Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"What is the Cutting Edge?" (posted by BC)

Again, to continue with the theme of building community, this section of Day Two ventures to case studies on the edge, studies that contain that element of "innovation" or "newness" that Christina Wasson cited, that form the new layer of our discipline’s foundation. Dan Bruner's study ("Social relationships in the modern tribe: product selection as symbolic markers") managed to combine elements of the old and the new. Using the term "tribes" certainly elicits a sense of "traditional" ethnography (that "old headgear" Christina mentioned in her introduction), but it was within the frame of a very modern case study – in this instance, a study of the purchase and use of workers’ clothing, with its findings reported to a client in order to better understand clothing selection and improve the process of product development.

For me, the questions are then - are these tribal patterns repeated elsewhere with other groups? When one considers the “influencer” tagged by Bruner’s study, are there other groups where this role emerges? One might consider groups of teenagers (just in thinking about a group where clothes might be important), where an influencer wears a black trench coat one day and then there are ten more similarly attired the next day … but does that actually happen? And would that conflict with other social values, such as individuality, especially as the choice of clothing was a reflection of sociality more so than function? Finally, how aware are the participants in this flow – from “individuals to persona to sociality”? If the client targets these influencers (singling them out, as it were), could that cause a breakdown in the tribal structure?

Yes, I am posting more questions than analysis, but I think that is part of the value in exploring edge, which is to see where these new techniques can take us, take all of us, in our work.

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