Meta Things

Vetta Collection

So, now, the “age of loneliness” is a thing.

What does this have to do with material culture and, for my concern, the study of brands?  How did we get here?

The technology of the marketing industry is accelerating quickly.

Jennifer Roberts ties into culture theorist McLuhan’s ideas about technocracy in her essay on the lava lamp.  The 1960’s, before the age of ubiquitous technology and advertising, are the setting in which McLuhan “began describing the dehierarchized, free flowing world of information that sophisticated communications technologies were enabling” (Roberts 175).  This sounds a lot like the evolved state of information and technology at present day.

The notion of a free flowing world of information has come to be a given in the culture of the “twenty-tens.”

If social media and the inundation of information into people’s lives has a hand in creating this age of loneliness, it would be good to take a look at why people are so attracted to sharing and using social media:

According to Harvard researchers, “Self-disclosure was strongly associated with increased activation in brain regions that form the mesolimbic dopamine system,” so, it makes us feel good!  That’s a no-brainer (pun intended).  But it also makes us feel bad.  The same research shows that young people who use social media exhibit high-risk behaviors at an accelerated rate.

A compulsive relationship to technology and media seems to evoke the words of Marx recorded in Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project:

“All the physical and intellectual senses…have been replaced by the simple alienation of all the senses, the sense of having.”

 This concept of alienation is especially interesting considering Belk’s ideas of the extended self.   Belk’s ideas about virtual brand communities draw an interesting corollary:

Belk states that normally, aggregating one’s sense of self with branded goods usually requires ownership; in the digital world, this aggregation can happen in virtual environment in which the user or consumer can engage brands without having to invest capital, creating a virtual sense of affiliated identity.

When I go out and buy a MacBook at the Apple store, I am buying into the cultural mythology of what Apple offers.  If I log in to a website like Pinterest, I can curate all of these interests, and, in a sense, possess them in the digital sense by saving images to my page and creating boards of the things that I like and endorse.  Pinterest could surely be responsible for helping brands establish new markets and sell more goods.  What happens when virtual appreciation becomes a true craving, the consumer now convinced he/she needs to buy the object to assimilate it into his/her identity, once the sense of wanting overcomes the sense of appreciation?

Here, I reach the crossroads: Belk and Marx present related, but contrasting points of view- does having enhance or alienate the self?  I tend to think it’s a paradox– both things are happening in real time– the multifaceted existential concepts of self (Sartre via Kinneavy) could, at once, be at odds with one another within the individual, creating a sense of an enlarged and alienated self.

Dr. Newby-Clark Self-Other Perceptions

What does all of this have to do with brands?

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2 thoughts on “Meta Things”

  1. That is a very interesting question you have posed. What does this alienation you so wonderfully written about have to do with branding? I wonder that myself as I think of branding as a way to either identify ourselves with or who we want to be. It depends on the item, of course. Your form of questioning and even the subject could very well blend nicely with “SneezyDeezy’s” topic, “Culture Consumed with Consumption.”
    http://sites.gsu.edu/materialwords2014/2014/10/17/culture-consumed-with-consumption/#comment-54

    SneezyDeezy argues that when our stomachs have had its fill, we then try to consume ourselves with art, reading, and entertainment. But how much what we choose or lean towards have to do with branding? Everything, I believe! As humans we either want to consume an object because of the brand itself or the underlying purpose behind it. In contrast, we also avoid specific brands for the same reasons (i.e. boycotting Wal-mart because of they way they treat their employees or boycotting Chick-fil-A because the owner’s views are not that of our own).

    This brings me back to answer your question. Social media plays a vital role in what we want to portray ourselves as: perfect and right. We want to talk about, take pictures of, and “Like” things (brands) that persuade audiences of who we are. But how much of these do we truthfully like? We want these to be an enhancement of our “extended self” but do we instead alienate ourselves in order to conform? Thus, are we conforming to a perception instead of who we are?

    This is an intriguing topic and loved the question you asked that requires critical thinking in order to answer. But I do not think there is any straight forward answer…only questions. I am excited about your final product and truly cannot wait to read it!

  2. It is unfortunate that the “age of loneliness” has arisen among people–specifically youth. It’s obvious that technology has been a huge boon to this loneliness pandemic. As far as the correlation between branding and loneliness, I think they are both products–pun on the word “products”–of our advanced material culture. So, as monopolies began to disintegrate and options for consumers broadened, thus the development of the brand came into play and also the development of technology.

    Certain brands have been sensationalized through the utilization of commercials, celebrities, or other forms of advertising. Why is an Apple better than an HP? Is it because it’s more expensive? People attach certain conceptions to items/brands depending on the majority’s association of that object; it is absolutely a paradox. The placing of ideas onto an object often leads consumers to believe they “have to have it” to be included and to be happy.

    This come into play with technology and social media as well, people become emotionally attached to their Facebook or Instagram, allowing their number of increasing “likes”, “followers”, and “friends” to give them a confidence boost, help them feel included, and to give them a sense of happiness.

    In a way, our personal use of technology is our own way of branding–we are the brand.

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