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Culture Networks: Understanding the Culture Code

In the context of my previous posting of the Culture Networks 2010 presentation, Clotaire Rapaille, is referenced quite frequently. (If you haven’t gone through that fascinating presentation, please do so now.) As a general primer on social network science and study, please see Wikipedia: Social Network.

Clotaire Rapaille is more about the organic nature of our ideas and thought processes. Apparently he developed his key ideas about marketing from, according to wikipedia, his work

as a psychologist for autistic children and studying Konrad Lorentz theory of Imprints and John Bowlby theory of attachment. This work led him to believe that while children learn a given word and the idea connected with it, they associate it with certain emotions. He called that primal emotional association an imprint. This imprint determines our attitude towards a particular thing. These pooled individual imprints make up a collective cultural unconscious, which unconsciously pre-organize and influence the behavior of a culture.

So I thought it might be worthwhile to drill down a bit into his concepts, and the easiest way to do that was to reference this fascinating 2004 episode of Frontline, called “The Persuaders”. I don’t claim Rapaille is necessary or relevant to the social network concepts, but I did find quotations from his book in the presentation both fascinating and compelling enough to want to know more. It may be that his ideas are potent via the evolution of modern social networks and the shrinkage of distance as a meaningful barrier to the transport of ideas, among people and cultures. The focus of Rapaille’s efforts is on why people do what they do, not on what they say are the reasons for their actions. In the context of understanding Social Networks, this distinction is very useful.

The review on Amazon is not encouraging, but the book has sold very well, so that review may not be an indicator of anything. The ideas are worthy of understanding. And since he was quoted quite a bit in the presentation, I’m thinking, why not spend a little time contemplating what his ideas are about? Honestly, I may buy his book to get a better sense, after I’ve done this bit of research.

Check out Clotaire Rapaille’s book The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do.

Below is a short video segment, on Rapaille, from the PBS Frontline report on modern marketing called “The Persuaders”. Only a small segment is about Rapaille:

After you’ve watched the above segment which comes midway into the program, you may want to click HERE to view the program from the beginning.

The complete program offers a fascinating insight into how advertising influences us, in many ways. The discussion on media embedded advertising, of which we very likely are often unaware, was both interesting and a bit troubling. I thought the segment on Sex and the City, and the Absolut Hunk episode, was amusing, for instance. But I also found myself disquieted by the discussion. I do often enjoy advertising as entertainment, but the suffusion of advertising throughout our culture and daily experiences appears to be driving culture and meaning in ways that undermine our sense of self and our well-being. In those moments of revelation, it might not be an exaggeration to feel like culture, where it may have once been life affirming, is dead (or dying) and commerce, the usurper king of our competitive social drives, may destroy us with all of the junk of our basest wants and puerile emotional needs.

On the other hand, given the presentation on Culture Networks, to some degree, perhaps less overt and obvious, all of our communications via commercial networks have been evolving toward this ultimate revelation: Commercial memes are taking over the evolution of our very notions of culture and society. If you don’t have some time to watch the above videos, honestly, the more interesting thing to do first, is to go through the Culture Networks presentation.


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