Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

We insist on one thing. Duration.

And the diagram.

And affect.

Ok that’s already quite a crowd, well but isn’t there an entire method in these three vector-concepts: duration, diagram, affect?

What is the duration of a habit, say the habit of smoking or the habit of playing a guitar? Remember what Toscano teaches us about habit:

The stakes of the debate come down to the extension that is to be ascribed to habit. The minimalist option is to relegate it to an operation characterized by acquisition through repetition, by the decrease of intensity and the perfectibility of action. From this perspective, habit itself is not productive of beings. It is only with the second approach that we can begin to consider the idea of habit as an agent or factor of individuation. If, as Lalande and Egger propose, habit as contraction is to be severed from habit as the state or property of a thing, the former can no longer be considered as ontologically constitutive: it merely designates a process that affects or qualifies an already constituted entity, whether this entity be physical, biological or psychic. On the contrary, if we follow the indications of contributors such as Lachelier, habit can be considered both as the general state of being and as the procedure whereby this state is attained, in such a manner that the difference between the dynamics of individuation and the state of the individuated is only relative. Punctuating this debate about the significance of state and process in the definition of habit we encounter three questions, all of which are indicated by the Vocabulaire: the distinction between passive and active habits; the relationship between habit and repetition; the question of habit’s relationship to the organic. The Theatre of Production, 111-12

The most important lesson here to my mind is that a diagramming of habit is both a conceptual and material experimentation on the capacities of the embodied mind, or an affirmation of becoming (same “thing”). We must insist that any such diagram is in fact a practice of assembling with the organic processes, differentiating active and passive habits, understanding the ontogenetic (or materialist, pragmatic) dimension of repetition itself.

Many critics begin analysis with power (at times in particular ways, Foucault’s problem). But what is the ontological status of relations of power? Of domination?

If in the 1920s the avant-garde had been an elite phenomenon, by the 1970s it was becoming a mass experiment in creating a semiotic environment for life. Thanks to the radios, thanks to the autonomous zines spreading all over, a large scale process of mass irony was launched. Irony meant the suspension of the semantic heaviness of the world. Suspension of the meaning that we give to gestures, to relationships, to the shape of the thing. We saw it as a suspension of the kingdom of necessity and were convinced that power has power as far as those who have no power take power seriously. Indeed when irony becomes a mass language, power loses ground, authority and strength. (Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody 21)

This strikes me as a little too optimistic, but it is so much better in terms of capacities to begin with the ironization of power. Foucault does this brilliantly, ruthlessly, hilariously, without romanticism. Yet, the gesture that starts with power (the State [a return to governmentality would do this tendency good] or the Law [Autonomista zindabad!], etc. etc.) is also, generally, a gesture simultaneous with a genuflection to a particularly stupid figure of contemporary criticism: the subaltern. Kill the subaltern, and criticism can instead become subaltern, become minor through all your becomings. Remember what Deleuze says of minorities:

The difference between minorities and majorities isn’t their size. A minority may be bigger than a majority. What defines the majority is a model [norm] you have to conform to: the average European adult male city-dweller, for example. A minority, on the other hand, has no model, it’s a becoming, a process. One might say the majority is nobody. Everybody’s caught, one way or another, in a minority becoming that would lead them into unknown paths if they opted to follow it through. Deleuze, Control and Becoming 173

Not minorities as preconstituted categories of a population segmentation mechanism generated by the Googlezon. Contemporary marketing in a particular irony that only they seem unaware of considers contemporary segementation merely an extension of VOP – the Voice of the People!! Consider:

In this study, we propose to harness the growing body of free, unsolicited, user-generated online content for automated market research. Specifically, we describe a novel text-mining algorithm for analyzing online customer reviews to facilitate the analysis of market structure in two ways. First, the VOC, as presented in user-generated comments, provides a simple, principled approach to generating and selecting product attributes for market structure analysis. In contrast, traditional methods rely on a predefined set of product attributes (external analysis) or ex post interpretation of derived dimensions from consumer surveys (internal analysis). Second, the preponderance of opinion, as represented in the continuous stream of reviews over time, provides practical input to augment traditional approaches (e.g., surveys, focus groups) for conducting brand sentiment analysis and can be done (unlike traditional methods) continuously, automatically, inexpensively, and in real time.

