Spam, the economy of desire by Alessandro Ludovico
The following text researches spam, its history and working mechanisms. It was comissioned by the software art factory Readme 100 in Dortmund 2005 and is included into the resulting publication: Readme 100 Temporary Software Art Factory, Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt, Germany, 2005.
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Spam, the economy of desire

Now we have all welcomed email into our lives en mass, we find our inboxes swamped with unwelcome spam, tempting our worst instincts with every kind of sleaze, urging in ever more obscure ways that we buy counterfeit watches, printer toner and erection pills. We should welcome Alessandro Ludovico's paper "Spam, the economy of desire" then, and face the fear and pain of spam together.
Alessandro Ludovico's account on spam is an encompassing inquiry into the history of spam. He talks on the first spam ever, on the history of the term "spam" and its first usage, on the neverending fight between spammers and spam filters and the attention economy that results. He mentions academic and journalistic research in spam and references the publications available, going on to suggest a general classification of spam and analysis of its aims and results.
Spam is not just annoying: it can harm the working process severely, it can make people change their mail addresses, losing connections within social networks. To someone behind a public email address, spam grows to a constant, hour-by-hour exposure to the worst aspects of human nature, where spams appealing to worst forms of vanity, greed and perversion make us doubt the culture to which we belong and perhaps even ourselves. But even someone driven this crazy by spam occasionally pauses to be amused by some new ironical twist or new means of attracting attention. This is the beginning of an interest in the phenomenon and development of spam and we will undoubtedly see more research in spam in the following years.
Alessandro is the continuous editor of Neural.it for already more than 10 years. One could see this huge work reflected in the essay even in the way some references are done: Ludovico has already written on this and that in Neural.it before. One knows how much of "this" and "that" happens in the field of digital media culture and never stops being surprised at Alessandro's capacities and enormous working potential to cover almost entirely everything.

Olga Goriunova, Alex McLean

by admin, posted 15 Feb 2006


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