Sign of the times: Here’s a piece that appeared recently in the Arts and Life section of the National Post:
According to scrapbooking business maven Sue DiFranco, there are big
bucks to be made assembling scrapbooks for busy, stupid rich people.
she doesn’t exactly put it that way, but on her Fun Facts Publishing
Web site she explains that you can earn between $50 and $150 an hour
scrapbooking, with virtually no set-up cost. Some people, she says,
prefer to “hire out” their scrapbooking, much like they would pay
professional organizers or house cleaners, rather than learn how to do
If you’re wondering why anyone would need a
professional to assemble a scrapbook, it’s time you woke up and smelled
the rubber paste.
In middle-class homes, scrapbooks are the new
measure of domestic adequacy. If you just stick your photos in
chronological order in magnetic albums, well you might as well be
leaving your children down at the laundromat while gambling away your
afternoons. Any responsible mother wanting to hold her head high at the
PTA should be spending at least $50 a month (some people spend $50 a
day) and her spare hours (between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.) documenting,
cropping, matting, embellishing, hole-punching and stamping little
doodads all over the family scrapbook.
People who don’t have the time, money or “talent” to
scrapbook are hiring others to do it for them — for thousands of
dollars. Even if you’re talentless they’ll hire you, according to
DiFranco. She advises, “Don’t question your own ‘scraptistic ability.’
Most clients actually prefer the look of simple layouts. And because
they’re not scrapbookers themselves, they won’t be comparing your work
to anyone else’s.”
What an ideal client base.
There’s no way that someone else, given a shoebox of your
photos, clippings and other mementoes, could possibly create a
scrapbook that would capture their meaning — at least not without
consulting with you extensively. Would a scrapbooker possibly know that
the pack of matches from Ben’s Smoked Meat in Montreal means infinitely
more to me than the photo of me and the then-girlfriend at Lollapalooza
’95? That the grey dog was my first pet and the black dog belonged to a
girlfriend? Or that the mini-bar bill from the no-longer-existent
Holiday Inn behind New City Hall goes with the letters from the sisters
I was dating, each without the other’s knowledge?
(Hey, I was 19, and if you thought you could get away with it, you’d do it too.)
A scrapbook put
together by someone else might be nicely arranged, but it would be
bereft of rhyme or reason, free of nuance or meaning. It would merely
be a vanity coffee table book, a sort of trophy whose raison d’etre
would be so that you could brag that you had one.
“What an ideal client base” is what the RIAA, MPAA or Bill Gates
would say after reading the National Post article. These guys prefer to think of you as consumers rather than customers. The distinction, as Doc Searls often likes to point out, is an important one. He says
that as a consumer, vendors see you as an “aphid of the industrial
age”; a creature whose primary role in the scheme of things is to “gulp
products and crap cash”.
Any creative activity — and yes, scrapbooking falls into this category
— is the sort of thing that they wouldn’t like. If you’re creating,
you’re likely not consuming, and hence you’re not perfoming your
designated function: crapping cash. That’s why they think you’ve only licensed and don’t really own the music and movies you bought. It’s also why they’d like set limits on what your computers can do. It’s also why you and your SMS messages are to blame for the box-office failure of their crappy movies rather than say, the movie being crappy. And finally, it’s also why they want to lock pieces of your own culture away from you and keep it for themselves.
The saddest thing is that people are beginning to buy into their
consumer aphid role, and it starts with outsourcing your scrapbook.