Category Archives: Wanting Things

Blog Post 8: Breaking the Vicious Circle of Desire

According to Jean Baudrillard, sociologist and philosopher, there are “three orders of simulacra” in  which we can divide the course of history. In the first order, called “the counterfeit” or the early capitalism, people desired things because of their socially symbolic value. In other words, people thought in terms of signs: the different classes were recognizable through distinct objects, such as a particular attire, beautiful houses, expensive accessories, etc. In the second order, called “the series” or industrial capitalism, the large-scale factory production instilled a desire for things that was based on their sign value, namely the idea that people define their identity through the things they possess. People bought things that were not directly related to the idea of survival, but rather tied to the culture in which they lived. Finally in the third order, called “the hyperreal” or postmodernism (right after World War II), commodities became a language; the signifier  became digital, a machine, DNA. Society began programming people to acquire things not because they operate as signs, but because they work as human language: the rapid technological development created an environment in which the media conditioned us to buy unnecessary objects. I believe that we are living in this kind of society  nowadays. Indeed, we are conditioned to want something and, once we have satisfied this initial desire, we are programmed to immediately desire something else. It is a cyclical process including the following stages: a strong desire, the appropriation of the object and a temporary sense of satisfaction, and finally a new desire for something that replaces the previous object.

For example, for trivial it might be, the invention of the mobile phone is a revolutionary step in the postmodern technological wave that changed the way in which people live all over the world, affecting social customs and cultural conventions, as well as economic and political practices. At the same time, however, it has opened the door to a mechanism of alienation and self-destruction that probably was not foreseen when the first models were introduced to the market. Indeed, we are obsessed with mobile! Although this technology is supposed to bring people together through a global net of communication, it often drives them apart as norms such as etiquette and genuine conversation are ignored in favor of a more digital approach to social conventions. That is why recently it has become a fashion to ask the first person who reaches for his or her phone during a meal to pay for the bill.

blog-post-on-mobile-etiquette (1)

In my experience, buying something is always tempting, and this temptation takes the form of clothes for me. The obvious benefits is that I can enjoy and display something new and beautiful, receive compliments from other people, have a confirmation of my sense of fashion and enhance my self-esteem. The equally obvious costs literally weigh on my wallet and reflect in a wardrobe that after a certain period of time I just want to replace, and figuratively traduce into a constant stress for the money I dissipate and the urgency of finding new storage in an already cluttered closet. There is a real disease termed “oniomania” for those who have the uncontrollable and compulsive desire to shop, a clinical addiction that might have disastrous results in one’s private life.

In an article entitled “Addition to Shopping Becomes a Serious Mental Disorder,” psychologist Nadezhda Yugrina claims that “shopping addiction resembles drug, gambling or alcoholic addiction. One should look for its reasons in the childhood of every particular individual. As a rule, such people suffered from the shortage of human care and tenderness when children. A person can grow in a normal family and receive good education, but experience a strong need in love. When such people grow up, they can find attention in various stores.” The first symptoms of shopping disorder were identified in the 1990s. This mental disorder is common mostly with women. “Researchers found out that about twenty percent of German women acknowledge their insuperable desire to buy something all the time. The addiction has conquered 40 percent of American women, whereas 52 percent of British females said they found shopping a lot more enjoyable than sex.”

In this case, people use things as a compensation and a form of extended self. To the disease of oniomania, it has been dedicated a movie called “I Love Shopping” in which the female protagonist has the uncontainable urge to buy clothes. Despite the happy ending, the movie clearly shows the costs of wanting things. The same addiction can be found in other female figures on the screen: Rachel Green from “Friends, ”Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City,” Caroline Channing from “2 Broke Girls,” and so on.

In conclusion, there are many benefits and costs for wanting things. Although the reason why people desire material things changed in the course of history, there is still a strong connection between humans and the artifacts they produce, and it is a psychological, cultural, and social connection in nature. However, I believe that the costs of human desire are often superior to the benefits as we sometimes fall in a vicious circle in which we constantly desire things that we don’t need without ever reaching a complete and enduring satisfaction.

