications for communications are based upon popularity gained elsewhere through other activities (sport, cleaning, cooking, dancing, being good looking, having sex in public on television etc).

20. If you want a shorthand: Deskjockey drones trapped in an ouroboros of media construction, consumption and deconstruction.

21. (Though of course most of what they do can be done on mobile phones also. They just like sitting a lot.)

22. Where a good day can be described as one where you “word your arse off for reasons”. What those reasons are does not, apparently, matter.

23. Where a successful day can be described as one where what those have words have led to — a tweet, a picture, a microfilm, a short film, an app, a blog, a post, a snippet of code — receives some sort of spiralling circulation amongst a disinterested yet ever increasing population size, and low-to-non existent approbation, as indicated by the weakest of physical interactions.

24. A click is a like is a heart is a love and is this is all you want from the mediated social relations you find yourself in now?

25. You will, by now, wondering why the word ‘content’ has not appeared yet in this analysis.

26. Because this is, we posit, the first indicator, the first ‘tell’ of Mediacore — that no one involved in it makes ‘content’. No one believes that their working hours are spent in producing this. They are always making something else.

27. Even though the people who matter — the financiers, the technologists, the accountants — tell them otherwise.

28. And does all this making of content make the Mediacore content?

29. The weak pun is the answer to the question’s own self-hatred.

30. The self-hatred comes from the second indicator of Mediacore: that we are far too good to be doing this shit.

31. We could have been contenders. Instead we are content-makers.

32. All our qualifications, emendations, commendations, and we end up doing this? Contributing only the trivial, the ephemeral, the insubstantial?

33. Yes, the problem solving bit is interesting; the difficulty is having to deal with and explain the solutions to, and we quote “all the morons”.

34. The response to this difficulty? To over-index on behaviourial, aesthetic and sartorial choices that emphasise Mediacore’s self-willed perception as different, aloof, unique.

35. What follows: a non-exhaustive list of these signifiers, beliefs, totems; all shallow, insignificant and yet vital to this distributed tribe.

36. The best and most original work doesn‘t originate in Berlin, London, or San Francisco. It comes out of Narbonne, Würzberg, or Stockton. So for those of us in Berlin, London, or San Francisco, we have failed in some way.

37. Our short-term ambition is for your work to be featured in Campaign, The Drum, or PR Week. Our dilemma is that everyone else‘s short-term ambition is exactly the same.

38. Our permanent embrace of the new destroys our stewardship of the old. We only realise this when it is too late to do anything about it.

39. Our wildly successful efforts in creating digital detritus are an environmental disaster, and yet we insist on believing that energy supermajors are the only bad guys.

40. And we know this digital detritus has fucked up our culture. And yet, we carry on, gumming up the wheels of our intangible civilization.

41. We do not read anything that’s not on a screen. All our writing is conducted on a phone so it can be seen optically.

42. We continue to facilitate the destruction of distance between people of distinction and everybody else, and now everyone believes they deserve glory. Which makes us sad, as it means our chance of glory has been lessened.

43. We publicly claim that we want to work on ‘challenger brands’, those upstarts aiming to depose market leaders. But the tendency of our behaviour belies us: we venerate power, especially market power, above all else.

44. Our dream is to make our work so mundanely predictable that we can monetise it as a one-button service. Our nightmare is that machines will do this before we can.

45. We know the storytelling elite will become a lot smaller soon, as it becomes clear that good enough machine words will be fine for most communications sent by most organizations most of the time.

46. This last one, this is the one that kills us, is killing us.

47. We know that our friends with talents in visual expression, direction, and storytelling, they will be fine. Idiosyncratic aesthetics are still prized, and will be for much longer still.

48. Words, though? No fucker cares about words.

49. And yet the Mediacore economy is driven by words, that no one reads, and fewer understand.

50. This paradox will be squared by artificial intelligence. Most communications, of all and every description will soon be written by machines — only to be read by other machines.

51. “If an AI writes some adcopy and no one reads it, does the copy make a sound?”

52. It won’t matter. But then, none of it ever did.

53. Which is a problem for those of us — all of us — who create our identities through the notion that we are creators, that we are part of the storytelling elite.

54. Here is the biggest story: the one we are telling ourselves. That we will be fine even though we know! because we see it up close, that automation really is going to do for 80% of all our jobs, because most of us are simply not clever or capable enough not to dodge the formula: ‘cheaper by machine in <10y’.

55. Most of our output could be replicated by GPT-3 right now. All of it will be by GPT-Next.

56. Which leaves what?

57. a silent screaming in the home offices of today, around the world. The screaming is an answer to the question: how does one ‘seize the means of production’ when one produces nothing?

58. Instead, we formulated a weak response: we shall seize the memes of production instead.

59. So we deserve the annihilation that is coming to us.

60. Performative screen grief. “Siri, apply the end to my selfies.”

Hunger, Fire, Harrumph.