Week 3: Joel Arellano

Although I was intrigued by several concepts in the assigned reading, the only one I found relevant to the videos was Lewis Hyde’s dichotomy of value and worth. In his book The Gift, he explains that we use the former describes commodities and latter describes gifts (although I think he’s cutting corners with this term). As Grace and others have identified, both Lynch’s interviews and the Mapping Memories videos are objects of worth rather than value, because they escape commodification. Instead, they offer snapshots of life stories, arbitrary moments in a person’s life in which it’s possible to glimpse common humanity. I can’t help but wonder, why are these moments powerful? And if they are powerful, why do the seem so difficult to monetize?

The first question seems simple- the videos are powerful because recognizing ourselves in others is a meaningful experience. So why can’t we put a price on that? I’m curious because it would seem that anything worth experiencing could be sold. But as Jenkins, et al point out, some intensely intimate experiences resist monetizing. If that’s the case, it would represent a radical boundary for strategic communication! This problem is bound up with the concept of authenticity; intimate experiences resist being commodified because they consist of sharing a part of oneself, which is an essentially authentic project. Monetizing explodes the authenticity not solely of the content disclosed, but of the generosity that selflessly wills it to be disclosed- a giving of oneself. Paying for that gift transforms it into a commodity.

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