consumption everyday Reading: Barthes consumption semiology semiotic
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“Myths are the stories societies live by. They provide ways of conceptualising and understanding the world, and therefore they are crucial to a society’s efforts (always in the interests of dominant groups) to construct and maintain a sense of self-identity (in terms of acceptable sameness and unacceptable difference). For Barthes myth attempts to become society’s common sense”- to produce and put into circulation modes of thinking in which what is cultural (i.e made by humans) is understood as natural (i.e a result of the laws of nature). Barthes’ concept of myth is very close to Marxism’s understanding of ideology in that, like ideology, myth is a body of ideas and practices which seek to defend the prevailing structures of power by actively promoting the values and interests of the dominant groups in society. Myths is successful to the extent it is able to naturalise and universalise the interests of dominant groups as if they were the interests of all members of society.
To understand this aspect of Barthes’ argument we need to understand the polysemic nature of signs; that is, that they have the potential to signify multiple meanings”
P30 (on the Paris Match cover)
“What makes the move from primary signification (denotation) to secondary signification (connotation) a possibility are the shared cultural codes on which both Barthes and the readership of Paris Match are able to draw. Without access to this shared code (conscious or unconscious) the operations of secondary signification (connotation) would not be possible. And of course such knowledge is always both historical and cultural. That is to say, it might differ from one culture to another, and from one historical moment to another. Cultural difference might also be marked by differences of class, race, gender, generation, or sexual preference.
As Barthes explains, reading closely depends on my culture, on my knowledge of the world, and it is probable that a good press photograph (…) makes ready play with the supposed knowledge of its readers…
Secondary significations (connotations ) are therefore activated from an already existing cultural repertoire (…) and at the same time adds to it.
This is a process of cultural consumption as manipulation in which we as readers are active and complicit participants”
P44 The making of Class Difference
Pierre Bourdieu looks into how what social groups consume is “Part of a strategy for hierachicising social space”. “He shows how arbitrary tastes and arbitrary ways of living are continually transmuted into legitimate taste…”
The Practice of Everyday Life examines the ways in which people individualise mass culture, altering things, from utilitarian objects to street plans to rituals, laws and language, in order to make them their own. Published in French as L’invention du quotidien.
The Practice of Everyday Life begins by pointing out that while social science possesses the ability to study the traditions, language, symbols, art and articles of exchange that make up a culture, it lacks a formal means by which to examine the ways in which people reappropriate them in everyday situations.
This is a dangerous omission, Certeau argues, because in the activity of re-use lies an abundance of opportunities for ordinary people to subvert the rituals and representations that institutions seek to impose upon them.
With no clear understanding of such activity, social science is bound to create nothing other than a picture of people who are non-artists (meaning non-creators and non-producers), passive and heavily subject to received culture. Indeed, such a misinterpretation is borne out in the term “consumer”. In the book, the word “user” is offered instead; the concept of “consumption” is expanded in the phrase “procedures of consumption” which then further transforms to “tactics of consumption”.
In the book, ordinary life is depicted as a constant, subconscious struggle against the institutions competing to assimilate the everyday man [person].