Just Sociology

The Evolution of Culture: From Representation to Materiality

As society has evolved from the mid-twentieth century to the present, so have our concepts of culture and the way we consume it. The transition from Culture Industry to Global Culture Industry can be traced between the years of 1945 and 1975, as the nature of both cultural objects and their consumers began to shift.

The Culture Industry relied on production and consumption of cultural symbols and representations to reinforce society’s superstructure, which created a unified ideological narrative. Global Culture Industry, on the other hand, involves the production, distribution and consumption of cultural objects, information, communications and branded media products, financial and leisure services, all of which are met with a more diverse audience.

In this academic article, we will expand on the differences between Culture Industry and Global Culture Industry, exploring the following subtopics:

1.1 Differences between Culture Industry and Global Culture Industry

The primary difference between these two types of industry lies in the materiality of the objects they produce. Culture Industry is more concerned with the production and consumption of cultural symbols and representations, which are used to reinforce the society’s superstructure and ideology.

Global Culture Industry, however, presents a shift towards the valuation of things as a commodity. Branded products, media products and financial services have changed the nature of cultural objects, which are now expressed as mediated things.

These new commodities are designed to be appreciated for their use value and are seen as extensions of the large economic infrastructure.

1.2 From Commodity to Brand

Global Culture Industry serves to transform commodities into branded products, which offer unique experiences to consumers.

This creates added value, which is determined by the consumer’s willingness to pay for the product. Branded products are no longer simply things to possess, but are also items capable of drawing attention, establishing an identity, and demonstrating power or inequality.

The current design-intensive approach to production considers the exchange value of cultural objects as well as their use value, which in turn increases the value of the object itself.

1.3: From Representation to Things

In the past, media objects were objects of representation.

However, in the Global Culture Industry, the objects themselves become media. Sounds, music and even branded spaces are mediated for consumption.

Culture as such, is industrialised in the way medias consume symbols and events, and things are re-designed, mediatized and commodified, incorporating the necessity of becoming media in order to gain an audience.

1.4: From the Symbolic to the Real

Global Culture Industry engages with the representation of things in new ways, where things themselves are more important than their symbolic representation.

Mediated objects, which are mediated for consumption, are soon also seen as real, as the customer desire extends from mere representation to engagement with that particular materiality. There are then two-step descents: first, into the symbolic, and then deeper and deeper into the real, often in a brutal and sometimes abject way.

1.5: Things come alive: Bio-power

Global Culture Industry works as a biosphere that requires intense negotiations in order to work properly. The production and reproduction of things rely on the principal idea of atomistic difference – a concept commonly found within the and sociology of science and medicine.

Vitalistic bio-power works as a functionality of the life force that provides the preconditions for the production and control of difference.

1.6: From Extensive to Intensive

Although global culture is, to mobile researchers, an extensive global process, it is also perceived by them as an intensive, internal reality.

The object is both part of that reality, yet it can also be perceived from an external, observer point of view. The property of mediated objects fails to remain either interior or exterior, as it moves between these two realities.

1.7: The rise of the virtual

Instead of existing in the physical realm, the consumer can now experience objects the way they appear on a screen, creating a virtual space for them to explore. This rapidly developing phenomenon suggests that emotions are intertwined with feeling and intensities, and that the concept of reality is now thought of and experienced via an event-culture.

The actual materiality of the thing has been flattened and is more about being accepted as a cultural value or a metaphysical materialism.

2) Methodology of Following the Object

In recent years, a new methodology has emerged that involves following the object, which has been applied in numerous fields such as anthropology, material culture, and sociology of science and technology. The following sub-topics will explain the advantages, influences, and preparation of following the object methodology.

2.1 Influences on the Method

In anthropology, this methodology has served to study how moving objects integrate with the human psyche. Material culture examines the specificities of the object and how it arrives at one location from another.

Art contemplates how objects can move from one context to another, creating a variety of meanings and relationships. Sociology of science and technology emphasizes the singularity of the object.

2.2 Advantages of the Method

The benefit of this methodology lies in its focus on the object in movement. The object can be examined in different contexts, which opens opportunities for understanding the de-familiarisation of the object.

The method is advantageous when considering transitions from global to local, providing a unique perspective that incorporates the feeling and perception of space. Singularities and specificities dictate the point of view, where the researcher operating within the method is limited by what they see and how they evaluate it.

2.3 Methodology Revisited

The ontology of the object is at the forefront of this method. With the increased level of detail that it demands, the researcher is required to be mobile and must fluently navigate the transitions and flows of the object.

The method questions the object’s purpose and how it transitions within different maps. The mapping, along with the flow, are both necessary to arrive at an understanding of the object’s singular and specific territories.

The researcher, along with the object they are following, becomes a visual and tactile mapmaker.

In conclusion, the understanding of culture and how it is produced has shifted drastically since the 1940s.

From Symbolic to Things and from Extensive to Intensive, these concepts have been redefined by Global Culture Industry. Further, the Methodology of Following the Object offers an avant-garde approach to contemplate the object’s movement and function, allowing researchers to understand its singularity and its specificities, its use value and its materiality.

Together, these topics provide a fascinating insight into the commodification of contemporary life, producing a significant challenge to the economy of the body and mind in the age of the global market. In conclusion, the transition from Culture Industry to Global Culture Industry has revolutionized the way we consume cultural products, shifting the focus from symbolic representation to the materiality of objects.

The Methodology of Following the Object provides a unique perspective on the singularity and specificity of cultural objects in different contexts. These topics help us understand the ever-changing nature of culture and the challenges that come with it in a global market economy.


1. What is the difference between Culture Industry and Global Culture Industry?

A: Culture Industry focuses on production and consumption of symbolic representation, while Global Culture Industry emphasizes the material objects and their distribution as mediated things. 2.

How has the Methodology of Following the Object impacted cultural research? A: This method emphasizes the object in movement, providing a unique perspective on how objects transition from global to local contexts.

3. What is the significance of the shift from representation to things in Global Culture Industry?

A: It has changed the way we value cultural objects, as branded products now offer unique experiences and are seen as extensions of economic infrastructure. 4.

What is Bio-power in the context of Global Culture Industry? A: Bio-power refers to the production and reproduction of difference, rooted in the concept of atomistic difference and vitalistic life force.

5. What is the rise of virtual reality in the context of consumption of cultural objects?

A: Virtual reality allows consumers to experience cultural objects through screens, creating a virtual space that is more about cultural value than materiality. 6.

How does the Methodology of Following the Object contribute to understanding the singularity of cultural objects? A: By following an object’s movements and mapping its transitions and flows, researchers gain a better understanding of the object’s singular and specific territories.

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