Thursday, November 5, 2009

Participating in Imaginary Social Worlds

Imaginary social relationships are relationships we have with media figures that parallel actual relationships. They comprise just one stop of the wheel of imaginary social worlds. First, a media figure can be a sports figure, celebrity (meaning actress or actress), newscaster, politician and it also might refer to people who are thrust into the news, like Octomom, for example. Anyway, because imaginary social relationships parallel actual relationships, media figures may play important roles in our lives as father or mother figures, mentors or teachers, friends, and lovers, among other roles. Sometimes the imaginary relationship is based on hatred, for example I cannot stand Rosie O’Donnell. I don’t know her, but I simply cannot stand her. From time to time imaginary social relationships tip over too far as was the infamous case of John Hinckley who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in order to impress the actress Jody Foster. Unfortunately celebrity stalking has become all too common in our culture. Putting such extreme cases aside, I think it is fair to say that anyone who grows up in a mediated culture such as ours is likely to engage in imaginary social relationships with media figures. For some people the relationship may be on the level of liking, but for others the relationships may be enduring and quite complex. It is on the basis of deep and meaningful imaginary relationships that savvy marketers consider using media figures in their advertisements. Selecting the appropriate media figure for the right product and communicating with the right audience can produce “magic” for the marketer. The use of such media figures can invoke the wonder-consent-participation process that I have described as a hallmark of postmodern advertising with the result being the ever-coveted deep engagementof the consumer. Imaginary social relationships are just one part of multiple realities in which we exist that extend from the authentic outward to mediated worlds and inward to imaginary social worlds. Each of these “worlds” feeds off one another, as is the case with dreams whose content feeds off our everyday life (day residue) and whose content informs our everyday life (dream residue).


Matthew Schillings said...

I completely agree with the imaginary social relationships that you talked about in your blog. When I talked about my social imaginary relationships, I discussed my imaginary relationship with Tiger Woods. I look up to Tiger Woods as a mentor in way. I try to imitate everything Tiger does from his looks, to the way he swings a golf club, to the way he dresses, and to the way he acts. I do this because I have an imaginary relationship with Tiger. I feel this is because of the new sources of information such as Twitter, facebook, and the Internet as a whole. Because of these sources I have the opportunity to follow his life much closer.

Daniel said...

I believe that these imaginary relationships have gotten much more popular in the current United States television shift to reality television. In an era where networks can’t support expensive production, because advertisers have shifted to new methods over the internet, inexpensive reality TV shows have taken over. Some networks seem to have shifted completely to ‘reality’ shows. Examples of networks that do this are MTV and TRUtv. Even sitcoms have begun filming in ways that play on reality. For example The Office is filmed as if it was a documentary, and the characters often offer asides to the audience. I think that networks and producers fostered imaginary social relationship to create cheaper television in an internet dominated society. However, it raises a very big issue. Is reality TV real? If it is not, then what type of cultural changes will occur, because people are mimicking not real ‘reality’ stars.