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Unspeak

In this web documentary based on found footage, journalist Steven Poole explains at breakneck speed how the public debate is being corrupted with “unspeak.”

Top-down, smart phone, big data, piracy, pro-life. These words have very different meanings but they have one thing in common: they’re all examples of “unspeak,” a rhetorical and manipulative use of language deployed by politicians, lobbyists, CEOs, activists and other major players in the public debate. “Unspeak” means saying one thing by concealing another, claims Steven Poole, who first presented the term in 2006 in his fascinating book of the same title. This British journalist provides his own furiously paced and sarcasm-laden voice-over for this interactive film version. Over the course of six episodes, he explores the use of unspeak in current issues such as the credit crisis, climate change and social media. And on the subject of social media, Poole views the use of the word “social” as grossly euphemistic, because while we delude ourselves that we are strengthening family bonds and creating new friendships, all we’re actually doing is giving away personal information to advertisers. Poole decries this phenomenon in his blackly comic commentary, which is accompanied by found footage material from TV news, documentaries and feature films. This web documentary also contains a dictionary to which visitors can add their own examples of unspeak. Clear data visualizations illustrate the frequency with which these terms are used in mass media and on Twitter.

Project details

Year of development :2013
Created by:various directors
With:Submarine, Menno Otten, Tommy Pallotta, Geert van de Wetering, Rob Schroder, Benoit Detalle,Marija Jacimovic, Jennifer Abbott
Full project credits

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