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FleshFactor: Re: parenthood as ultimate consumerism

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

benjamin weil wrote:

"parenthood seems to have become the ultimate in marketing and
consumerism, with the introduction of the tamaguchi (maybe the name is
wrong?) on the markets worldwide.  artificial life is a few bytes,
contained in an egg that is easily transportable, and which demands
food, emotional attention, physical attention (like new diapers), etc.
the interesting part of this phenomena that seems to have rapidly become
a worldwide fad is how the metaphors of the body are being used.  the
fact the program refers to bodily fluids, food, etc., may prefigure a
complete loss of distinction between an actual body and a virtual one."

I am particularly interested in the way that consumer choices have come to
resemble reproductive choices. or is it vice versa?  historically a woman's
urge to have children was understood as a pre-existing, innate reality (the
old biological clock). this virtuous desire contrasted with commodity
desires: base consumer culture induces desire by offering commodities, and
images/areas of identification.

but, more and more, technology is making reproductive choices resemble
consumer choices. when we can choose the best product/child via fetal
imaging, or hair color and IQ range for our babies via sperm banks, how is
wanting a child different from wanting a new computer? people bristle at
the thought that parenting desires might be structured and acted out
similar to consumer desires, but technology has manufactured these
similarities -- different and multiple modes of availablility and
affordability in the realm of having a child (birth control, foetal
imaging, rent-a-womb, and abortion) mean different, and way more
complicated modes of choice.

psychoanalysis has somethings to offer to this discussion too. marketing
and psychoanalysis rely on similar principles (by the way, consumerism and
psychoanalysis were BORN close to one another historically) -- that
object-desires and identifications are powerful and motivating. and that,
as rachel bowlby beautifully puts it in 'shopping with freud,' "people need
and seek stories through which to give themselves an identity." of course,
the two discourses have wide differences: marketing is about buying into
these stories, literally; psychoanalysis about telling and understanding
central life-stories.

as technology allows more and more kinds of choices, and as family
structures change -- for example, anyone, male, female, single, married,
menstruating or not, can have a tamaguchi -- we will see marketing gurus
selling and telling more and more of these 'stories.' real babies, virtual
babies, "the right to choose," tamaguchis, -- all of this confuses me --
i'd rather go shopping.

Rachel Greene



--> rachel@rhizome.com
--> http://www.rhizome.com
--> tel +1 212 328 2884
--> fax +1 212 406 1399
--> 368 Broadway #403, New York, NY 10013

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