Friday, May 21, 2010

Homo Economus

Just back from a whirlwind trip to Louisiana to give a series of talks to middle and high school students about the history of science and traveling always makes me realize exactly how much we are exposed to adverising. You are captive in the airport and on the plane and there is not a single opportunity missed to market something to you.

But, this is not an exception. Marketing has become ubiquitous. Elementary schools are being sponsored. Communities have lost the ability to name their stadiums. Screens playing nothing but commercials are installed in elevators. Everywhere you go, someone is trying to sell you something and the line is that if the school can make some needed money or if it means the team can afford to pay a better first baseman, then it is a good thing. The company gets a chance to do more business, you get better services -- eveyrone wins.

But the cost is to our humanity. We have been reduced seemingly everywhere and at all times to consumer selves, mere economic entities. The proliferation of advertising "forces your values to become monetary" (extra credit for the first one to identify the source). And, no, it ain't necessary, but it is happening.

So, here's the question. Where in this culture can you escape being marketed to? What public spaces are commercial-free? Inside the stalls in most public restrooms is the only one I can think of. Before we start seeing corporate grafitti (Here I sit broken hearted, came to buy a smart phone with the best 3G network but only got AT&T), where else are you safe, where else are you permitted to be something other than a wallet-carrier?