The New Consumer Online
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The New Consumer Online

A Sociology of Taste, Audience, and Publics

Edward F. McQuarrie

It’s a new world online, where consumers can publish their writing and gain a public presence, even a mass audience. This book links together blogging, writing reviews for Yelp, and creating pinboards for Pinterest, all of which provide ordinary people the opportunity to display their tastes to strangers. Edward McQuarrie expertly analyzes how the operation of taste in consumption has been changed by the Internet and offers a fresh perspective on why websites like Yelp and Pinterest have become so successful.
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Chapter 3: Essay Three: Pinterest—to make public the private

Edward F. McQuarrie


In Pinterest, the newly possible centers on how images are consumed. These words are crucial: it is images that are consumed, and on Pinterest images are consumed. To view images, or collect images, or paint images, is not new. And to consume—to shop, to desire, to possess, to consume as the stomach does food or the palate does wine—is not new. But what Pinterest allows the ordinary person to do with images is new. It has never before been so easy to find and view images, nor has it ever been so simple to create and share complex images, nor has it ever been so inexpensive to amass large numbers of images. This new capacity, to possess imagery, presumes a transformed image, dematerialized, virtual: phosphors evanescent on a screen, electrons coursing through a diode. The image has ceased to be ink on a page or paint on a canvas and has been rendered insubstantial. Both your means to acquire, and the nature of what you possess, have changed. The price of image abundance: physicality disappears and uniqueness drains away. For art theory (Benjamin 1936; Lanham 2006a; Scott 1994), all Web images are simultaneously copies and fakes: digital code masquerading as color, shape, and line. A digital image can have no aura, in Walter Benjamin’s terms. For images created in Photoshop, there can no longer even be an original.

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