This is from an article in the European Journal of Marketing by T. Lee and E. Bradlow, entitled: “Automated Marketing Research Using On-line Customer Reviews” (Vol. XLVIII (October 2011), 881 –894, 881-82). What is the aim of market structure analysis? It is in fact much broader than segmenting a market.

Abstract: market structure analysis is a basic pillar of marketing research. classic challenges in marketing such as pricing, campaign management, brand positioning, and new product development are rooted in an analysis of product substitutes and complements inferred from market structure. in this article, the authors present a method to support the analysis and visualization of market structure by automatically eliciting product attributes and brand’s relative positions from online customer reviews. First, the method uncovers attributes and attribute dimensions using the “voice of the consumer,” as reflected in customer reviews, rather than that of manufacturers. second, the approach runs automatically. Third, the process supports rather than supplants managerial judgment by reinforcing or augmenting attributes and dimensions found through traditional surveys and focus groups. The authors test the approach on six years of customer reviews for digital cameras during a period of rapid market evolution. They analyze and visualize results in several ways, including comparisons with expert buying guides, a laboratory survey, and correspondence analysis of automatically discovered product attributes. The authors evaluate managerial insights drawn from the analysis with respect to proprietary market research reports from the same period analyzing digital imaging products.

This Voice of the People bullshit is particularly revolting when you consider that by voice of the people they really mean an automated algorithm-driven process of auditing, and eventually modulating and controlling various semiotic flows (online reviews, but the semiosis of computer code as well, the semiosis of “managerial judgment” and traditional marketing structure analysis) and bodily dispositions and assemblages.

Which returns us to thinking control and marketing. If we could say that habits are like clichés or refrains of our life, we must consider the integration of our habits with contemporary forms of capitalist valorization (the production and accumulation of profits). Something has happened to the world since the days of discipline described by Foucault in Discipline and Punish. What is this something? It is the shift from capitalist production of commodities to the rise of the precariat of cognitive labor, which more simply can be understood as the informatization of all aspects of capitalist life, such that capital no longer wants labor, as much as packets of time that are flexible, intermittent, modular, informatized-digitized, and networked (see Berardi:

When we move into the sphere of info-labor there is no longer a need to have bought a person for eight hours a day indefinitely. Capital no longer recruits people, but buys packets of time, separated from their interchangeable and occasional bearers. Depersonalized time has become the real agent of the process of valorization, and depersonalized time has no rights, nor any demands. It can only be either available or unavailable, but the alternative is purely theoretical because the physical body despite not being a legally recognized person still has to buy food and pay rent. (Precarious Rhapsody 32-33)

).

And yet discipline persists, normality exerts enormous pressures on us all the time, and we make compromises with forms of power that generate through us bad compositions of matter, information, desire, bodies, and value. It’s the source of the shame of being human. How can we cast off this shame? This shame being an effect of badly analyzed composites?

If we are undergoing the most intensive acceleration of everyday life through networked information, how have such habits been affected at the level of the assemblage of durations and desires? Berardi and others speak of an attention economy, the simplest expression of which is if you are paying attention money can be made on that attention itself. Can we develop habits of occupying spaces such as the protestors have done at St Paul’s Cathedral? It would be a good habit to encourage in all of us. Collective occupation of privatized space. But why have these protestors merely settled for occupying cold, cold stairs. Why not take the occupation inside the cathedral itself? Impossible to conceive at the moment, as the occupation experiences itself winding down due to various internal and external forces.

What does the Occupation have to do with Marketing? What does it have to do with what Foucault called Panopticism, and to what Deleuze called Control?

