Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

The Car Becomes Me

The Car Becomes Me

Suzanne Walsh

The eternal search for brand connection to consumers has perplexed organizations for many years. Frequently characterized as a psychological connection of self-to-brand (finding identifiable personality traits within a brand), recent attempts can better be described as creating an embodied experience. This is most typically seen in providing “experience” so the consumer can internalize a brand. Inherent within this co-creation is the consumer’s imaginary process of belonging – to brand, to self, to brand community and to the world at large. The automobile can be equally conceived as a mode of transport, a rite of passage, a problem solver, a showpiece, a weekend hobby, a polluter, and an object representative of the self/family/position within society. This complicated and problematic relationship to the automobile has informed everything from public policy, transportation planning and taxation programs to personal financial decisions, family planning and ability to be a free agent in the employment marketplace. In the American context, and especially in Michigan, car culture has literally driven decision-making at every level. An automobile is intrinsically linked to the idea of freedom and in this context is particularly linked to freedom of the body – freedom to move through time and space whenever the body wishes, or whenever the body is required. Moving from Point A to Point B becomes an imaginary process of representation, dream fulfillment, and community engagement. This paper explores proposes a model of relationship between brand, consumer and car culture that inter-relates the imaginary process of the consumer as well as the brand, and the process of co-creation at their intersection, bringing together these imaginaries as a phenomenological expression of embodiment.

April 9, 2014 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Don’t neglect the physicality of the car itself. I’ve always wondered about the car-as-simulacrum, where the driver’s “skin” becomes coextensive with the machine’s. This has ramifications for what constitutes personal space, and personal physicality. Branding aside, a 98-pound weakling behind the wheel of an SUV is a very different critter than one in a subcompact.

    Comment by Dan Harrison | April 9, 2014 | Reply

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