Digital Genres Five

First paper, afternoon session: Robert Moore is presenting a paper on brands, the use of language in corporate culture, and semiotics. Brands are composite entities, an unstable proprietary composite of a material product and an abstract symbol.

Brandedness (in the contemporary market) interpellates people to act as consumers (Anyone who uses the word “interpellates” has already won me over). Brand is the way producers extend themselves into the world of consumers.

In the beginningwas the Name; without a protected brand name, a brand does not exist. If the brand name devolves into a signifier for a category (rather than one particular version of products), the brand no longer exists; Moore calls this “genericide.” The name separted from the product. “Ingredient branding” names a component, which component is not itself perceptible in consuming the product (NutraSweet, Dolby, “Intel Inside”). You drink the cola, you use the computer — but you “consume” the host product without observing the component branded part. In these cases, the component frequently derives its initial cachet from the whole product, then lends its brand status back to the host. Third example: “viral marketing” produces its product in the act of branding; and in the act of consuming the product, the consumer both consumes and produces the product.

Moore proposes that online, we are dependent on our names. Machines recognize us by our names, we recognize one another by our names. . . .

Now the Happy Tutor is transmitting twenty-two aphorisms on branding — a version of this posting from April. This performance suffers lack only in the of The Tutor — whose presence perhaps would make the performance impossible. More’s the pity; but his delegate himself offers a surfeit of significance.

Laura Trippi is here (we were afraid she couldn’t make it). Two digital genres, or metapgenres: Defense Transformation (a Pentagon program that aims to take control of technological innovation and outrun private invention), and the other doesn’t have a name (P2P? Social Software? Smart Mobs?). Both are driven by disruptive technologies, using complex systems theory (emergence).

Why talk about them as genres? It calls attention to their relational nature. Defense Transformation responds to terrorist networks. They are internally stratified. Like the notion of brand, it forms a bridge that connects to the chronotope, linking to its conditions of possibility. It conveys the axiological horizons of each utterance. They’re always evolving,unfolding themselves across cultures, remixing, operating under other names. They provide narratives that explain their trajectory, but the narrative isn’t inherent in the genre itself.

Common values and beliefs: free markets, innovation (in and of itself). . . .

Defense transformation is the Pentagon’s effort to reinvent itself to prioritize informational technology (information up to parity with economic, political resources), toward the end of a Revolution in Military Affairs. Shift from doctrine of overwhelming force, to primary dominance. It’s not about destroying, but controlling knowledge and information to disorient and destabilize the adversary.

Net War: the combat shifts to non-state actors.

How does this connect with branding and the role of narrative? Brands deny a perceived good about one product or service, and persuade the consumer of another good.

Micah Jackson is talking about selves, identity, and online personality. He suggests thinking of our first year of college (Edward Castronova moans); we move away from our families of origin, make new friends —do we become new people?

He explains “self psychology” which Kohut developed in understanding and treating narcissistic personality disorders (I’m wishing Chris Locke were here to join in). Micah’s paper is good, but I’m not summarizing it because it’s so entwined with self psychology that I feel as though I’d have to reproduce the psychological background information in order to convey the points he’s making about the [self] psychology of online interactions.

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