Rob Horning: The Accidental Bricoleurs

"The 21 posits that age as a fulcrum, tenuously balancing the teenage idea of maturity grounded in the uninhibited freedom of self-presentation against the presumptive regrets of everyone older, who must continually be reminded of when it all began to go wrong for them, the day they turned 22."

Ron Horning has a fantastic post on n+1 about fast fashion, social networks and the brand of You.  For someone enmeshed in almost 20 years of living in the world he writes about, its not that easy of a read.  I am going to pull some quotes and then try and check back with more commentary later.

On fast fashion

“I’ve always thought that Forever 21 was a brilliant name for a fast-fashion retailer. These two words succinctly encapsulate consumerism’s mission statement: to evoke the dream of perpetual youth through constant shopping.”

“Clothes reach stores with practically unspoiled semiotic potential, and consumers are invited to be expressive rather than imitative with the goods, to participate more directly in fashion. We become the meaning makers, enchanting ordinary cardigans and anoraks with a symbolic significance that has only a tenuous relationship to the material item. We work in lieu of advertisers to reconfigure trends and remix signifiers, generating new and valuable meanings for goods. The more new clothes come in, the more creative we can be.”

On Social Networks

“Facebook and other social-media companies have a similarly parasitic business model. They also appropriate the content and connections we generate as we recreate our identities within their proprietary systems, and then repurpose that data for marketers who hope to sell tokens of that identity back to us.”

“Social media teach us to seize potential signifiers of the self from any available source and spend our energy promoting them as attention-worthy.”

“With social media’s sudden ubiquity, it’s plausible that all other sorts of immersive knowledge by which we might invest our identity with meaning will become subordinate to the practice of clever sign manipulation, to adeptly choosing material and affixing it to one’s persona online.”

On the brand of You

“The personal brand, in its concatenation of fame hunger and dismal self-exploitation, is the evolutionary end point of a tendency implicit in fashion since the rise of consumerism.”

“Workers must be comfortable living off short-term projects secured through whatever means necessary—ceaseless networking and bootlicking, ruthless leveraging of friends and family contacts, spinning a series of half-truths on a résumé—and they must be more or less self-motivated to produce, to regard themselves as creative forces, to generate economic value in every aspect of how they live, instrumentalizing it all.”

The commercialization of the Self

“In turning to social media for comfort, we’ve become happily dependent on digital devices, as we have come to rely on the accelerated rate of communication and exchange they facilitate. They offer us chances to articulate, evaluate, and augment who we are while archiving our identity-making gestures as a collection we can later fawn over and curate.”

“The online repository has gradually become the privileged site of the self, the authorized version that redeems the frustration and desperation incipient with the provisionality of work life, that corrects the errors and discourtesies we commit in our confrontations with the physical world.”

Welcome to the desert of the real

As I practice the task of self branding, attaching myself to artifacts hoping to further articulate my own meaning, the underpinning of Rob’s post becomes all to apparent.  I am a Zizek fan so here’s a good quote and a youtube video to further substantiate my relationship with the meme.

“Again, the ultimate truth of the capitalist utilitarian de-spiritualized universe is the de-materialization of the “real life” itself, its reversal into a spectral show.”

Slavoj Zizek, 09/15/2001

About Daniel Davenport

Daniel is a digital media executive with internet and broadcast experience. Daniel is currently the executive strategy director at THINK Interactive.

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