A pretense of personlisation, or how to keep those prying algos from targeting me.

In a Economic History class, 20 years ago, we had a topic on consumer goods from 1900s to present and I learnt the term, democracy of consumption. In that class, we also speculated a little the trajectory of consumer goods. One thing was that goods will become more personalised and more tailored. An example was a pair of jeans, in which the consumer’s body would be scanned in order to obtain an ultra personalised pair of jeans. The idea is that in the past only the very rich could get scanned for a personalised pair of jeans. As consumption is democratised, personalised jeans will be available at all levels of spending. Actual ultra- personalisation is never a question for the rich. For the rest of us, there is a pretense towards ultra personalisation. Machines at first listen in on our searches to to recommend advertisements that we may like. Then these eavesdropping applications tell other applications in their family and those applications perform the same recommendations. As we use the same ID to log into different applications, these machines build a profile of what we have seen across all facets of our internet life. They will perhaps accord weightage base on certain signifiers (Eg clicks, likes, supports) to determine if we like or do not like certain things that we are seeing to further tailor what we see.

Sellavision is no longer a canned message of “wait, there is more” to engage. If I were purchasing something off the shelf and am searching for reviews, the marketing message is getting personalised via influence in their areas of “selling”. No longer a TV message is crafted to be accepted by the masses but the same message is sold to me via the influencer whom I enjoy watching, listening, and, whom I believe is an independent consumer just like me.

With the technology I am no nearer to that ultra personalised pair of jeans but I am being marketed to in a personal way into buying that jeans. The privacy settings on social media gives the impression that my data is private. It only means, the marketer doesn’t know my name, email and telephone number. Does the marketer need that information to target me? No. They just need my habits, preferences and what sort of thing I click on. This data will help the social media company target marketers who target me. They are less interested in my chats with friends, status updates. They are interested in things that will be shared. So, the less that I am up in arms about on social media, the less information I am giving to the social media company. The more I am incognito, I am less likely to be campaign target.

In the old days, the search engines will rank if a page or a search is high on their list. To get listed you put all sorts of meta tags for SEO – this is free. With Google ads or Facebook ads (which is paid), these social media companies like any other business will favour revenue generating over free services. Ad buying is getting very complicated – on television, you get eyeballs, ie exposure. On social media, the buyer is buying on blind faith. The buyer has no real knowledge how the algo functions, if it functions at all. The argument for this could be, well, politicians are getting the results from putting in effort on internet advertising. Yet it is the sensationalists who are winning at social media. The ones who do not only woe and betide devastating calamity if the other side wins but puts in derogatory, inflammatory remarks against their opponents.

Where does that leave the consumer who would like ultra personalised jeans? It only exists as those ultra body hugging elastic material which looks horrible on those who have dimply knees.


Can’t reccomend this enough: Singapore National Gallery

The permanent exhibition “Siapa Nama Kamu” is super fun! Paintings cannot be experienced online. It’s the equivalent of watching food when you are hungry. The galleries was categorised by a timeline of art development in Singapore. (The intro said broadly – I think they meant – staid, super fun and experimental. )

It isn’t arranged in a typical western art way – romanticism, cubism, etc, etc. There was not a lot of those styles – I wonder if it was the artists were doing it for fun. They weren’t trying to be famous. The Super Fun period had a reference to a Nanyang period. I had sniggered, thinking this was thought up by a marketing department. It wasn’t.

The Nanyang style refers to the pioneer Chinese artists’ work which was rooted in both the Western schools of Paris (post-Impressionism and Cubism for example) as well as Chinese painting traditions; styles and techniques of both were distinctively integrated in depictions of local or Southeast Asian subject matter (Singapore Art Museum, 2002).

More notably, the Nanyang art style is the result of these artists having departed from their roots – but not entirely – to try to produce something uniquely regional. They aimed to represent pictorially the Nan Yang culture and way of life – Nan Yang meaning South Seas in Mandarin. As art historian Michael Sullivan pointed out above, these painters could be striving to produce an “expression of the times”.

Yeo, Alicia (April 2006). “Singapore Art, Nanyang Style” (PDF). biblioasia. Singapore: National Library Board. pp. 4–11

Can you please go to level 2 and see this awesome portrait? Portrait of Lee Boon Ngan. It is online but the online version is not awesome. It is strangely yellow. Look at the detail on the shirt! The green gray on the nose! Her skin is robust and not sensitive. These other two made me lol out of delight! Picking by Tay Kok Wee and Here they come by Koeh Sia Yong. It was superb! It was energetic! The anger! The unfairness! The entrepreneurial spirit! The resourcefulness! The need to be alert to threats and opportunities!

