The word consume dates back fromthe 14th century and was used tomean “something that was „usedup‟ or „destroyed‟”; such as to beconsumed by fire. Similarly, theterm „consumption‟ came intousage in the 16th century to refer toany disease that causes „wastingaway‟ such as TB.
Hence, consumption is mostoften seen as an end pointand the direct opposite ofproduction which is seen asthe process of „creation‟,rather than „destruction‟.
However, Lury suggest thatconsumption needs to beunderstood as part of a wider„material culture‟ – a term given tothe study of „person-thing‟relationships. That is to say, thestudy of material culture is thestudy of objects and how these areused.
Lury suggests that consumerobjects should be seen to have asocial life of their own. That is tosay, consumer goods will havechanging and different meaningsthrough their lifespan, dependingon who is viewing or using themand in what context they arelocated.
Consumer goods are, therefore,polysemic – open to multiplereadings and meanings. Peoplewill use consumer goods indifferent ways and they willhave different meanings fordifferent people.
The Birmingham School suggeststhat subcultures engage in aprocess of „bricolage‟, wherebythey use existing consumer goods,but redefine and combine them todevelop a distinct style to markthemselves out from the generalpublic and as a form of socialrebellion and resistance.
Preppycharacteristic of a fashion styleof neat, simple, and oftenexpensive clothes; young butclassic: suggesting that thewearer is upper class, andconservative.
Cybergoth is a subculture that derivesfrom elements of cyberpunk and goth.Unlike traditional goths, they followelectronic dance music more often thanrock. They tend to wear primarily blackclothing with hints of neon colors, as wellas clothing made of reflective materials.Their hair extensions or falls oftenincorporate a bright color and multiplepiercings are typical.
Emo is stereotyped withwearing close-fitting jeans,sometimes in bright colors, andtight T-shirts (usually short-sleeved) which often bear thenames of emo bands. Studdedbelts and black wristbands canbe accessories in emo fashion.
The emo fashion is also recognized for itshairstyles including thin, flat and smoothhair with lots of hair on the sides and backof the head with long side-swept bangs,sometimes covering one or both eyes. Alsopopular is hair that is straightened or dyedblack. Bright colors, such as blue, pink,red, or bleached blond, are also in emohairstyles. Short, choppy layers of hair arealso common
Important links can also be drawnbetween consumption andprocesses of communication. Thiscan be illustrated in the wayclothing and fashion act as a formof language, communicatingmeanings which are read (orconsumed) by others.
Hence, consumption can beunderstood in a similar way toprocesses communication, wherecycles of meanings (both intendedand not) are communicated andconsumed through and viaconsumer goods, and interpreted,re-interpreted and invested withmeaning by others.
Consumer Societya society in which peopleoften buy new goods,especially goods which theydo not need, and whichplaces a high value onowning many things
Many theorist have argued thatconsumption has become thecentral concern ofcontemporary society, and thatwe are entering a new erabased on the construction ofself-identity through consumergoods.
Bauman argues that allprior societies have beenprimarily producers.Hierarchies were based onindividual‟s position withinthe production process.
However, in „our‟ consumersociety, an individual needs tobe a consumer first before onecan think of becominganything in particular. It isconsumption that defines whowe are and who we can be.
He also states that our ability toconsume which shapes andinfluences our identity and socialstatus. In particular, he uses theterms „tourist‟ and „vagabond‟ asmetaphors to describe the extent towhich people can participate in thisconsumer society.
For the „tourist‟ consumer lifeis about never staying in anyone place for too long, it isalways temporary, and they areon never-ending journey ofconsumption and endlessreinvention.
„Vagabonds‟ are the peopleexcluded from consumerculture. The vagabond alsomoves from place to place butnot because of desire, butbecause they are not welcomeanywhere.
However, it is important torecognize that not everyoneagrees with Bauman‟sarguments. In particular, manyauthors have questioned theidea that our identities becomebased only on consumer goods.
Campbell suggests that ratherthan consumer items beingselected to construct anidentity, it is more likely thatitems are selected on the basisof whether they „fit‟ with our„existing identities andlifestyle‟.
Warde suggests that otherfactors such as nationality,ethnicity, occupation, andfamily continue to playimportant roles in shapingour identities.
All in all, it is stillundeniable thatconsumption is moreimportant today in oureveryday lives than everbefore in history.
In considering the socialand cultural significance ofnew technologies, Flew(2002) suggests sixinterrelated key aspects ofnew media and ICTs.
First, it is suggested that there isincreasingly a „digitalization‟ ofsociety and culture. That is to say,there is occurring a major shift awayfrom analog technologies towards thestorage, delivery, and reception ofinformation in digital forms – which isthe storage and delivery ofinformation in binary codes.
