Very interesting thread this week. Morgan, I know this topic is your cup of tea as an anthropologist. Your analysis is both precise and well grounded when you wrote that the social network generation is a new breed of subculturalist. And just as subculturalists were the creative class of brand dissemination and modification and alteration and transformation in the past, so too will the SNS crowd be in the days ahead.
My take on what is happening out there is really the results of the following trends: The first one is the relentless commodification (and virtualization) of all areas of social life (to your point including sub-cultures). It is the essentially the marketization of a large variety of sub-cultures and its micro-behavior. Examples such as today’s married women are more devoted to employment and like many large corporations begin to “outsource” their work. Such as hiring baby-sitters, lawn care providers, private tutors for their children and grocery delivery etc. Same situation when we "outsource" our other activities such as storing photos and finding the right product advice through the use of the internet (although we don’t have to pay directly for these services as they are subsidized by advertisers). So less and less of our daily life is produced at home, but rather more and more of what we consume is commodified (and delivered through the networks). The commoditization of sub-cultures largely due to consumer participation in social networks and other consumer generated content sharing. This commoditization of daily life is slowly occurring in many areas whatever we can imagine including health care, learning, dating and even marriages. The production of news, popular culture, sports, entertainment is also increasingly commodified.
Twenty years ago, the public good aspect of many industries including TVs, newspaper and book publishing, fashion and luxury goods and personal services co-existed with the need to crate shareholder value. Today, a couple millions of citizen journalists are making a big impact in the media industries. No aspect of the modern social life is immune from these forces. “Personal style” or “Personal taste” or “Individuality” has become a hot market commodity. Many companies have capitalized on these trends. Branding has moved up to a corporate level as well as down to an individual level. Everyone these days need to care about his or her “personal image” or “brand’ whomever you are. Styles are being identified, reflected, re-mixed and manufactured. Hip-Hop moved from inner cities to suburb and back again, as a marketed commodity. Even our deepest personal connections are increasingly dominated by market transaction. They happen through surrogate motherhood, sale of one’s DNA, sex, private jets or holiday homes all available as timeshare, or the commercialization of spirituality (watch faith channel). The result of this is we become more desperate to socialize the profane consumer world around us, worshiping celebrities, rock stars, designers and brands (at least not politicians thank God).
Well, because life is generally boring (not all of us will agree with this) and work is not exactly empowering (at least for 50% of us). Brand helps create some sense of purpose and is compensatory in nature. If work is empowering, life is meaningful and people will lose interest in high-consumption lifestyles. De-marketing will happen. Until then, a brand’s role is to help to create meanings in everyday life through commodities. I hope this provides a good wrap up on this exciting topic. Love to hear your views.
Two particpants sent photos and ask me to post them. First one is from Andrew and the other from George. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy!