The Post-Body Economy:
Your physiology is the new marketing battleground.
Words: Days of Disorder
Images: Marc Nagtzaam
The 2010s have been marked by conceptual upheavals in various areas of our lives – whether individually or collectively. The implosion of the foundations that underpinned our notions of society, order, economy, social relations and hierarchies left us at the mercy of events. This is the decade in which people are increasingly suffering from filter failure, emotional disorders and apnoea information. It’s been predicted and advised that we all should get ready for the roller coaster ride that this decade was set to be. But we’re witnessing impacts in ways we were least expecting, and had made little or no preparation for. Now we are facing days of mental, physical and aesthetic exhaustion.
Everything indicates that our bodies are not enough for the wheel of consumer desire to spin. Our confusion and exhaustion will not be diminished, for the relational structures of power that surround us have no interest in changing that. In fact, the consumer market restructures itself to ~help~ us in our process of debilitation and advances in what is essential to us: our physiology. Our senses and bodily functions are now the new gold mine of various industries. Welcome to The Era of Post-Body Economy. So far we have three well defined segments being marketed:
Focus, Silence and Sleep.
According to Nielsen, the perception you’re spending more time than ever before watching and streaming content is right. U.S. adults spent 10 hours, 39 minutes a day consuming media. We’re surely living in an attention-based economy, where our capacity to concentrate on a chosen subject, or even understand things in detail, is being challenged. Companies and brands, especially entertainment, are already reacting to it. In a recent BBC article about the myths of attention span, Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, says that our attention is “very much task-dependent. How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is.”
More than 100 million hours of video content are viewed each day on Facebook. The site now reports that 85% of videos played online are now viewed without turning the sound on. FKA Twigs served as creative director for Nike Women, where a captivating ad is disguised as music video. WhatsApp users send a whopping 250 million video messages, 200 million voice messages and 30 billion messages. Every. Single. Day. Expect your vision and hearing being increasingly immersed in stories – whether branded or not – in the coming months and years.
We’re not sleeping very well, and it is fucking many aspects in our lives. RAND Corporation published a study that calculated the business loss of poor sleep in the United States at $411 billion, $138 Bn a year in Japan and $ 60 Bn a year in Germany. But Big Pharma knows (and loves) it. According to a new market report published by Persistence Market Research “Global Market Study on Sleep Aids: Sleep Apnea to Witness Highest Growth by 2020”, the global sleep aids market was valued at US$ 58.1 Bn in 2014 and is expected to account for US$80.8 Bn by 2020. But there are alternatives beyond the evil pills since you open your wallet or, in some cases, have a fairly deep pocket.
For US$22 and 33 minutes you can join a Deep Rest “class” at Inscape, a meditation studio in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Or download their app with meditation exercises that ranges from US$ 12 to US$ 90. Or you can buy Bose’s noise cancelling earphones for US$ 350. There is a plethora of products coming up to solve sleeplessness. The problem is that sleep is becoming a social inequality marker: as long as there is no structural change in the systems that govern our lives, only people with high incomes can relieve lack of sleep.
We live in concrete jungles. We work, eat, drink and numb ourselves nonstop. We talk nonstop. There’s little space for quietness in our lives. Noise is the rule, silence the exception. Researcher Erica Walke, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wants to change the way cities think about their aural landscapes.
She’s researching how noise is affecting people’s lives subjectively and objectively. “Noise is insidious,” she says. “It affects you acutely, but also long-term. This is something that people don’t really talk about, but something people really suffer from.”
Silence has become one of the most sought-after luxuries. Between TV news, social media notifications constantly interrupting us, “and the combined noise of everyday life, it’s become a privilege to shut the f— up for a few minutes, or even a few days”, as W Magazine points out . As The Atlantic examines in ‘The Luxury of Silence‘, “in the noisy modern world, peace and quiet come with an increasingly hefty price tag.”
There is no single or immediate answer to this reality. What we have is a kind of privatization of our biology, a corporate invasion of our physiology. Your body has been already hacked. Our challenge is to deal with a society that imposes circumstances that we do not choose and, as a consequence, leaves us adrift so that we solve these alien problems alone – ones that we did not create or ask for. Refuse, resist or reject? What are you going to do?