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index » research » consumer culture
research sites: consumer culture

In Lead Us Into Temptation, James B. Twitchell argued that advertising has become a national and cultural mode of communication: "Advertising is the primary language, the lingua franca, of commercial culture." [1] This primary language, which began at the turn of the century with the emergence of advertising as a profession, has now become a part of our signifying practices by circulating new usages and relationships, redefining or purging outdated and unwanted usages, and policing our current ways of thinking about the technologies that help us live our lives. I'm reminded here of several colloquialisms that come from the consumer electronics industry specifically: podcasting, blogging, IM (referring to instant messaging), and even e-mail, spam, and f2f (or face-to-face communication). Wired magazine—the self-proclaimed news magazine for the digerati or the digital culture in the US—runs regular columns titled "Jargon Watch" and "Wired-Tired-Expired" which track new and changing language usages based upon the consumer electronics industry. And, while there is no single organization we can point to and credit or blame for our dependence upon consumer electronics in the workplace, in our homes, and for our entertainment, historian Alfred Chandler argues that the consumer electronics industry "dramatically defines the causes of the success and/or failure of national industries." [2] There is certainly evidence supporting this claim: the high-tech industry employs millions of people globally and its products underlie virtually every other industry. The modes of production and ideologies that allow manufacturers to make thousands of identical products also force the consumption of thousands of identical products, a cycle that results in mass markets instead of local and specialized merchants, the creation of industries and corporations that must generate enormous revenues to stay in business, and the generation enormous amounts of waste including hazardous by-products, non-biodegradable packaging materials, and obsolete products.

[1] Twitchell, J. B. (1999). Lead Us Into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism. New York: Columbia UP. 50.

[2] Chandler, A. D. Jr. (2001). Inventing the Electronic Century: The Epic Story of the Consumer Electronics and Computer Industries. New York: Free Press. 13.

representative publications

Moeller, R. M. (Fall 2005). An homage to the posthuman in Ohmann: Retailing culture through consumer electronics. Works and Days 23(1&2) [Special issue: Richard Ohmann: A Retrospective]. 151-174.

Moeller, R. M. (2004). Wireless transactions: The rhetorical appeals of consumer electronics marketing. Dissertation Abstracts International, 65(09), 3368. Publication number: AAT 3145102.

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©copyright 2008 Ryan M. Moeller