Perception Is Reality

Posts Tagged ‘consumer culture

There is no culture, except the one advertising has sold to us through a number of media, mainly television. Our dreams have been packaged and sold to us, a lifestyle – nothing more than an article of trade. We consume this lifestyle and enjoy short bursts of satisfaction, much like an orgasm. Then we want more. The authenticity of life, of being a human being has moved away from inward reflection, to outward exposition. We have become what the consumer society has made us, individuals looking to satisfy our own needs and desires. On Maslow’s pyramid of the hierarchy of needs, then, we ricochet off the stages between needs for security and needs for love and belonging – which too are meagre, artificially fabricated needs.

It is no wonder then, that we tend to disregard the bigger picture and indulge in our own foolishness: we are too busy looking for the satisfaction in the wrong places, in effect, ignoring the true institutions from where we derive the atonements, our family, friends, and ourselves.

The result is therefore a loop, a mindset which benefits not our community as it should be, rather the marketplace. We become the fuel for the hungry engines of the corporations that try so hard to keep us innoculated with their ideas of culture and happiness.

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Culture Jamming

 

Recently, I read an article regarding culture jamming by Kalle Lasn. Broadly speaking, culture jamming is our “belligerent attitude” towards authority, or our instincts to go against authority where information flows from the “powerful to the powerless” in a trickle down style. Culture Jammers are then those who take big risks and commit themselves to “small, spontaneous movements of truth.”

Lasn states that culture jamming may be relatively new term, but it is an old movement. Take for example the punk hippies movement, the Surrealists, Anarchists, and so on. However, the most important movement is the Situationist International founded by Guy Debord. These individuals believed that the reflexive way of acting and reacting, living and existing in capitalist societies were killing the “real” way of living life and concentrated on the “novelty” as a way of life. The SI spoke of the everyday way of life (advertising, tv, and commodity consumption) as “spectacles” and were thoroughly against it.

So without, getting into too much detail, what do these jammers do in order to revive the authenticity of life? In order to break free of this mass-culture, what do you do? The idea was called derive or “the drift” which was borrowed from the Dadaists but was defined by the SI as “locomotion without a goal.”

You float through the city, open to whatever you come in contact with, thus exposing yourself to the whole spectrum of feelings you encountered by chance in your everyday life. Openness is key (Kalle Lasn).”

Lasn talks about Marcus’ idea about the “democracy of false desire,” that is how our society and all the media in large offer us the illusion of choices, however, in actuality reducing them to a select number of products or commodities such as action movies, political scandals, ball games, and so on.

Fast forward into actual practice, Lasn talks about Demarketing Loops. Uncooling what is considered cool now and bringing back the authentic version of life. No more Nikes and Calvin Kleins, privately owned media, fast food, cars, and essentially, consumption. So, not buying basically means not buying into consumer culture, which losens the grip of corporations on us as “consumers (Lasn).” Downshifting into the slow lane of life, thinking green, consuming green, thinking about social costs and benefits, family life, and so on. The more you have does not equal to more happiness or joy. Forget McDonalds, make your own burgers. Walk into a class room lecture dressed as a professor (in a satirical way, ofcourse) and talk about educational propaganda. Or wake up in the morning and jump into a tub full of water and ice. Shocks the body, doesn’t it?

This is exactly what Lasn talks about. Jumping into the tub is a mindful, spontaneous decision and doesn’t follow the mentally learnt schemas of culture and society.

Basically, then, we want to “reverse the spin cycle… Demarket our news, our entertainments, our lifestyles and desires – and eventually, maybe even our dreams” that have been constructed by the media. Everything is a simulation of life: a hyperreality, where the goal to be achieved in the capitalist system is so ideal that it does not exist except by enhancement through digital technology.

To read more on Culture Jamming, click here. Then take action.

Hello all!

Today’s phrase is Consumer Culture! While this may be true of advertising and society, it is also relevant to film studies. Here’s why:

This refers to the society in which consumption of goods is the major theme. In this idea, culture is commodified as an object of trade. Entrepreneurs bank on low self-esteem and make products which are associated with social dimensions such as relationships, socio-economic status and identity.

In film and television, we can relate this to how television is advertising and every program is filled with ads (be it product placement, or during commercial breaks). Television becomes a vehicle for mass consumption, each show being targeted to a specific audience, such as talk shows geared towards the female, and then advertising products related to them such as hygiene-related, food-related products: products for the household.

In the article, “Answering Advertisers’ Prayers,” the author Cashmore talks about how television audiences cannot escape advertising and the way products are advertised (such as Nestlé’s coffee blend) and how television is advertising. The author talks about how advertisers create problems and then create solutions which they sell to the audience as consumers. The author gives insight and further explains using various examples in history and the rationale behind the forms of advertising.

An example of consumer culture is Sex and the City. There is extensive advertising of a particular high lifestyle with dining out a lot, clubbing and expensive clothing.

Another example of consumer culture is Melrose Place which sells the idea of young singles living in a posh apartment in Los Angeles.

As the Twelve Steppers say, we must acknowledge our powerlessness. We cannot knowledgeably make even a fraction of the appropriate choices available. Say it out loud. Today I will make several wrong choices. Now, whether you’ve selected an inferior vacuum cleaner, bought the large soda when the jumbo was a better deal, or accidentally prayed to the wrong god – forgive yourself. If we took some joy in being bad choosers, or at least placed less value on being stellar consumers of unimportant things, we would be training ourselves to accept a few extra drops of imperfection in our lives. Somehow, that would seem more like progress than having the choice between polyproylene arch brace contours and a solar-powered argyle.

Steven Waldman, my friends.

Over the past four months I’ve been studying advertising and its effects and roots in our North American society. Over the course, I have read from authors possibly down a couple centuries about the consumer culture. Many authors have talked about the benefits of advertising, such as giving us the ability to make informed decisions; while on the other hand, many authors claim this as a myth, stating that with puffery and imagery, we are dumbed down even more. I believe that since advertising impacts people at individual levels making each consumer a unique (and important) addition to the consumer culture, the judgement as to whether ads really dumb down or help make decisions about buying the correct product lies in the hands of these unique members of this society. Needless to say, history shows how the FDA and similar organizations give way to the big fishes in corporate America, knowingly allowing them to exploit the loopholes in policies, leaving major repercussions to be felt in the American society.

 Another imporant observation is the bleeding of consumer culture, a very, purely American thing – well, until recently – into third world countries such as Pakistan. By the way, it should be important to add here that advertising and the culture has already risen above the boundaries of ethnic demographics (although targeted advertising is a major, effective practice). I call this supervening, superceeding repercussions. All over we are now starting to see private fashion labels, advertising following the patterns of the American style (Create a problem or need, provide a solution), with images and extravagant claims which float viewers up to cloud number nine and therefore, need to have certain products or service. The important of family life is being targeted in advertisements by the services sector (financial stability, credit cards, cars and houses, loans, etc.), individuality by certain products which appeal to the self (such as an imported, branded colognes), the sense of belonging by minimal advertising (niche coffee bars and cafes), and so on. Already, this is reminiscent of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.

My question to you – and think about this – is where do we draw the line between wants and needs? Is there a difference between wants and desires?


About the Author…

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in an Adventist hospital, I grew up in a city where on one side I experienced poverty and oppression, while on the other I had the good fortune of Tabish Bhimani being a member of an upper middle-class business family...more...

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