Published on Webdiary - Founded and Inspired by Margo Kingston (/cms)

From Dreamtime to the brave new world

By Justin Obodie
Created 09/04/2008 - 13:56

Justin Obodie (aka the Albatross) has flitted in and out of Webdiary for many a long year. He has finally been persuaded to write a piece for Webdiary, on a topic of particular importance to him. In his own words:

I have over the years brought up the topic and risks associated with computers, government and corporate information and privacy with many of my friends and associates. In general no one gives a stuff. Lambs to the slaughter maybe but what we see going on in America and the blatant invasion of people's privacy ( and the exploitation of their sub prime dreams) is an example of what I was warning people about over twenty five years ago. I was concerned then but more so now as most of the things I predicted have come true, and things can only get worse. This topic is very complex and most punters whom I discuss this matter with usually faze out or simply say; "why should I worry?"  In short they don't care - yet. Times and politics can change quickly and with governments being able to track the books you borrow from the library etc etc etc we may find our freedoms simply disappear into a mirage of political/corporate spin.

Thank you for this piece, Justin, on a subject that should be of vital interest to all Webdiarists.


From Dreamtime to the brave new world
by Justin Obodie

Back in the 1980’s I claimed to directors in News and Fairfax that if they carved out an area of geography and gave me access to the airwaves, the press and letterbox I could convince the majority of punters that black was white.

I also predicted (for reasons that were obvious to me) that Bertie Murdoch would become the most powerful media proprietor in the world. That was 1984.

The only thing that made my claim difficult was media diversification; fortunately our governments are aware of this and give lip service to diversification; not so much for your protection but theirs.

Initially I was working under the umbrella of News and in 1984 I was offered an open cheque book and the state of NSW to design, establish and execute the most intelligent and dynamic marketing system ever.

I declined (for ethical reasons I won’t discuss) and involved myself for a short period of time trying to use my knowledge (information) to assist small business. In general small businesses create employment and large corporations do not.

Unfortunately most small businesses did not have the time, the cash, or the understanding how to use information in a dynamic and profitable way. Most still don’t.

It did not take long before a director of Fairfax made me an offer I could not refuse and with an open cheque book and a piece of geography we call Australia we (in less than six months) had mapped and correlated census and other data in all the cities and major regional centres in our nation. It was a massive exercise but with the assistance of the ABS (another employer of mine) we succeeded in turning benign information into something that offered knew efficiencies and intelligence to using data.

The directors of Fairfax were extremely impressed, so were the directors of the ABS (finally with the use of computers their labours could be used to help business and government alike). The infrastructure had now been established and over time this intelligent marketing tool grew, and itself collected, enumerated and analysed data; about you and me. Over time other corporations copied what was now an unstoppable and sought after process. People profiling.

For many years now it has been a very easy process to analyse a state, suburb, neighbourhood or whatever; identify the residents by name, occupation, telephone number and more. In some areas I even knew the homes that had rusty gutters and other valuable information that could be sold to businesses to make a profit in an efficient manner.

At this point in time I am not going to describe the technicalities but if anyone is interested these can be dealt with as we discuss this topic.

Today all (retail) corporations (especially banks) probably know more about you than you would believe. The information they hold can be used for good and for bad reasons, but in our materialistic commercial world of things information is, on the first instance, used to make money, or to transfer your wealth to them.

Jenny Hume has on occasions preached the benefits of living the modest life: don’t get sucked into buying shit you think you need she says. I read and nod and nod and nod.

Why are homes so expensive to buy?

Today information means profit; it also means power. Those who have the information and the means to deliver it not only make heaps of cash; but also gain them unbelievable power. Bertie Murdoch knows this well.

The Internet.

About a decade ago I was asking some of my clients to consider using the original digital technology (Morse code/telegrams) in synergy with the new digital technology. It was an excellent way to save on the production and distribution of four coloured glossy brochures and catalogues (save trees and all that). Why not mail a cheap telegram (or its equivalent) to targeted customers and invite them to your website. You could even set up systems to produce web pages on the fly and invite everyone in Australia to visit their very own website: www.kathyfarrelly.com [1], an irresistible and seductive invitation for most.

But there are many dangers! Beware – more about that later if you wish to discuss them.

I actually ran tests and delivered invitations (telegrams) to selected neighbourhoods, inviting residents to a website I set up for the purpose. My clients paid for my research (spot ads on the invite) and we all made money, but not much; at least my research cost me nothing, rather, turned a small profit. The experiment failed miserably. The idea was for the future, about ten years I predicted.

About three months ago I received a cheap and nasty “telegram” (complete with tracking device/s) in the mail inviting me to a special website. I declined.


The original custodians of our nation used information for survival; they call it The Dreaming. Their information system was a complex and beautiful tapestry, a mixture of mythology and relationship between land, fauna, flora, and the heavens above which gave them security and continuity. It also was a dynamic information system which gave them the ability to survive in an unforgiving world. Their information system was not exploitive, rather co-operative; it did them well for 60,000 years or so.

Soon as you watch your HD plasma TV you will not only being watching it; it will also be watching you.

Over to you, your contributions and critical appraisals will be welcomed.

With kind regards

The Albatross

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