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June 09, 2009


Bruce Davis

Having been, as you called it, “unfriended” by my ex-wife (ironically over the problems of managing a family /relationship ‘virtually’) I would suggest that my place on Facebook carries moral as well as cultural meaning – literally being ex-communicated(?)

The difference with politicians is that they are obsessed with what you might call the macro moral economy (played out on the stage of the mass media) which in Labour’s terms provides little room for any individual moral liberty or self expression (hence the exodus of individualists like Purnell etc). You always know when they want to do something unpopular when you told that ‘it is the right thing to do’ (cue nervous pasted on smile and another top down initiative that misses the point).

Perhaps I am an over optimistic micro moral economist(? ethnography is so last year : )), but I am always surprised by the level to which ‘who’ and ‘why’ intersect in consumer behavior. Perhaps Facebook et al provide the public space in which we will start to create and evaluate moral as well as cultural value as individuals, perhaps not on our profile page but in our comments to and about the world. Socrates goaded people in the Agora and avoided talking on the Pnyx (and ultimately paid the price in the law courts) perhaps for that reason? He was interested in how individuals were living the good life not how politicians were spinning it?

what would Deleuze make of these micro acts of creation I wonder?

Will Davies

I didn't say 'over' optimistic! I think once you recognise that value and values are ultimately inseparable categories (which much economic sociology, Polanyi onwards, seeks to demonstrate) then the notion of making ethics explicit within markets is perfectly plausible. But there are serious and superficial ways of doing it. For instance, I find the idea of time banks very compelling; I am less convinced by marketing rhetoric of companies like Timberland or Innocent smoothies who project purity as a brand.

Someone like Michel Callon would argue that the task for sociology is to intervene with new types of 'market devices' and new calculative architectures which produce better outcomes.

Bruce Davis

Agree that brands can be accused of offering a superficial moral wrapper (although even innocent is finding that the world is a bit too transparent for it to be only a story and not part of the DNA).

Zopa seems to be holding up well because its 'tone' (carefully designed) is perceived as trustworthy and authentic in a world of Financial services which are perceived as anything but.

On Facebook, Mccraken is musing about the difference between 'fan' and 'friend' (and the need for a virtual middle category).

My Mad Men example I think gets to the heart of the sometimes inconvenient truth that sits at the heart of a marketing message (in its creation rather than during its communication / commercialisation). A sociology of brands as moral value not just representations of values (marques) would go a long way to understanding how brands can help create better social 'outcomes'.

Matthew Cain

Apologies for being off topic. I like your blog and wondered if you'd consider joining a Bloggers' Circle - a collaborative way of increasing the amount of debate for your best posts. There's more information here: http://blog.matthewcain.co.uk/blogging-circle-is-developing/

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