Despite the popularity of analogies comparing social networks to casinos, the best metaphor for our current cultural anomie, or at least the part that’s shaped by the internet, may be the shopping mall. A core principle of 20th-century mall design, which has since spread to a much wider variety of spaces, was a type of environmentally-induced disorientation called the Gruen Transfer, a phenomenon that architecture theorist Sanford Kwinter describes as “a threshold, the moment when a shopper’s purposive behavior and directed, coherent bodily movements break down under the barrage of excessive, narrow-spectrum stimulation and continual interruption of attention.” These conditions follow directly from the mall’s physical layout—its architecture, decor, lighting, and soundscape. “The unconsciously bewildered shopper, rendered docile, cannot help but drift into the prepared pathways and patterns of externally induced consumer activity, unfocused but exquisitely suggestible to gentle but firm environmental cues.” The result of this confusion, of course, is more shopping, particularly the kinds of spontaneous purchases that mall-goers had not planned on making before entering the mall itself.
Are we...are we all living inside of Hot Topic now?
I enjoyed this Drew!