Communicative Value of Commodity in Three Cases
Goods and all kinds of consumption elements carry a meaning out of their commodity usage. These meanings make these goods alive. Because almost all goods can be characterise with a cultural, sexual, ethnic or class based feature. So what you consume and why you consume is also means that who you communicate with and what is your attitude about this group or issue. Consume or avoid to consume something carry social meanings. People consume something to give a social message or avoid to consume to not be a part of a meaning vice versa. To reach a higher class level or to support a discriminated group or to express their sexual orientation, people make their choices rationally on goods. For example in the traditional understanding pink accepted as a feminine colour and people think that if a man wear a pink shirt he has effeminate attributes. Although colours have not gender features, and even if this meanings is a part of social construction, colour has a communicative value in these societies.
In nowadays societies consume commodities to shape their identity because using or consuming a product carry also a social meaning. Products that we consume are not independent from their symbolic features. People express their identities or political stances with these features. Not only with foods, but also clothes, technological tool and festivals. Being in a part of a festival or using a technological tool means also being a part of this culture. For example author argue that drinking Guinness have communicative value, because Guinness itself has a meaning which is related to Irısh culture. To drink a Irısh beer express people as communicate with Irısh taste or the environment of an Irısh Pub. Thus, the producers of Guinness began cooperating with the O’Neill’s Irish pub chain because they realized that many people ordered Guinness in specific social settings — Irish-themed restaurants and bars — but rarely outside of these settings. In this aspect we can see the communicative value of product in terms of cultural or racial aspect. In this example drinking Guinness and spending time at the Irısh Pubs in England shows us also the image of Irısh culture in England.
All these goods have their social meanings especially its relationality in the specific contexts. As Çağlar argue that, although doner do not carry a communicative value in Turkey, it has very meanings in Germany. Because while doner is an ordinary food in Turkey, in Germany it has a value because of being a Turkish food. Similar to the approach of Çağlar, we see this view also in Hansen’s work, Transnational Biographies and Local Meanings: Used Clothing Practices in Lusaka. Things gain their meanings and they turn to a sign of being a part of community or having an identity. In the case of Lusaka, Hansen focus on the social meanings of used clothes which are coming from western — “modernized”- societies. She use Appadurai’s argument that commodities are socially constructed and that things have social lives. Because a commodity does not always remain in the place where it was produced, it can be said to have a ‘social life’ whose value and meanings change as it moves through space and time. A commodity which produce in Europe does not stay in Europe, when it mobilize , its social meaning also transform. Like Çağlar’s doner example, while these clothes has only a meaning of wearing, in different societies these products has a value of “being an European clothes” as a new social meaning. Thus these used clothes also has communicative value. By using these used clothes, Zambian people not only fulfill their needs but also construct a value which identify themselves as westernized. As Hansen argue that in her work “Yet such images are also tied up with local Zambian notions of the body and sexuality, distinctions drawn by gender and generation and fuelled by the economic imperatives of everyday living and the relative power of the state. Aside from fulfilling basic clothing needs, used clothing constitutes a site where social identities are both constructed and contested.” (Hansen, 1992 : 136).
Lastly the article of Elbie Lombard and Luna Bergh : Tattooing Amongst Youth In Bloemfontein: Skin-Deep Communicative Signs Of A Minority Group? argue that whether the tattoo is still a sign and has a communicative value among minority groups as in the past. Authors made their research with young people on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State. According to research, identification and proclaiming group membership are much quoted reasons for obtaining a tattoo today. As in the doner case, how doner is only a meal but also it has Turkish identity, tattoo is also not a decoration or an image on the body but also a message and a tool of identification an individual and proclaim group membership. According to Lombard and Bergh, a number of authors reiterate that tattoos have communicative value, so they are a form of nonverbal communication. Although the meanings and identities of tattoos can be differ, having a tattoo itself has a social meaning. It has symbolic and expressive function because it is still seen as a marker.
To conclude, some commodities has values different from their usage. We cannot define all the products as “it is used for something”, definition of them are deeper because of their social meanings. It might be a brand, a colour, a food or a music style. If these are the signs of a class, a gender, a race or a minority/ majority group, usage of these product makes a connection between the user and the sign. As Kopytoff says, “ for the economists, commodities simply are…from a cultural perspective, the production of commodities is also a cultural and cognitive process : commodities must be not only produced materially as things but also culturally marked as being a certain kind of thing.” (Kopytoff , 1986 : 64) . We need to look at the position of the commodity in the context to see its real meaning.