We tell stories.
We dress our thoughts, experiences, and arguments in a pair of meanings. The core is pressed into a tight corset of beginning and ending. What doesn’t work goes into the washing machine, to be exposed anew.
We place our surrounding in a personal context of meaning and tell the story of our life again and again.
Narration is a constant in human history.
“There is and never has been a nation without narrative” Roland Barthes
culture and stories
In Cultural Studies the term »culture« describes a narrative construct. Cultures are narrative communities. Nations or political alliances, the success of economic organizations as well as the identity of each individual rise out of the stories we tell.
Today, at least in western society, our cultural story is based on an ubiquitous consumer culture.
Whereas the consumption of goods used to be primarily based on necessities like the need for food, or clothing, today it is an end in itself. It became way more than satisfying urgent needs. Consumption became a way to satisfy our wishes, dreams, and aspirations.
The functionality of many products is no different. Audi or VW. Pepsi or Coke. Levis or Abercrombie. They serve the same need.
In order to make these mass-produced products distinguishable – despite being basically the same – they are loaded with stories by marketing, advertising and design. The products become symbolically charged, full of external meaning, enabling consumers to define and to style their own identity.
Just use this in you will forever have this body and jump around with your girlfriend.
Products give us the feeling that we belong to a certain group or a certain way of life. We use products to stage ourself, to play different roles.
In this way, products offer us a way to tell our own story even better and more differentiated. They provide us with a wide selection of narrative pieces day after day.
We, as consumers, are free to use any product at will, to embed them in our individual conglomerate of interpretation, and in this way to distinguish us from our fellow human beings. Which in turn fuels our culture of individualization.
People strive to give their existence a new dimension – beyond the daily grind – by using things. Consumption becomes a performative game that opens spaces to dreams and visions in everyday life.
Each day, you can buy a little fairy tale: those dreams of boundless freedom that we have in the driver’s seat of our car while we’re stuck in traffic, those pictures of sunny island beaches, evoked by the coconut smell of a hair shampoo, or the promise of health and fitness, by purchasing certain sports shoes.
What the products offer us is a re-enchantment of a disenchanted world.
Our challenge hence is not just about the stories we tell, the challenge is in what we need to tell them.