Identities

The concept of identity is a very complicated one and, as a result, is difficult to define. In this week’s reading S. During makes an attempt to tackle this complex idea by saying that “they define who somebody is in terms of a trait, which might be anything from, for instance, a physical feature of the body, a belief, a genealogy or a culture preference. In effect they identify by placing individuals infot groups who share that trait. And this has a consequence: it means that identity is won at the price of reducing individuality” ( During 145).  He suggests that identities are not descriptive of what a person is as a whole but rather a list of characteristics they posses. We might not feel that these traits are good indicators of who we are as individuals but they are crucial to how the rest of the world perceives us. Because our identities are so important it seems unfair that many these identifiers are characteristics we have no control over including gender, age, nationality, etc.   During comments on the importance of these traits: “because individuals exist socially in and through their identities, without an identity there is no such thing as a socially situated individual” (During 145). In her post Natasha makes a good point about our social identities. She suggests that we would describe ourselves a certain way and would assume that those close to us (family, friends, etc.) would describe is in similar ways, perhaps with less depth. However, words used to describe us and make up our identity could be completely different if you were to ask someone that hated you. Which of these would be a proper definition of your identity? A combination of the two? Neither-because a list of traits can never truly define a person?  This is why I think identity is such a complicated term. During suggests that identities are only partial and that no trait or group of traits could ever fully define a person.

The importance of identities in media is two fold. First, advertisers gear certain campaigns to a particular group. This encompasses not only the people who actually fit in this group but also those who aspire to it. For example, Nike could launch a basketball shoe with the primary target of athletic, African-American, wealthy males in their 20s and tailor their ads to catch the attention of this group. Not only is the media identifying a target group through a list of traits but also asking the public to self-identify and determine whether they are or want to be in that group. The second way that the media uses identities is through branding. The brand that immediately comes to mind is Apple. People who use Apple products identify themselves as hip and technologically savvy. Whether people realize it or not, this “identity” of an Apple user is carefully crafted by the company itself. A great example of this is the series of commercials known as “I’m a Mac vs. I’m a PC”. Here is the link to one of many of these ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PwiljBN5-8&feature=related . In this, an every advertisement, the “PC” is an older, over weight, nerdy looking man who represents a “lame” computer. On the other hand the “Apple” is a happy, fit and energetic young man who represents a “cool” computer. It is obvious that anyone would prefer to be the man that plays the “Mac” as opposed to the man that plays the “PC”. Through these adds, Apple is hoping that the consumer will want to ascribe to the identity created by their brand and purchase their product in order to be seen in a more positive light by their peers because they are now part of a select group of “Apple Users”.

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