Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Friends, Strangers, and the Bridal Panopticon

Finally the semester is over, grades are in, and we can bring you more bliss!! Actually, make that "I." Laura has a June 16th deadline for a full draft of the dissertation, and she is rushing to get a chapter draft done this week. So don't expect to hear much from her until much much later.

Getting married brings out life's paradoxes, and a couple of May events highlighted for us the tension between person-to-person reciprocity and depersonalized mass marketing in the institution of the wedding. First, we got this lovely notice of a bridal (and groomal) shower that Kathy and Eli's old friends Janeane and Gary will be holding for us soon.

Then, not too long afterwards, we received a call at 9:00 in the morning. I answered, and a young man straining to hear himself over the ambient call-center babble asked, "Could I please speak to Lo?"

"Could this be a fan of the blog who doesn't know my fiancee's real name?" I wondered. We have gotten hits from countries where we don't know anybody... I passed the phone to Laura.

The man offered us (through the Bride) a free vacation in the Dominican Republic if the two of us (and only the two of us, not Lola and her mom, not just Lola, not just me) would agree to sit through a weekend presentation on a line of pans and cutlery that his company offers. Free food would be provided! This, of course, is an example of what business gurus are calling permission marketing, in which companies turn consumers into "friends" by using incentives to lead us to agree to receive their marketing messages. In other words, they persuade us to ask them to market to us. Now sometimes such relationships emerge out of the normal run of doing business, as happens between textbook publishers and professors. But this is a scheme to jump-start things through a brief intrusion into the daily life of a stranger that will, inevitably, turn a few of those strangers into new customers.

But where did they get Lo's name? Probably David's Bridal. They don't let you try on the dresses there unless you register. That way they make money whether you buy a dress or not, because they can turn around and sell your name and contact information to people like our new "friend." She gave them the name "Lo" to be able to tell when somebody used the information David's sold about her. Creepy, huh? The wedding-industrial complex may know more about us than the NSA.

As we go to our shower (thanks!!), and to the upcoming weddings of Laura's cousins Beth and Alicia, the ghost of Michel Foucault, in a Texas-style ten-gallon hat, will be lurking in the background.


Blogger jennifer said...

cowboy foucault! that rocks.
congrats to lo for getting in a draft of the diss! yee-haw!

May 31, 2006 10:58 AM  
Anonymous katie romich said...

Pete and Laura! Help, I am caught in blog world. I don't understand it. I just want to send you an e-mail that everyone can't read. How do I do that?

Katie Romich, katieromich@hotmail.com

June 01, 2006 4:35 PM  

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