CONSUMPTION and COMMUNICATION
Consumption is a significant part of the circulation of shared and unshared, harmonious and conflicting, significant and insignificant meanings. Meanings in their various shades and intensities are at the core of what we call culture. We communicate through what we consume and we consume, in one way or another, an immense variety of material products. Consumption is perhaps the most visible way in which we stage and perform the drama of self-formation. In this sense, then, consumption is also a form of production, the production of self,1 so argues John Storey, Professor of Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sunderland. As a writer and editor, as a scholar and poet, I consume and produce ideas on a daily basis.
The primary activity of some social spaces and places is interaction, and the contrast with places where communication is actually discouraged could hardly be more extreme. Disneyworld and Disneyland, as well as American shopping malls, are designed to encourage consumption but, as Ray Oldenburg Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology at the University of West Florida in Pensacola emphasizes, they discourage interaction between customers. Marketplaces, clubs and sports stadiums have some social as well as monetary value, but shopping malls have no social value, according to Oldenburg.2
“The imaginative hedonism of the urban setting in its theatricality is employed as a way to stage-manage oneself. Most urban places and spaces, like the markets and clubs referred to above, serve less as places of communication than as stages for cultivating one’s image.”-Ron Price with thanks to 1John Storey, Inventing Popular Culture: From Folklore to Globalization, Oxford, 2003;2 Ray/Rothauer Oldenburg and Doris Rothauer, “Third Places. An Email Conversation”, Doris Rothauer (ed.): Third Places: Fußball, Videospiele, Musikvideos in Graz-West, Frankfurt/M. and 3Sonke Gau, “Die Theatralisierung des Städtischen“, Doris Rothauer (ed): Third Places: Fußball, Videospiele, Musikvideos in Graz-West, Frankfurt/M., 2004.
If I look back on seven decades
of my consumption-production,
stage-management, I can see that
there have been many places that
discourage communication of any
kind and….in retrospect, that was
okay since they helped to balance
those other places in life in which
words, endless words….filled the
spaces and places of my heart and
mind giving me the feeling that….
perhaps, I was experiencing that
excess of speech, a deadly poison.
24 August 2010
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