Franco Berardi asks,

What is the market? The market is the place in which signs and nascent meanings, desires and projections meet. If we want to speak of demand and supply, we must reason in terms of fluxes of desire and semiotic attractors that formerly had appeal and today have lost it. In the net economy, flexibility has evolved into a form of fractalization of work. Fractalization means the modular and recombinant fragmentation of the time of activity. The worker no longer exists as a person. He or she is only an interchangeable producer of microfragments of recombinant semiosis that enter into the continuous flux of the Net. Capital no longer pays for the availability of a worker to be exploited for a long period of time; it no longer pays a salary that covers the entire range of economic needs of a person who works. The worker (a machine endowed with a brain that can be used for fragments of time) becomes paid for his or her occasional, temporary services. Work time is fragmented and cellularized. Cells of time are for sale on the Net and businesses can buy as much as they want without being obligated in any way in the social protection of the worker. The intense and prolonged investment of mental and libidinal energies in the labor process has created the conditions for a psychic collapse that is transferred into the economic field with the recession and the fall in demand and into the political field in the form of military aggressivity. The use of the word collapse is not as a metaphor but as a clinical description of what is happening in the occidental mind. The word collapse expresses a real and exact pathological phenomenon that invests the psycho-social organism. That which we have seen in the period following the first signs of economic decline, in the first months of the new century, is a psychopathic phenomenon of over-excitation, trembling, panic and finally of a depressive fall. The phenomena of economic depression have always contained elements of the crisis of the psychosocial equilibrium, but when at last the process of production has involved the brain in a massive way, psychopathology has become the crucial aspect of economic cycles. The available attention time for the workers involved in the informatic cycle is constantly being reduced: they are involved in a growing number of mental tasks that occupy every fragment of their attention time. For them there is no longer the time to dedicate to love, to tenderness, to affection. They take Viagra because they don’t have time for sexual preliminaries. They take cocaine to be continuously alert and reactive. They take Prozac to cancel out the awareness of the senselessness that unexpectedly empties their life of any interest. Franco Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody

Let’s begin with some examples that will update aspects of Virilio’s argument in The Information Bomb.

1. “The Reality Mining Dataset: The Reality Mining project represents the largest mobile phone experiment ever attempted in academia. We are collecting an unprecedented amount of data on human behavior and group interactions that we plan on anonymizing and making available to the general academic community. By the end of the experiment, this dataset will contain over 500,000 hours (~60 years) of continuous data on daily human behavior. Already we have been approached by over a dozen of researchers in a wide range of fields (including epidemiology, sociology, physics, artificial intelligence, and organizational behavior) who are extremely eager to see how this unique data can answer questions from their own discipline. In an article on the Reality Mining project in December’s issue of New Scientist, prominent social network analyst and Harvard professor David Lazer was quoted saying that this research will “revolutionize the field of social network analysis [Beaver (2004)].” http://reality.media.mit.edu/dataset.php

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Gilles Deleuze never to my knowledge wrote extensively on marketing, but he had some choice words for it in “Postscript on Societies of Control.” I quote them below. I lectured today, minutes ago actually, on Foucault’s panopticism and Deleuze’s modulated control to my first year marketing and communication course at QMUL. I tried to make the argument to them (about 200 very diverse, international students) that marketing is a historically specific form of power.

Control societies are taking over from disciplinary societies. “Control” is the name proposed by Burroughs to characterize the new monster, and Foucault sees it fast approaching. Paul Virilio too is constantly analyzing the ultrarapid forms of apparently free floating control that are taking over from the old disciplines at work within the time scales of closed systems. It’s not a question of amazing pharmaceutical products, nuclear technology, and genetic engineering, even though these will play their part in the new process. It’s not a question of asking whether the old or new system is harsher or more bearable, because there’s a conflict in each between the ways they free and enslave us. (Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control” 178).

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In Chapter Three of Levy and Grewal’s Marketing they make the case for ethics explicitly (not just through stop-hand warnings!): “When customers believe that they can no longer trust a company or that the company is not acting responsibly, they will no longer support that company by purchasing its products or services or investing in its stock. For marketers, the firm’s ability to build and maintain consumer trust by conducting ethical transactions must be of paramount importance” (61). The central claim here is the typical one: business ethics makes good business sense.

