Miruna Codeanu

What age do we live in?

In cappuccino, espresso on October 29, 2013 at 9:49 am

True, most ages aren’t self aware. It’s the present view on history that defines them. However, we’ve been quite confused in the last few years. We call it change and can’t define it. The world has been changing, fast, which doesn’t necessarily mean the whole world has the same pace.

Consumerism. We keep talking about it. We keep defining it and redefining it. It is that historical age dominated by mass consumption. Truth be told, we’ve been wondering for a while now if this is still the historical age we live in? It was and it will for a while as transitions are gradual, but consumerism as we know it is dying. We’ve been witnessing transition from consumerism to … something else and we’ve been calling it post consumerism. It can be identified through concept such as slow living, green consumption, etc. It doesn’t mean consumption will end here. The goods we’ll consume and the manner in which we consume we’ll be different.

We’ve been all considering fast food the symbol of consumerism. How we define fast food, Wiki dixit: “Fast food is the term given to food that can be prepared and served very quickly. While any meal with low preparation time can be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away. The term “fast food” was recognized in a dictionary by Merriam–Webster in 1951.” The term was applied to our entire existence. For some years now, fast food has been changing. Firstly, they’ve been “adapting”, introducing national influences on the menu. Let’s take McDonald’s as a representative for the fast food industry, also the biggest fast food chain. The classical example is that of McDonald’s frommage and viande sandwiches.  Then they started introducing salads. Then they gave away apples. Now they are advertising their healthy food.  Nowadays the hype in fast food industry isn’t about the launch of a new item, the change of a recipe, the new marketing campaign. I see titles suchs as “The Future Of McDonald’s Depends On This New Menu Item” (Business Insider) and McDonalds employees are going on a strike.

Post-consumerism. There are some voices talking about it. It is that historical age after consumerism.  All-time reference, Wikipedia, defines post-consumerism: “Post-consumerism infrequently suggests that all manufacturing should cease as there are already enough cars, phones, teddy bears, etc. That construction in the developed world should cease as it destroys valuable arable land and aquifers. That employment could be self created involving a return to smallholder farming, whereby each person can produce enough for his/her family needs without subjecting him/herself to anybody(…) Post consumerism can also be viewed as moving beyond the current model of addictive consumerism, rather than suggesting that all manufacturing should cease.”  I tend to define post-consumerism by looking at consumers’ habits.  The ways people consume is what makes the difference between consumerism and post-consumerism. Post-consumerism was supposed to be about, let’s say, discreet consumption. Well, it is, because “no name” brands, such as local farmers, hand craftsmen , known only to a limited “connaisseur” group makes the difference. Downshifting,  is the phenomenon which is become more and more spread which is precisely a manifesto for mass manufacturing.  People downshift most of the times, in order to be their own boss in a small business, sometimes a family business. 

Americans are buying less and less canned food. McDonald’s is selling fresh food and apples.  There are more and more small stores selling natural products, natural, organic-certified food and goods. However, they address a certain audience. They aren’t mass consumption and they couldn’t be mass consumption, because this particular target lives in post-consumerism.

If McDonalds is what defined consumerism, there are some news that Google could be defining another historical age. There are some theoreticians talking about googleization. Googlization: “Googlization is a neologism that describest the expansion of Google’s search technologies and aesthetics into more markets, web applications, and context, including traditional institutions as the library”.   We’ve talking about online societies, online communities, about an online life, but it seems that latefly, much of the life is moving online. First, people were scared: it was the traditional “Oh my, times are changing!”. Yes, because they always are, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Then it was “Wow, this is really interesting, look at how all we know about offline living can be applied to online” and that for some enthusiasts. No it is “yes, it is here, online is here and things are moving online” Nowadays, a  computer without a proper internet connection is absolutely junk, files are on the cloud, our tools need an update, etc. Some of us will probably have an online life. However, there’s a need for a transition from offline to online.

The Internet of Things. Ashton originally defined the Internet of Things:: “Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes (a petabyte is 1,024 terabytes) of data available on the Internet were first captured and created by human beings(…). We’re physical, and so is our environment … You can’t eat bits, burn them to stay warm or put them in your gas tank. Ideas and information are important, but things matter much more. Yet today’s information technology is so dependent on data originated by people that our computers know more about ideas than things. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.” Ashton was saying that you can’t turn bits into gas tanks but you can. Let me remind you of something, we have an exclusively online currency: Bitcoin.  There are companies that actually take bitcoins as accepted payment.  Bitcoins are more of a snap into the online future. However, the Internet of Things is what links the physical and virtual objects, it is what blends online and offline.

What age do we live in?  Well, I go to the supermarket and I find myself during consumerism, although “green” products are invading supermarkets. I go to the natural shop or fairs and buy local goods and I’m a post-consumerist, I’m an engaged Google user and I definitely live in the Internet of Things, this blog post being quite a proof of that.  We, as consumers, are probably confused, companies are quite confused about their strategies and should be abandoning old recipes or develop branches adapted to the new types of society. It’s called transition, it is a very fast transition when a ante-previous age mixes with a future stage because things happen during the lifetime of a single person, and any person manifests a certain amount of change resistance.


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