« Amazing minihompy moment | Main | Schools as gated communities? »

December 14, 2005

Semiotic pollution

My attention was drawn by offbrand to an article by Owen Gibson in The Guardian entitled ‘Shoppers eye view of ads that pass us by’. Owen used a recently developed set of spectacles, connected to a video camera and recording device, to monitor the quantity of marketing messages to which the modern consumer is exposed. "To cut to the chase" says offbrand, "Owen saw 250 adverts during a 90 minute journey through central London - for more than 100 brands in over 70 different media - and this is before you factor in any spam texts or emails that might have fallen into his inbox during this period. And the number of adverts he could recall, unprompted? One". This is excellent ammo for my periodic rants about the semiotic pollution (a term coined by Ezio Manzini) perpetrated by the morons of adland. Until now, I've been quoting a rather old study by Absolut Vodka, in NYC, which discovered that Manhattanites are exposed to 250 messages in a morning.
What I also want to know is this: what are the physiological consequences of the large, high intensity LED screens of the kind that gave me a headache in Kings Cross Station in London this morning? I'm collecting evidence that push media in public spaces are bad for our bodies as well as what's left of our minds.

Posted by John Thackara at December 14, 2005 07:55 AM


Hi John
An interesting note in relation to your post is the way we give different spaces different status. Spaces and surfaces that we care about and treasure we keep free from semiotic pollution, while we freely open up all other spaces for pollution. So, maybe we should be more careful how we design our environment so there are less space that we don't care about.
So, what about the "semiotics pollution" on your page (here on the left I can right now read at least five ads). Maybe that is a space you don't care about ;-) In all friendliness!!
Erik Stolterman

Posted by: Erik Stolterman at December 17, 2005 05:58 AM

I have not seen really detailed research about the visual pollution of moving image screens. Sure there have been protest agains LED billboards, especially if hey are connected with sound... Even the Zuidas Screen project in Amsterdam with 80 noncommercial content caused a lot protest by the nearby companies.

Anne Cronin does some interesting research at the Sociology Department Lancaster University, about advertising, visual culture and cityspace.

What has been conducted in the research world is the driver safety and distraction related to moving advertisement.

In May last year, I have put a few critical links on my Blog on
Or see direct links:








Posted by: Mirjam Struppek at January 4, 2006 01:11 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)