Consumers and investors increasingly appear to want to purchase products and services from and invest in companies that act in socially responsible ways. Large global corporations, such as Coca-Cola, have recognized that they must be perceived as socially responsible by their stakeholders to earn their business. As a bonus, these companies earn both tangible and intangible benefits for acting in a socially desirable manner…; it just makes good business sense to take actions that benefit society. (Levy and Grewal, Marketing 67)

 

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What is the relationship of ethics to marketing (and capitalism more generally)? This opens on to other questions, as I’m fond of saying. Such as where is the social in marketing? Where does the social appear in marketing analysis and textbooks? As I noted in Biopower and Marketing in Grewal and Levy’s marketing textbook, the ethical dilemmas are presenting in pop-out boxes heralded by a stop-sign hand, as if ethics comes to halt business from the outside. The social quandaries, complexities, differences, problems that constitute the ethical moment in business are imposed by laws, morals, norms, ‘humanity.’ Always from the outside.

But this ‘outside ethics’ repeats and consolidates the fundamental fetishism of capitalism: operating through the invisible hand of the market capital confronts an irrational and recalcitrant social realm that it remolds as is necessary for the accumulation of profits.

As we see from the quotes below, even as astute an observer of the viral ambitions of contemporary marketing as Naomi Klein falls into this sense that ‘culture’ (or the social) is outside branding processes. And so for her the answer is to find a suitable ‘balance’ between the overweening ambitions of branding, marketing, logofication, cultural event sponsoring and its albeit impure but still exterior: genuine creativity and human culture. As No Logo becomes increasingly Orwellian further on, we see that there is in fact no exterior to branding today—more and more brands provide the infrastructure for cultural and social events (48). As Klein writes, “Jordan and Nike are emblematic of a new paradigm that eliminates all barriers between branding and culture, leaving no room whatsoever for unmarketed space.” But then one wonders what is the aim of the critique? More balance or the overthrow of our brandworld by jamming its multiplicity of clichés?

Yet is this in fact how capital works? Is this what ethics is for business and marketing? Something that comes from the outside to present a halt in its processes or a crisis of management? My sense is that within marketing this is in fact how ethics is presented in its relationship to business. So there are whistleblowers who go outside of a corporation to expose its unethical practices, who are then celebrated in the media as kinds of heroes of humanity in the face of ‘savage’ business practices operating in a cutthroat capitalist environment.

What if ethics is not thought of as norms to be followed or performed, but material relations that modulate ecologies of sensation along gradients of intensity in terms of their capacities to affect and be affected (Spinoza vs. Kant, Nietzsche against Mill, etc.)? That need not be a turgid, or, worse, pedantic sentence. We mean something very simple by this: if we consider that control-capital modulates the body’s intensive relations by tweaking its habituation-capacities, ethical projects would overcome the diagram of our own domination by creating untimely, transvaluating events of becoming. We need pragmatic diagrams of our domination in order to mutate its ontological conditions.

From Jones, et al, For Business Ethics (London: Routledge, 2005).

Be this as it may, the standard picture that we get of the decision-making process goes like this: the manager collects the evidence, models a set of potential answers, and then makes a decision on what actions should taken…Frankly, we do not think that it is helpful to think about these issues as if they are just a matter of autonomous moral choice. They believe that this is possible is based on a willingness to exclude many matters as if they were a form of background noise. This noise includes organizational and financial structures, the position of the manager and management education, the relationships between first world and third world, the nature of work and employment, and so on. Incredibly, the common sense of global capitalism and market managerialism typically ends up being ‘outside’ business ethics. Finally…there is then the question of whether business ethics will actually make businesses more ethical. Here, business ethicists are generally more cautious, and justifiably so. For a start, they do not raise expectations too high. Their goals very rarely include any form of radical social change. The heart of the matter is gentle and polite reform, or a moral education for top decision makers. What they do should not be too distressing or upsetting. The emphasis is on working with and within contemporary business organizations in order that their worst excesses can be tempered…Ethics becomes a specific part of a business and marketing strategy, something done in order to make more money. Yet, if someone told us that they were merely being good so that they would be rewarded, or so that people would think better of them, we would probably not be impressed. In fact, we might decide that they were not being ethical at all. 19

