Technologies of Persuasion

So, here’s what I’m thinking of for my next course at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Technologies of Persuasion: Marketing, Politics, and Propaganda in a Digital Age Douglas Rushkoff

This seminar will explore influence techniques from print, graphics, traditional media and social reality as they migrate to the interactive space. We will first study the fundamentals of persuasion, influence, and coercion, and then look at how they have been adapted for use in interactive contexts. These will include email, the web, and cell phones, as well as integrated marketing, “one-to-one” communication, viral media, hacktivism and neuromarketing. We will study a broad range of applications, from simple marketing through online trading, political campaigns, activism, and satire, and discuss the relative ethics of using the same techniques for different purposes.

How do websites guide users toward the ‘buy’ button? How are viral campaigns launched? How do Powerpoint and Microsoft ‘spell-check’ influence our thought patterns? How do marketers exploit information to craft persuasive messaging? How does the use of manipulative communications techniques change the quality of the media landscape? How do today’s online selling techniques fit into a history of salesmanship and marketing? How do wireless companies hope to get ads on our cell phones? Is the interactive space more or less conducive to manipulative communications?

Readings will include whole books and excerpts from among the following texts: Coercion and Media Virus by Rushkoff, Postman’s Technopoly, Cluetrain Manifesto, Lencker’s Train of Thoughts, and The CIA Interrogation Manual, as well as writings by Adorno, Barbrook, Harold Innes, Caldini, Benjamin, Naomi Klein, David Byrne, Tufte, Larry Lessig, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Sergio Zyman, MoveOn, RtMark, and etoy, and articles from magazines including Fast Company and Wired. We will also watch the documentaries Merchants of Cool, The Persuaders, and the Politics of Fear as well as researching, analyzing and deconstructing existing interactive media and software for its persuasive impact.

Although students with all ranges of interests are welcome to take the course, be forewarned: the seminar will be structured to allow for a highly critical analysis of the role that marketing and influence techniques have played in both online and offline society.