Monday, February 12, 2007
In the third chapter of We the Media, Dan Gillmor makes reference to several cases where individuals used digital technology to either embarrass, stymie or otherwise antagonize in a meaningful way large corporate interests. Among these is the Tobacco Control Archives, an internet database of Big Tobacco memoranda hosted by the UCSF digital library. More than just an archive of interoffice communications at the likes of RJ Reynolds, it is hundreds of thousands (with plans to one day grow to 5-6 million) pages of legitimately creepy discussions about cigarette marketing, the effects of anti-smoking legislation and how to circumvent it, and my personal favorite, the scientific studies conducted by tobacco companies over the last 40 years.
These studies have titles like "A Proposal for a Scientific Conference on the Benefits of Smoking," a document from 1970 which proposes that scientists gather and "[be stimulated] to a renewed study of the positive, rewarding aspects of cigarette smoking." If it wasn't 37 years after the fact, I'd probably be wishing those real scientists good luck with all the real science they'll be doing. Another slightly less ambitious (but at least equally ridiculous) report from 1997 gives some clue into the kinds of research tobacco companies have focused on in the last ten years. This groundbreaking report from RJ Reynolds provides the results of research which suggested that smoking/nicotine consumption could be linked to increased blinking. In fact, these intrepid researchers ignored that this connection is "usually considered 'noise' within the context of [other relevant] studies." (This from their own memo.) By flaunting the scientific convention of the day, RJ Reynolds has now taken their rightful place alongside Galileo and Copernicus by pursuing their research beyond what the conventional wisdom could comprehend and gauging exactly how often a smoker blinks.