With analog radios,information is carried onradio waves, which eithermodulate (vary up & down)in strength like an AM radioor in frequency like the FMradio.
Digital radio, though stillusing modulation, sendsinformation in binary code,allowing better quality ofsound and a wider choice ofradio stations.
However, digitalizationconstitutes only a relativelysmall advance in technologywhich generally allows forbetter quality and morechoice of media forms.
For instance, signal beaconscan be considered as a form ofbinary code. Therefore, it isquestionable if digitalization isnecessarily „new‟ or has hadany significant impact oncultural forms.
Second, there has also been a„convergence‟ of technology onseveral levels. There has been aconvergence on the level offunctionality – as increasingnew ICTs perform multiplefunctions and services.
Likewise, there‟s been aconvergence of media formsand types. Music, televisionand film have been linked forsome time but increasinglymedia forms are ever moreintertwined and interdependent
A third key features of manynew technologies is„interactivity‟. Many newmedia forms and ICTs claim toprovide their users with greaterlevels of interactivity or user-control.
For instance, video games givetheir players multiple choicesand options, such as takingcontrol of a football team,either as a player or amanager.
Digital television also allowsthe viewer several choices suchas key information to supportthe program their watching, orgreater control, such aswatching a football match fromnumerous different angles.
Social networking sites allowusers to easily create their ownprofiles, pages and/or onlinecontents, which others canview and act as a means ofsocial interaction, socialnetworking and meeting people
New ICTs also increase theopportunity for individuals tomodify or change content andmedia forms created by otherusers. For instance onlinegames and contents.
The fourth concept oftenassociated with new ICTs isthat of „virtual reality‟ (VR). Itis the idea of occupying spacesor personas outside of the„real world‟.
For instance, Turkle arguesthat the internet has allowedpeople to play with theiridentities and personas;providing a new opportunity toproject their fantasies andideas into this virtual reality.
Another online gamingphenomena has been„SecondLife‟. In SecondLife,you create an avatar with theidea that you live out a second(online) life.
There‟s no missions or setobjectives in this game, but ratheryou can buy properties, clothingand accessories, get tattoos andpiercings, furnish your home,modify the way your avatar looks,and interact with other „residents‟of SecondLife.
You can even get a job or employother residents, and there is afluctuating exchange rate betweenLinden dollars and the „real‟ USdollars, which allows you to buycurrency in the game or exchangemoney you earn in the game forreal cash.
This therefore demonstratesnot just the links between„virtual‟ and „real‟ life, butrather the importance ofunderstanding the use of newICTs as part of everyday lifeand culture.
The fifth concept that is closelylinked to the rise of new mediatechnologies is that of„globalization‟. This suggests thatthe mass media and ICTs havehelped reduce a sense of distanceand time which allows people tocommunicate globally almostinstantaneously.
„Network‟ is identified as afinal key feature of new mediaand ICTs. Networks involve theability to carry large quantitiesof information to a series ofinterconnected points.
Networks involve technologicallinks, such as the Internet, butthey also involve links betweenpeople, such as peoplecommunicating via textmessages or Internet chatrooms.
Both the level of impact of newtechnologies have had onsociety and culture, and thedegree to which these changescan be seen as either positive ornegative, are also highlydebated issues.
For instance, new ICTs wouldallow a much greater freedomof publishing and authorship,which would transform socialand political life, leading tonew democratic freedoms.
McLuhan (1964) suggested thatmedia forms could be divided into„hot‟, which are closed,unidirectional, and consisting of acomplete message, such as TV and„cool‟ forms which are open,multidirectional, interactive, andrequire engagement such as theinternet.
However, conversely there arenumerous authors who pointtowards what they see as thenegative consequences of newICTs and media, and the newinformation-based society thesehave led to.
Neil Postman suggests thatcontemporary society can be seenas „Technopoly‟; that is to say, asociety dominated and controlledthrough new technological forms –dominated by a blind faith inscience and technology, yet withoutany purpose or meaning.
The prime example of this is thecomputer, which Postman sees asundermining education. Computershave merely increased our relianceupon it, which perpetuates thecreation of more and moreinformation but weakens and replacesgroup learning, cooperation, andsocial reasonability.
As Postman wrote: “Technopoly isa state of culture. It consists in thedeification (becoming a god) oftechnology, which means thatculture seeks its authorization intechnology, finds its satisfaction intechnology, and takes its ordersfrom technology.
Furthermore, the Hollywood filmindustry, in films such as „TheTerminator‟ and „The Matrix‟ haveprovided a vision of dystopianfutures where our reliance onmachines and technology leads tothe human race‟s subjugation to,or at least conflict with,technologies.