Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fri 11am Ben Trotter

I was particularly interested by what Professor Chun said in lecture about consumer capitalism. In order for a good to be successful it must generate an infinite desire for itself or some aspect of itself while simultaneously limiting the users ability to reach the fulfillment of the desire. Cigarettes are one of the best examples. Whenever a smoker purchases a cigarette, they are trying to re-establish the feeling they got the last time they smoked. This feeling of course is fleeting. Once the buzz goes away the smoker is left right back where they started, with infinite desire to return to how they felt after smoking the cigarette and limited by the number in the pack and the temporary nature of the drug. Thinking about the same example except negating either the infinite desire or the limit shows how true the initial statement is. Remove the infinite desire by manufacturing a non-addictive cigarette. Suddenly cigarettes are no longer in as high demand. Similarly, if the limit of a cigarette’s utility was somehow removed (someone engineers a cigarette that gets you a buzz that never goes away) you would then only need one cigarette in your whole life. In either of these examples the success of cigarettes would dwindle. While a somewhat simple idea it is an interesting way to think about not just consumer goods but anything.

When I read through the beginning of Barthes S/Z I found myself wondering about this elusive “writerly” text. It seems like Barthes was trying to define something that could not exist in order to propagate his ideas. By trying to define something that does not exist you spark an infinite curiosity in your reader. The limit in this situation is the ability of the reader to actually visualize what it is the writer is talking about. A good example of this would be if scientists discovered another dimension or a parallel universe, something that would spark an infinite curiosity and thus spread itself in the media but since these discoveries would be impossible to visualize they would leave the readers wanting more. I felt that way when I was reading S/Z. Give me an example of this writerly text. (as a side note I think it ironic that Microsoft word is telling me the word writerly does not exist and that I must have misspelled it). I came up with my own example, Wikipedia. When defining the writerly text Barthes writes, “Because the goal of literary work (or literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text.” He describes it as a “perpetual present.” Through every single person who visits the site’s ability to change the website itself Wikipedia has come as close to a writerly text as I can think of. So I guess I’m wondering if Wikipedia can be considered a writerly text.

Ben Trotter – Friday Section 11:00-11:50

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