Can Social Media Sell Soap?

Can Social Media Sell Soap? – NYTimes.com.

 

Notes: Been meaning to write on this idea, to investigate the rise/development of narrative models of representative persons, distinct from the legal category of “reasonable man,” but not alien to it. My sense of this notion of the representative person derives from American culture, as in Emerson’s essays, to be sure, but well before. Even the very idea of a democracy implies–no, is explicitly about–the idea that the man on the street is the like all others, with only degrees of difference distinguishing one from the other. Except, in the case of American culture (and it’s hardly unique), the quality of race affords a catastrophic decoupling of shared identity.

Or would, for those most committed to the idea, of any identity shared by all minus x, just as any number of other shibboleths drive difference into the bone of contentious identity.

But it still gives us the logic, of conceiving persons as plausible imaginations whom we can conjure out of wish and memory and hidden desires and impart with a logic like intention that in the telling persuades the reader that this is true.

The interesting thing to me is not that this operation of Western fiction, which has prevailed since pretty much after the first novels were sold, is decaying or is not decaying–it isn’t, for reasons that Auerbach argues–but that its currency is equally never stable, oscillatory with surface effects, the traces of identity scattered by the desires of others and not to be found in the history of the subject. (There is no subject, at least no unitary subject that is not in the end a fiction. Not that that makes any difference.)

So in this current frame, where the game of advertising and marketing and community–all fields I am now deeply in and by which I earn my living and whose discourse I find interesting to no end–the point is not to find the what women (or men or children) want, but to understand that the archive that makes up our collection of desires and actions and actionable desires and desirable actions is sometimes incoherent, held together by accidents of location, context, inertia; and sometimes fiercely, synthetically logical, and sometimes both. That the Victorian project of order is not irrelevant because it failed fully to account for the irrational and biological (that as always implicit) but a theatre that both retains its full power of ordering identity while … we continue to do what we otherwise do outside of that theatrical space, perhaps in another one.

And I’m reminded, again, of that very great novel, Trouble on Triton, by Delany. 3 billion on Earth killed by the spacers (as Asimov would have had them), by those outside of Earth: a genocide. The novel anticipates his later work, such as (again the reframing of Asimov), Stars in my pocket, where again, the genocide of cultures continues as a logical outcome of family structures that predicate identity on sharply drawn logical grounds. But this, as has also been noted, is simply the Enlightenment project carried to its terminus.

 

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