I was moved by a re-enactment of the artwork. I love the video for the interviews with the artists. They had clarity in the trade offs they have seen. They did art because that was what they did and they picked social realism to be relevant. Honest simple living. People sell food because that was what they did. Teachers taught because they could read and write. Bank officers were hired from comfortable families because they know other comfortable families. (Bank clerks were different from officer grade.)

Young people are now exhorted to pursue their passion. Consistency is a discarded virtue. Why are we coy about being paid for work? It’s honest simple living.

As I tidied a shelf of notebooks last week, it occured to me that I accumulate a lot of words that I don’t re-read. The notebooks exist to get the words out. I once read that a writer will always write. In all my wisdom of a 16 year old, I disbelieved it. Productivity will cease, I thought. (Clearly, I more suited for a life of a white collar bean counter than an artist.) I had wanted to be a poor artist. Not starving – I like my food. I now know, it is true that writers will write. Artist will paint. Those who love eating will feed themselves and others. Those who love sleeping will work themselves up for a nap. We will naturally arrange our lives that is comfortable to ourselves.

Writing books, is likely, not my thing. I count beans and write stories about corporate exertions. I develop reassuring memos of what has been done and what is to be done. I am creative when it comes to relaxing and untying knots at work. Work is rarely difficult, mostly comfortable and my temperament is well suited for it. I don’t think I am well suited to be fully creative. As a bean counter, there will always be a worry about my own quality and productivity.

I can’t recommend this enough

Dear Diary by Mary Tuda

I am totally fascinated by this teenage diary kept between 1976 and 1981. I was surfing around for a diary sort of blog. How refreshing this introspection, this daily detail of who said what to whom. I miss the time when blogs were more or less ‘dear diary’. I can’t see that they will return to the more innocent times. I am tired of reading blogs monetizing food eaten, plays watched, books read, and economics and politics. I sort of accepted it that everything on YouTube is Sellavision and enjoy it but I like my reading uninterrupted.

An excerpt:

Also, from reading this diary one would think that I am a non-intellectual, very typical and rather boring teenager – not too mature, either, for although I repeatedly refer to my work I don’t enlarge on it at all and don’t in any way air my own views on books, authors – ETC, or even my philosophy of life, and believe me, I do think about those things, albeit in a fairly elementary manner; but they do interest me. I believe in many things. But I very rarely discuss them with anyone, I wouldn’t be nearly so obnoxious as to discuss them with Dad; it’s so hard to tell what he’s really thinking.

Life changes

I was looking for Singaporean mothers who practice baby led weaning when I came across a blog Opinionation, written by Grace. I have been seeking parenting books to learn the right way of parenting. Even though I haven’t properly learnt the skills taught in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk’, her strong reccomendation of Burton White interests me. I think I will get on Kindle.

Hee hee

There’s a theory about the specific suckling technique the breast engenders, which develops the muscles needed for speech. Williams becomes convinced – and has convinced me – that breasts evolved as a driver of female and infant survival, and men’s obsession with them arrived not “in lockstep”, but some time later. “Perhaps, all along, the breasts were calling the shots,” she concludes.

The composition of the breast makes …[breastmilk]… a magnet for environmental toxins, so they “carry the burden of the mistakes we have made in our stewardship of the planet”.

This is from a book review on guardian. Interesting but not something that will be in my read stack anytime soon.


On the herbal water used for bathing:

“Of course they will say it is good. No one will sell their products and tell you that it is not good.*pause* Anyway, I don’t believe in all this. If that were the case, all the ang mos have rheumatism already and die liaos. They don’t practice confinement at all! It is only an Asian practice.”

On the funny things said in the delivery room made me get out of the self-pitying mood for a short while. Nothing funny happened in the delivery room when I gave birth. Mr TCM was encouraging and supportive and got me lots of food until the nurse stopped us. He even gave me his hand to squeeze but I preferred his shirt. What a guy! And to think I glared at him when he tried to feed me milo after being loopy from drugs. 😐


This bride on craigslist complained about the cost of wedding photography.

I am surprised she complained about the cost of the photographer when the other costs are much higher. My opinion has always been that a wedding party is not worth it. An expensive honeymoon is not worth it. Money can be spent on the newly wed’s mortgage. Money from an expensive honeymoon is better used on a string of inexpensive short trips or on date nights.

A good photographer is always worth the money he is paid. A friend with an expensive camera does not produce the same quality of shoot generally. What I mean is a good shot every time. A picture freezes a good moment. A poor photographer is likely to miss many moments. Not just that – a poor photographer’s work lack art. A wedding photographer is expected not to miss moments and to take great shots every time. He or she will definitely cost a lot.

A wedding is for me, an excuse to hire a good photographer. My only regret is that there are too many portraits and pictures of me. If I have the option I would not bother with portraits. I would like to see what he sees.