…we wanted to emphasise the importance of thought. Because, if people do not examine their prejudices and convictions, then how can they really be said to be thinking hard about something? How can they claim to be doing something new and worthwhile, rather than just repeating things that they have been told? It seems to us that much of business ethics clings to assumptions about human nature, organizations, markets and ethics. And further, it might be that these assumptions are highly political, in the sense that they tend to benefit that sorts of people that have already done rather well under present arrangements. 25

From Naomi Klein, No Logo

…there is little point…in pining for either a mythic brand-free past or some utopian commercial-free future. Branding becomes troubling—as it did in the cases just discussed—when the balance tips dramatically in favor of the sponsoring brand, stripping the hosting culture of its inherent value and treating it as little more than a promotional tool. It is possible for a more balanced relationship to unfold—one in which both sponsor and sponsored hold on to their power and in which clear boundaries are drawn and protected… 39

“Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, capturing [added by the authors], communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” Dhruv Grewal and Michael Levy, Marketing (London: McGraw-Hill, 2008) i

Let us begin with a refrain developed in previous postings: value, sense, force. What follows will differentiate from the trite position that marketing pedagogy is a biopolitical project. That marketing seeks to goad life into mutation and habituation, and to raise the power of information to the nth degree seems almost obvious. This much is true of marketing: sensation-desire-information are its very lifeblood. By adding the participle “capturing” to the definition the authors show clearly that some mechanism (or abstract diagram) is necessary to assemble flows of communication with the production of consumer desire (cf. Virilio, Information Bomb 17). That is not a turgid sentence. It means simply this: that new media advertising builds on the machinery that came before it. Virilio in The Information Bomb tells us that advertising has shifted from the 20th century function of producing consumer desire to what he calls pure communication. Facebook and the spacetime of Web 2.0 (the informatization of everything). Desire needs to be captured and entrained (a neutralizing-potentializing circuit) through and in the flow of information—in the mode of communication—itself. We are all entrepreneurs of the self, even and perhaps in a special way when we disavow that capitalism as the extraction of surplus value from the processes of the world is the destiny of posthumanity. In what sense is marketing pedagogy a biopolitical process? How does marketing situate itself vis a vis the production of desire in the interest of domination? The aim then is to produce mutations in habit that allow an unmediated experience of virtuality. The transvaluation of all values must value becoming.

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It was my first, and I hope not last, visit to ARCO, an international arts market. It was interesting, if only because of the anxiety of being a part of an institutional machinery for assigning an exchange value to what should have no fixed exchange or use value.

The discursive context fed into my project of trying to engage Negri, Deleuze, Bergson, and Massumi on value and affect.

This is what I said:

What is the relation of Value to Affect?
“Pagar mas o menos es una cuestion que cada uno debe sopesar. El valor del arte no esta vinculado al dinero, sino al amor que uno siente por una obra ya que su objectivo, lejos de ser especifico, es realzar la experiencia personal de quien la admira y cuyo futuro es imposible de prever.”

“To pay more or to pay less [for a work of art] is a question that…is up to the individual to decide. The value of art has nothing to do with money, but with the emotive connection with an artwork. Its goal is to enhance the personal experience of the person admiring it, and therefore its future is impossible to predict.” (Marie Elena Angulo, qtd. in “Assigning Value to Art,” ABCDARCO, 2, Feb. 12, 2009)

The creation of market value today is immense and immeasurable but susceptible to control, discipline, modulation, and change. (Paraphrase of Antonio Negri in “Value and Affect” [1999])

IT IS FUNNY THAT AT AN ART FAIR EVERYTHING I HAVE READ AND HEARD IS ABOUT QUESTIONING IF ART CAN HAVE A VALUE AT ALL.