Blog #8 Object Needs and Consumption

After reading all these interesting blog post and really asked to consider the idea’s behind the writers. I find that each individual look at consumption and fetish with consumption, and the connection with object from different experiences, and backgrounds totally different. However, ultimately has the same conclusion. In Sneezy article he poses a very interesting point. He made a statement “Food is good, we need to consume to survive”. However, I have a different aspect on it. I agree we need food to survive. But what I do think is that modern Americans are spoiled and totally abuse the idea, and confuse obsession and necessity. I think American is obsessed with having what they want, when they want, not particularly with food. I just feel like they’re so accustomed to having thing whenever they want. A great example is this image sneezy posted, it’s clear that this man do not need this to survive or even satisfy his hunger.
Similarly in Daniels blog post, I’ve noticed the connection to Sneezy post. In Daniel post he talks about the need to be part of the modern word. In my experiences people are indulging in the world of social media because it’s a reflection of who they are, a senses of wanting to belong. I agree in breathes a sense of loneliness because social media and technology alienates and causes loneliness. On the surface it appears that it connects people. However, in my experience I have observed people in the same room not communicating with each other, but on social media. People are no longer communicating on an intimate level.

People have the desire and want for thing according to the influences of modern America, However, it does the change the fact that individuals connect to things according to their needs of society it determine the object of significance. Like the idea of baby wearing, in certain society it was used and relied on to cope and survive.

Blog Post #8: Wanting Things

In their responses for Blog Post #7, Daniel, Sneezy Deezy, Lakisha, and Alex all take up issues related to how we produce ourselves and our culture through the consumption of objects. For example, Daniel muses about how post-modern consumerism may contribute to the construction of an extended, but ultimately alienated self:

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.

Sneezy Deezy explores how desires created by the marketplace may be feeding (pun intended) our unhealthy obsession with food. It’s an obsession unhealthy not only because it might make us physically sick, but also because it may distract us from significant intellectual work:

Do you think that Americans are obsessed with food? If so, where do you think this tendency to place our emotions on our eating habits comes into play? Is this why obesity and other health problems are an issue? Society focuses so strongly on food that people are becoming famous for their eating habits, or their food creations. For instance, The Guy who Survived on Pizza for 25 Years , now has his own documentary and is famous for having a complete obsession with pizza–his fridge is stocked full with the item–he only eats cheese pizza and claims to never eat pizza. Surprisingly, this so-called “Pizza King” is still healthy, according to his doctor, but is his obsession with one food? The main existence of food is to provide sustenance. What else does it provide and is this a beneficial thing or is it detrimental?

Image “Consume” by What What on Flickr.

Where Daniel and Sneezy Deezy take a look at how modern or post-modern consumption practices may be contributing to social alienation and mental and physical deterioration, Lakisha and Alex take an interest in how consumption of objects may actually help us form personal and cultural bonds that sustain individuals and strengthen societies. As Lakisha observes,  baby carriers not only make it easier for mothers to return to the labor of everyday life while caring for an infant, they can also promote bonding between mother and child by encouraging physical closeness between them. In thinking about how objects help forge connections between individuals and their culture–as well as between individuals and their families–Alex argues that cultural heritage objects function as aids to remembrance and communication of the cherished social experiences and learning processes from which they emerged.

Image “consume” by Nathan Siemers on Flickr.

Taken together, these four blog posts seem to suggest that, although consumption of objects–food, tools, art, etc.–is essential to human existence, satisfying our need for things can involve costs as well as benefits. What are some of those costs and benefits? How do you balance those costs and benefits in your own habits of consumption? What personal experience have you had that might help to illuminate the risks and rewards of our desire for things?

Carefully read or re-read the posts by Daniel, Sneezy Deezy, Alex, and Lakisha. Use those posts and some of the resources to which they link and cite as a starting point for some careful examination of your own consumption practices. Have you ever had to make a purchasing decision in which convenience or personal preference suggested one course of action, and the “greater good” weighed in favor of another? What is the most significant purchase or use of an object you’ve ever made, and why was it so important? How do you see the costs and benefits discussed in these four posts and their sources playing out in your own consumption practices?

Posting: Group 1

Commenting: Group 2

Category: Wanting Things

In your Blog #8 post, you should do more than offer a list of answers to these questions. Rather, you should frame your post around the description of a central experience or practice from your own life, and an examination of what that experience demonstrates about the relevance of consumption to you as an individual and perhaps culture or society more broadly. Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog as they’ve been outlined in the Blog Project Description.

Feature Image: “CONSUMED” by Mark Colliton on Flickr.