Conspicuous production: a hypothesis

When conspicuous consumption shifts from the realm of material goods to the realm of information it takes the form of conspicuous production.


3 thoughts on “Conspicuous production: a hypothesis

  1. Uche Amaechi

    Hmm… On one hand, if I retweet something or share somebody else’s comment on Facebook, i’m producing as I’m consuming conspicuously. On the other, if I ‘like’ something, while my friends and followers might see that it’s ‘liked’, the don’t necessarily see what it is that I liked. Hmm. So I guess although both examples exist on different points on the quality/quantity spectrum (more likes might make something more visible; more sharing might spread the meme farther) they’re still on that spectrum, and in being so still contribute to production (sharing of information). Okay, that didn’t exactly make sense.

    But I don’t see how the sharing (CConsumption) of info is any different than that of material goods. As I conspicuously consume Apple products, others notice and respond accordingly (by liking and buying, or hating and buying something else; and everything in between). I’m producing a ‘statement’ of style and taste (and values; ask any Androidisopenevangelist) that contributes to the public discourse and, given enough time, can have material impact. Whether intended or not.


  2. Chris Hunt

    fascinating idea.

    i think conspicuous consumption still holds.

    on games/worlds with virtual goods there still has to be scarcity for the economic mechanisms to function; at least for goods that are bought to convey status.

    on social platforms etc there is production, but i think most of the production is in the realm of signals rather than producing the items of value. and those signals are information about the conspicuous consumption e.g a picture of my ferrari.

    it may be that conveying this information to more people at once (tweet an image etc) has increased the value of goods in the class of conspicuous consumption. and also opened up the possibility of manipulation e.g having a picture taken next to someone else’s ferrari

  3. young Owen

    Agree with Chris Hunt that “on social platforms . . . most of the production is in the realm of signals,” and that this partly proves the hypothesis as I (perhaps imperfectly) understand it.

    Public linking to / recommendations of content in the NYT, WSJ, Rough Type, or anything else is designed to be conspicuous, because we want people to read the things we find interesting or valuable or thought-provoking or amusing or incisive. We also want to be seen as exemplars of those same values (rather than as consummate virtual farmers), and again must be conspicuous to do so. So, sure. If I read Gleick’s “The Information” correctly, this hypothesis could be retroactively applied to all kinds of information dissemination, even though one of his chapters is entitled “Information is Physical” (by one definition, “material”).

    It occurs to me that SlideShare may be the apotheosis of the practice of conspicuous production: our ephemeral presentation documents now can seem to demand attention and admiration. To paraphrase Edward Tufte (Wired 11.09, September 2003), “Power corrupts. Shared PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.”

    Plenty to think about.

    Owen Youngman

    Medill at Northwestern

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