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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2006

I’ve been condemning the “experience economy” the past few weeks, because I’m reluctant to admit that retailing encounters should be preserved in our memories as meaningful experiences. Maybe I should take any meaningful experiences when they come and should not be ruling them out on some hoity-toity principle, but that these retailing experiences are contrived and render one passive make them objectionable. There’s no sense supplanting experience with pseudo-events (unless you accept the Baudrillardian argument that all experience is always already a pseudo-event). There’s also the fact that the fabricators of the experience have a different agenda that you do (to make money by exploiting you), which seems to invalidate it, or shift the significance of it to who is getting the better of whom, the definitive aspect of all experiences in capitalist society, which roots all values in competition.


How does one transform passive experience into something more active? By keeping oneself at an analytical remove from it, from keeping in mind how you would recount an experience as its happening, to stay engaged with it at a deeper level? Blogging is one way of fostering that, of encouraging one to think of what one could say about something later rather than simply succumbing to what is going on. Some would probably object to that notion immediately, since the richness of the experience to them could be the degree to which they forget themselves, to which they are absorbed and swept away by it. And there’s no reason one couldn’t “recall in tranquillity” what had so thoroughly engossed you in the moment, as Wordsworth seems to advocate in “Tintern Abbey.” That may be true about watching sunsets or frolicking in nature, but it seems ill-equipped to handle the soul-effacing crush of modern consumer culture, which works very had to have you remember brand names when you are recollecting in tranquillity.


Blogging also undermines the professionalized nature of the contrived pseudo-event, injecting a staged experience with an amateur ad hoc perspective that, in its spontaneity, may undermine it and promulgate a counter-narrative to the one its originators had hoped to have programmed into it. (It’s a bit like what lo-fi indie rock did to the mainstream music scene until it was co-opted.) This post from the Smithsonian’s art blog argues for the value of the non-professional blog viewpoint on the art world: “What’s in fact great about most blogs is that they are nonseriously authored by nonqualified people.” Written without a preordained agenda, these blogs can enhance the scene, become an integral part of it, rather than merely promote it or reflect it or erect a fence around it. And if you go see some artwork at a gallery or a museum somewhere, if you produce a blog entry about it afterward, the chances that you’ve had some sort of Disnifyied ersatz experience dictated by the wall cards and the gift shop become exponentially less.

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