Author note: this isn’t a complete essay but the content that is here can be read as a riff of its own so hope you enjoy what’s here
Undoubtedly, there are many things changing about the world around us. From the unfamiliar feeling of normalcy after the pandemic to pig R2D2s, it’s really fascinating to just ponder on what sorts of things we can expect to see next. One model for figuring out what’s going on is that we are moving toward more of an experience economy. This is an idea that’s been around for a while now but, nonetheless, I think it’s deserving of a reconsideration, especially as technology continues to evolve.
Consider a time when you were doing some work and decided that some song would be the perfect one to play at that moment. Or, a time when you were out with friends and knew exactly the place to go eat because of the fun you’d have at the restaurant. Or, for those that partake, when you consume some substance because you’re going for a particular vibe. In all of these cases, you’re not thinking strictly in the sense of the activites you do but, rather, in the sense of the experience you’re aiming for.
Present in ideas ranging from mimetic theory to phenomenology, there is a principle that some action is never done out of compulsion for the specific thing itself but, rather, as a symptom for something more personal. We don’t listen to songs from our childhoods because they were particularly good, we listen to them because they give us a feeling of nostalgia. Guys will do plenty of things to impress or get the attention of a girl. Drugs, at their fundamental level, provide an “exit” to some non-sober state whether that be for a religious purpose or simply a means of escape to something different from the present circumstance.
In today’s world, we recognize our own thinking as being a system that can be hacked with the right input. The way this plays into our everyday decisions or purchases is that we are repeatedly aiming to satiate our desires (ie attempting to reach the Imaginary a la psychoanalysis). The way this plays into markets and overall economies is that people develop products with their ideologies in mind or, when marketing, are considerate of the sublime objects they embody.
While it may seem ungrounded (ie asking someone with rich parents about how to buy a house and they it’s “no issue at all”) or out of touch with the “human” experience of struggle or just everyday things, it’s really more coherent then you’d expect. Propogated by today’s political climate, we are in a constant quest for identity. When we insert ourselves into group identities or find reasons to be “proud” of being ourselves, we are doing so with awareness of our mindset and experience. Nobody wants to live a good life because it’s what we’re “supposed to do”, we do so in order to feel content.
Taking a gander at the state of things, one can see how today’s products are geared to users steering their experiences. Need a specific sound? Pull up a beat on Spotify. Need a specific experience? Jump into your VR headset. Need a specific physical experience? Any Airbnb is just a plane ticket away.
We’re not plugged into some cyberpunk crypo fantasy so we still bear a connection to the real world, the ‘offline’. But, even so, one can argue how modern society is already tethered into a different sort of ether. What will unfold as we continue along this direction is that seemingly significant parts to our present lives will become mere resources or abstracted away into something that doesn’t look at all like what it does today. It’s something of a cliche to remark on “slippery slopes” but an example of previously consolidated thing becoming resource-ified is dating/relationships. We’ve (as implications of movements throughout the last 50 years)