Saturday, November 28, 2009

Spirit of Consumerism

I've been studying a lot of media lately, and I came to the realization that the prevailing force in media (which shapes our world) is an attitude or "spirit" of consumerism. Of course, that's not really an astounding observation on the first pass. We have to look deeper to find the problem.

I think we're all aware that media needs revenue to create an output, as with any legitimate business. Premium channels charge an up front fee to accomplish this, but when companies want to decrease or eliminate the up front costs to customers, they connect the media with products. It's a genius idea, but I believe it is broken.

I return your attention to the spirit of consumerism. Interestingly, defines "consumerism" in three very different ways:
1. A policy of protecting and informing consumers through honesty in advertising and packaging, improved safety standards, etc.
2. A materialistic attachment to possessions.
3. An economic theory that increased consumption is beneficial to a nation's economy in the long run.
I believe, though I've not yet done extensive research, that the operating assumptions of mainstream media are more heavily based upon the last one, and as a result, create programming to develop communities of people who are of the second persuasion (ie: materialistic). This is what I mean by a "spirit of consumerism." It is not official policy, it is not necessarily discussed, it just grows naturally out of the mindset this theory creates.

What if this theory is wrong? What if consumption is, by itself, a reduction and not growth? Now, obviously, consumption and production go hand-in-hand, but isn't the net goal production? Is that not growth? Consumers are important, for without them, the results of production would be without value. But just as production with no end consumer amounts to waste, consumption with no end production leads to deficit. So, what I am saying is that there needs to be a drive not for consumers, but producers. Producers will naturally consume as they proceed to build growth.

This is all very abstract, and what is the point? The point is, that modern media violates the first definition of consumerism because it creates an environment where appearance (of person or product) is more important than inner value. We are encouraged to be superficial, letting rot our core values through lack of use. Products compete for shiniest packaging, not greatest value.

Ultimately, a smarter consumer is the beginning of fixing the cycle, but this can scarcely be achieved by itself. By definition a producer is a smarter consumer because, to make a profit, he must refine his knowledge of economics (he must understand the real value of what he's buying).

The high aim of commercial programming is "viral marketing," which I will not discuss deeply here. Basically, it would be ideal for advertisers and media creators that the consumers would not only buy the products, but also go out and share the products with others. What they want is free residual marketing.

If they paid the consumers a share of what they pay the advertisers, would that not solve all the problems?

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