Sunday, November 06, 2005

A Trade Label

I've had an idea in the back of my mind for a little while which I think I'll share.

One of the things that annoys me about our culture (and especially the media within it) is that there's an increasing dumbing down/juvenalisation of the whole thing. You have increasingly intelligence free music, games and so on taking up more and more of the shelf space, and the consumerism inherent in that sort of culture essentially does what it does in any other market: It makes it harder to find the more interesting, niche stuff.

I for one believe that there is such a thing as Quality in culture, an indescribable sense of creative thought manifest, from Ico to West Wing to whatever, but I think it's getting harder to figure out where the quality is at.

So I thought: In the food industry you see these specific labels now popping up, like 'Organic' and 'Fair Trade' which are intended to draw the concerned consumer's eye and point them toward quality. In the first instance, quality food, and in the second instance to let the consumer know that the food was not procured by bleeding some farmers dry. Both are successful minority initiatives. They haven't dominated the landscape, but they help.

So I'm thinking, why not start a trade label like Fair Trade which tells media-buying consumers "This media actually has some creative brains behind it and will speak to you like an adult". Not a judgement on the content from a political or whatever standpoint, but simply a message label that says "We think this is an honest attempt at art and/or entertainment".

Ordinarily that would be the province of reviews, wouldn't it?
Well in recent years it seems to me that the whole structure of reviews and review journalists has essentially become untrustworthy. There are too many rent-a-reviews floating around now to give any clear indication of anything, and while sites like metacritic provide a summary, they're still poviding a summary of a skewed data set.

So what I'm suggesting is anonymous groups of maybe 30 people over the age of 25 who evaluate pieces of media and vote whether to approve it, according to a set of criteria (there may be a group per subject, or several if it gets popular, though not split by genre). At first its unlikely that such an effort would be taken very seriously, of course, and its recommendations would likely as not just sit on a website for people to browse.

But over time the idea would be to allow the label of this group of people to be used by manufacturers under a free copyright license on approved products only, be they books, films or whatever.


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