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Experiencing Events. Week Three: Events – Fields of Distinction. Introducing Identity. Today’s class is all about identity – this is something that we talk about a great deal but what do we actually mean by identity? An easy task to get us started!

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experiencing events

Experiencing Events

Week Three: Events – Fields of Distinction

introducing identity
Introducing Identity
  • Today’s class is all about identity – this is something that we talk about a great deal but what do we actually mean by identity?
  • An easy task to get us started!
    • How would you define your identity? If we were meeting for the first time what would you tell me about yourself?
defining identity
Defining Identity
  • Identity can be understood as the relationship between society and culture
  • Culture represents the macro pattern of life
  • Identity represents the micro meanings that we have of life as individuals
  • How we understand and construct our identity has changed markedly in recent years due to various changes in society
  • The extent of this change varies across different cultures but there is no doubt that it is evident across the globe
a brief history of identity symbolic order
A Brief History of Identity: Symbolic Order
  • Human history is marked by symbolic relationships
  • In the past the ‘order’ of human life was much clearer than it is today
  • Everyone had a ‘place’ within society – a sense of self and position in the world
  • Essentially, the culture into which you were born would determine the course of your life and identity
  • Weber (1978) coined the term social class which described groupings based primarily on economic position but also on non economic factors such as morals, culture and lifestyle
a brief history of identity conspicuous consumption
A Brief History of Identity: Conspicuous Consumption
  • It was identified by Veblen (1899) that consumption choices (particularly in terms of culture and leisure) are central to the construction and display of our identity
  • He recognised the increasing importance of culture to the noveaux riches
  • This showed that their position in society and social prestige extended beyond mere wealth
  • The mark of the gentleman is one who “consumes beyond the minimum requirement of subsistence… but his consumption also undergoes a specialisation as regards the quality of the goods consumed, he becomes a connoisseur” (Veblen, 1899, p. 74)
a brief history of identity the consumer society
A Brief History of Identity: The Consumer Society
  • Consumption patterns have come to play an increasingly important role in the construction and display of our identity
  • “Since the 1960s symbolic differentiation has been accomplished with material objects, facades and motifs” (Sayre & King, 2003:339)
  • We could suggest that this has occurred alongside a decline in the importance of social class as a means of stratifying society
  • To what extent do you think social class still exists within your culture?
fixed identity
Fixed Identity?
  • It could be suggested that our identities are far less fixed today than they were in the past
  • Many of the ‘master’ identities such as social class, gender or race are regarded as being in a state of flux and are less rigid than they were in the past
  • The consumer society offers us numerous opportunities with regards to our identity – it allows us to be who we want to be and sets us free
  • Or does it?
events and symbolic identity
Events and Symbolic Identity
  • As we have discussed in previous weeks the events that we consume have symbolic meaning that helps us to create identity
  • Our consumption of events allows us to be part of a cultural competition that provides us with distinction from other people and can also act as a means of domination
  • As Waterman (1998:55) suggests events are “examples of how culture is contested… cultural questions of aesthetics, taste and style cannot be divorced from political questions of power, inequality and oppression”
  • Bourdieu’s (1984) theory of cultural capital helps us to understand the symbolic meanings of event experiences and how these create distinction and domination – essentially new hierarchies within society
bourdieu and cultural capital
Bourdieu and Cultural Capital
  • Bourdieu (1984) suggests that social life is based on three sets of resources – economic, social and cultural capital
  • Cultural capital can be defined as a set of socially rare and distinctive tastes, skills, knowledges and practices
  • We can break this down into three areas
    • Embodied capital – implicit skills, knowledge and practices
    • Objectified capital – possession of cultural objects
    • Institutionalised capital – formal qualifications or awards

We need to remember that we all operate within a set of fields – in order for our capital to be acknowledged it needs to be understood by our peers…

events as fields of distinction
Events as Fields of Distinction
  • Event spaces reproduce a culture where capital is required and competed for by consumers
  • Where and how can we see examples of cultural capital at play in the following events:
    • Theatre
    • Conferences
    • Music festivals
    • We can see that new hierarchies are being created based upon our cultural consumption – this can occur both between and within events!
    • If competition over cultural capital is key then events must gain a balance between mass/elite or exclusivity/inclusivity
events as fields of distinction1
Events as Fields of Distinction
  • So far, we have focused on events as fields of distinction and a means of constructing identity fo the individual but this can occur at various different levels
  • In terms of the ‘city’ events may be used in terms of city branding and to reinvigorate notions of civic pride
  • For example, Expos of the past were a means of demonstrating power and knowledge
    • Great Exhibition Crystal Palace, London, 1851
    • Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1867
    • Shanghai Expo, 2010
    • Events provide differentiation – a selling point
events as fields of distinction2
Events as Fields of Distinction
  • Events can also convey symbolic power at a national and international level
    • Berlin Olympics, 1936 (power, wealth and cultural superiority)
    • Moscow Olympics, 1980 (ideological warfare)
    • Los Angeles Olympics, 1984 (commercial power)
    • They can also be seen as celebrations of culture and economic gain and thus we can see why competition to host such events is so fierce
seminar task
Seminar Task
  • We could argue that events (particularly those which are publicly funded) should be open and accessible to everyone – in reality do you think that this is the case?
  • Research the following events identifying who you think the target market for the event is, what attending the event says about its consumers and their identity and discuss how inclusive/exclusive you think the event is (think about distinction and dominance):
    • New Orleans Mardi Gras
    • Edinburgh Hogmanay
    • The Ryder Cup
    • Dubai Rugby Sevens
    • Glasgay!
    • Rio Carnival