Thursday, February 18, 2010

S.03 Commodities and Control

I found this week’s readings especially useful to my burgeoning studies on commodity fetishism. I’m interested in anthropologist Daniel Miller’s (borrowed from Baudrillard and Marx) assertion that consumers use material objects in the construction of self-identity. I was especially excited to think about commodity fetishism in terms of the control society from the Deleuze reading and the uncertainty and “indeterminacy of meaning” brought up by Ang. If we are in an age of global consumer capitalism and of the corporation with a soul (the soul, according to Deleuze, being marketing), then it seems to me that commodity fetishism, or rather the fetishization of commodities, is a major form of control. As Professor Chun stressed in class, in a culture of consumerism, we cannot not want. Ang writes that “the culture of consumerism is founded on the idea that constant transformation of identities (through consumption) is pleasurable and meaningful” (177). Commodities, then, are fetishized as both producers and consumers create, accept, and recreate meanings that help to construct and transform self-identity. It is this work of fetishization that I see as a form of control. As we covered in lecture, the Birmingham school of cultural studies points that the message sent is not always the message received. The dominant meaning, though embedded within the message, is not necessarily received or received in the same form. Meanings are multiple are in fact also created by those who receive the message (the receiver inputs into the system, as stated in lecture).

In terms of commodity fetishism, this means that the creation of meanings surrounding an object is not just the work of the producer, but also the work of the consumer. Are commodities (or advertisements for that matter) writerly texts? I think this is where the control aspect comes in. Through various tactics, such as consumer ethnography or research, marketing corporations attempt to divine the consumer-created meanings and appropriate them in order to further appeal to their market. If we feel at all that we have such freedom of choice in the multitude of objects available for our consumption or that we have power in our ability to construct new meanings, what does it mean that corporations are actually appropriating these new meanings and using them to market more heavily, with more focus, and even more effectively? That we are made to desire certain objects that are made and marketed to be the objects of our specific desire?

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