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Modern, really?

This week I’d like to virtually confess something. For years I’ve kept this a secret, but here it goes…

I’m a postmodernist.

One of my pet peeves is the misuse of the word ‘modern,’ specifically in the forms of ‘modernize’ and ‘modern times’ because it tends to be used as a term for bringing something up to date. As a postmodernist, I find this to be absurd!

Here’s why…

  • Postmodernists pay close attention to major shifts in society.
  • For us, modern times began during the Industrial Revolution and have since ended.
  • We believe that the technological revolution has begun and things are changing exponentially.

Not to freak you out or anything, but postmodernism is all around you. You experience it in so many ways, yet may not realize it.

Here are some examples of postmodernism in…

  • TV—Sitcoms began in the 50s, the height of modern times, and dominated TV until recently. They’re safe, predictable and have a beginning, middle, and end. Now we also have shows like Lost, where you can’t tell the good from the bad, the past from the present, or the real from the unreal.
  • Music—Mapping the musical landscape used to be fairly easy. There was pop, rock, country, hip-hop/rap, and a few others. Now in rock alone there’s alternative rock, gothic rock, desert rock, glam rock, rap rock, doom metal, folk metal, symphonic metal, grunge, post-grunge, and emotional hardcore… to name a few.
  • Graphic design—Check out the postmodernists in the Helvetica documentary! (Click here for the trailer)

A common theme among these examples is fragmentation—plots, genres, and designs are broken up and presented in little pieces. Stephen Brown, marketing’s postmodern provocateur, explains how even our sense of self is now fragmented…

“…the postmodern consumer performs a host of roles—wife and mother, career woman, sports enthusiast…DIY enthusiast, culture vulture, hapless holidaymaker, websurfing Internet avatar and many more—each with its appropriate brand name array.”

With all this fragmentation going on, no wonder marketers are having a hard time finding those holy grails of insight. At conferences and in webinars we hear of a changing landscape, shifting paradigms, and the need to redefine market research. If you’re a postmodernist in the crowd you love the confusion. For you it’s a sign of exciting things to come. You dream of a future of mixed methodologies, multiple perspectives, and a beautiful union of qual. and quant. You tell your colleagues not to worry, we’ll all figure it out, and everything will be alright.

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