How Our Private Lives Become Public Commodities
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Here, former Wall Street Journal reporter Larson, incensed and victimized, exposes the network of consumer espionage that places ordinary citizens at risk of losing their constitutional right to privacy by merely purchasing something--even this book--or by refusing to purchase what researchers, from their lists and profiles, believe they should. Using the census, a variety of public records such aa birth or real-estate notices, hidden cameras, and live observers ("spymasters"), market researchers can and do uncover intimate details about the lives of consumers (their eating habits, sexual preferences, personal hygiene) for the purpose of shaping the way products are marketed and to whom--but rarely to improve goods and services. Larson traces how subtle, sophisticated, and easily abused this information-gathering is, highlighted by the psychologists and archaeologists, employed by advertising agencies, who sift through household trash, and by the anthropologists whose study of masculinity concluded that modern men require a new set of symbols to rescue them from their sexual confusion--a set of symbols to be provided by an advertising campaign. An insightful historical survey of marketing techniques from "mass" marketing to "target" marketing-used to identify specific segments of the market and to manipulate their behavior--shows the evolution of consumer espionage aa a "science," complete with its own jargon (e.g., "post decision dissonance," which means realizing you have bought a lousy car). Personal, indignant, clever: Larson offers strong ammunition against an enemy so insidious that most people don't even know it's there.
Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1992
ISBN: 0140233032
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992

Kirkus Interview
Erik Larson
author of DEAD WAKE
March 17, 2015

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly in Dead Wake, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. “An intriguing, entirely engrossing investigation into a legendary disaster,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >


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