THERE SEEMS TO BE SOME PARTICULAR ANXIETY AMONG ARTISTS, CRITICS, AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC THAT ART BE BOTH A COMMODITY TO BE BOUGHT AND SOLD, AND BECAUSE IT CALLS FORTH A SUBJECTIVE RESPONSE IT BE BEYOND THE COMMODITY FORM.

AN OLD ANXIETY AT ARCO? MAYBE SOMEONE FROM THE AUDIENCE CAN FILL US IN DURING THE QUESTION/ANSWER?

IN ANY CASE, I WANT TO BEGIN WITH TWO TERMS THAT ARE NOT ONLY IMPORTANT FOR HOW WE THINK OF THE ETHICS OF ARCO, BUT CRUCIAL TO HOW WE UNDERSTAND THE LIFE OF CULTURAL PRODUCTION IN India TODAY.

THOSE TWO TERMS ARE VALUE AND AFFECT!

SLIDE 1:

WHAT IS VALUE?
BECAUSE VALUE TODAY IS DEFINED BY THE QUALITATIVE CHANGE IT BRINGS TO A PRODUCT LINE (as in value added services); or an identity (as in cultural value)—VALUE IS BASICALLY DEFINED AS OUTSIDE OF ANY MEASURE.
BUT DOES THAT MEAN THAT IT IS OUTSIDE OF CONTROL?
PEOPLE WORKING IN THE FIELD OF MARXIST CULTURAL ANALYSIS OR FOUCAULDIAN BIOPOLITICS SUCH AS ANTONIO NEGRI ANSWER CLEARLY NO, VALUE IS NOT BEYOND CONTROL.
IN FACT THE PRODUCTION OF VALUE IS A FORM A CONTROL.

How to define Affect?
In recent work by feminist political economists, postcolonial critics, and Marxist philosophers, affect is defined as the substance of interaction and communication: distinct from “emotion,” affect is defined by its relational character, not limited by an internalized feeling. In that regard, affect is considered pre-individual, operating in those strata of being where the subject and populations meet. Recalling Baruch Spinoza’s “ethics,” the production of affect is not conceivable otherwise than in terms of the production of a relational capacity: the capacity to affect and be affected.

“It is not right to say that the cinematographic image is in the present. What is in the present is what the image ‘represents’, but not the image itself, which, in cinema as in painting, is never to be confused with what it represents. The image itself is the system of the relationships between its elements, that is, a set of relationships of time from which the variable present only flows. “ Gilles Deleuze, Cinema Two: The Time Image

AFFECT IS A BODILY CAPACITY TO AFFECT AND BE AFFECTED. IT IS SUBJECTIVE (ABOUT YOUR HABITS), AND POPULATIONAL (HABITS DEVELOPED SOCIALLY AND BIOLOGICALLY).
PEOPLE INVOLVED IN AFFECT STUDIES HAVE FOREGROUNDED THE IMPORTANCE OF BREAK AWAY FROM THE MIND/BODY DUALISMS THAT HAVE CHARACTERIZED WESTERN THOUGHT FROM ITS INCEPTION.
AFFECT IS NOT ABOUT EMOTIVE RESPONSE; IT IS ABOUT CAPACITIES THAT EMERGE FROM THE INTERACTION OF MANY, MANY BUNDLED PROCESSES IN THE BODY, IN PERCEPTION, IN ATTENTION, IN MEMORY.
IN SHORT, AFFECT IS ABOUT RELATIONS OF TIME EMBODIED IN SENSORIMOTOR CIRCUITS. (THE PHILOSOPHICAL PREDECESSORS HERE ARE SPINOZA, NIETZSCHE, BERGSON, WHITEHEAD, MEARLEU-PONTY, DELEUZE, LUCRETIUS AND BHARATMUNI)
THIS IS HOW BERGSON DEFINES THE IMAGE: BETWEEN REPRESENTATION AND MATTER, IMAGES ARE SENSORIMOTOR CIRCUITS.

“… define attention as an adaptation of the body rather than of the mind and to see in this attitude of consciousness mainly the consciousness of an attitude.”
-Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory