Tuesday, October 15, 2013

the futility of authenticity

We've recently been reading Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.

Goffman is considered  to be perhaps the most influential sociologist of recent times.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life - first published in 1959 -provides a detailed analysis of process and meaning in mundane interaction.

By mundane interaction Goffman means; ordinary face-to-face interactions among people in various social situations.

Goffman's method is the 'dramaturgical approach'.

He is principally concerned with the different modes of 'presentation' employed by people and therefore the meaning of each in its social context.

In essence, all human interactions are 'performance', shaped by by environment, audience, and constructed in order to provide others with 'impressions' that are consonant with the desired goals of the actor.

According to Goffman, one's social identity is a series of 'fronts'.

There is no 'authentic' 'self'.

All the world is a stage

Human social interactions are all performances conducted when on-stage, in social situations. Solitary moments - the closest thing to notions of 'self-ness' - being the equivalent of 'back-stage' pre and post performance.

What hope then for brands in finding an 'authentic voice' or being 'authentic'?
Or the much asserted millennial consumer quest for authenticity?

People are aways competing for status. Products and brands are signifiers of that status.

So, even being anti-consumption is still conspicuous, 'authenticity' is simply the new 'cool'
The fatal flaw is that even when one claims remove's oneself from the competition for status in the mainstream you are simply joining the competition for status in a different sphere.

'What? You mean you still actually BUY products? We only share and freecycle'

Sadly, the call for authentic brands, authentic voices is ultimately futile.

All social interaction is intrinsically inauthentic and performance.
In fact the performance itself is the only authenticity.

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