Theoretical Perspectives

Chris Anderson - The Long Tail

The future of business is selling more of less. The Internet has revolutionised the distribution possibilities of capitalism. While business structures in the Twentieth Century were chareacterised by Fordist principals of mass production, businesses that have flourished in the Twenty-First Century are niche marketing focusing on a defined community of consumers

Mikhail Bakhtin and the Carnivalesque

The Carnivalesque: social and aesthetic formations, which disrupt the normative behaviours and socio-cultural hierarchies of everyday existence. Central to this is the idea that normal life is suspended during the carnival.

Roland Barthes and the Death of the Author

Influenced by Saussure’s semiotics Barthes argues that the meaning of a text is inscribed by the audience who essentially re-write it. Barthes argues that in effect the reader becomes an author, rendering the providential creator of the text as good as dead: hence the title the ‘Death of the Author’.

Jean Baudrillard – Hyper- reality and the Consumer Society

The proliferation of information technology alienates man from real lived social existence, forcing him to enter a new media induced reality known as hyper-reality: hyper-reality is characterised by the collapse of the distinction between the real and the simulated and the predominance of the simulacrum.

Pierre Bourdieu - Distinction

Social class is constructed by cultural taste; cultural taste is produced by education. Social class facilitates access to education and so cultural order replicates itself. In the process of education, the individual acquires cultural capital, which gives the individual the ability to identify culturally noble activity. Culture evolves through the nomination of new cultural activity as noble by individuals who are highly educated in the process of naming.

Stuart Ewen – The Politics of Style

Style is political: visual signifiers encode systems of belief. While these visual codes are often long and complex histories their appropriation by consumer culture often dilutes their ideological potency. The ideological significance of the punk safety pin, example, is diminished when adopted by mass-produced clothing lines; what is left is in Ewen’s terms ‘cultural waste matter’.

Dick Hebdige – Subculture and the Meaning of Style

Central to Hedge’s view of consumer culture is the notion that the individual is active in the ascription of meaning to consumer goods. Focusing on the punk movement of the mid-1970s he looks at the ways in which youth-culture borrow and re-work the symbols of preceding youth groups. In particular his semiotic analysis of the safety pin as a symbol of cultural rebellion has been particularly influential in framing and shaping the way in which proceeding moments of cultural resistance have been understood.

Fredric Jameson – Postmodernism and Parody

Jameson argues that the distinction between the real and the simulated becomes very blurred in postmodern society. He uses the terms parody and pastiche to explain the way people use and borrow existing cultural artefacts. Pastiche is basic mimicry, while parody is more knowing and ironic.

Edward Said - Orientalism

Orientalism refers to the academic study of the Orient, however, for Said the term describes the tendency in Western intellectual and artistic discourse to view the Orient as “other” – an exotic outsider to the Occident. Moreover, he suggests that despite being shaped by the colonial expansion of the Nineteenth Century, ‘Orientalism’ is not an explicit mode of political power and repression but instead exists in the “them-and-us” exchange within ‘various kinds of power’.

Ferdinand de Saussure - The Signifier and the Signified

Saussure argues that all signs are double entities made up of the signifier and the signified. The signifier is the linguistic coding of a concrete object, abstract emotion or physical act. The signified is that to which the signifier refers to. The two things are inseparable; however, the relationship is arbitrary: meaning that there is no causal reason why the two are so related. The fluctuation of meaning in the relationship between sound and meaning across different languages is testimony to this fact.

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