(for educational purposes only)
In NASATAK micro scenes alluding to progress (i.e.climbing, flying, ascending) and decline (i.e. falling, diving, descending) are sampled from hundreds of American popular films. Images borrowed from our cultural bank(2) become symbolic currency. The characters’ gestures relate directly to a point in time and value as seen in a dip or rise in the market. One can also translate the rising and falling gestures of the characters as religious symbols descending into purgatory or rising into heaven, attaining enlightenment or the contrary regression of values. Even here spirituality in a capitalist consumer society is reduced to monetary values. The rich go to heaven and the poor to hell. Our favorite actors of Hollywood cinema illustrate the daily announcements of the NASDAQ or Dow Jones is 3 points higher. This rise in stocks is translated by John Wayne, Robert Deniro, James Stewart and … climbing mountains in 2 seconds.
How does one interpret ‘well-being’ in a consumer society? Plenty of food and water, a healthy child, a higher life expectancy, a large family, fertile land, leisure time, financial security, the GDP etc.? The issue of measuring social progress with economic performance has become important because of the concern that current standard measures such as the stock market may encourage production-oriented societies to move in the wrong direction. (1) Stocks are up, the markets are doing well, the economy on the rise, the GDP has risen, are indicators that may or may not translate as improvement in the social welfare of its citizens. In fact the NASDAQ or Dow Jones Index may reflect the reverse situation as was the case in the 1990’s in the US where one witnessed a rise in stocks and a lower quality of living standards compared with the previous generation. Just because the top 500 companies or even largest 5000 technology companies are thriving does not mean all members of the society find an improvement in their lives. The current social distress for Americans (the 99%) is about such discrepancies between the increase in profits of large corporations and the decline of the average individual income.
To use a NASDAQ graph to reflect the state of Americans’ well-being is equivalent to comparing a Hollywood musical with reality. They are both poor translations. However,stories that retell the same plot of the underdog who saves and conquers all, can be analogous to the cyclical drama of prosperity and crisis of the stock market. In short, losers win, winners lose. When stocks plummet we know they will rise and fall once again. The unpredictable becomes predictable over increases in time. This comparison of the stock market with Hollywood cinema is the foundation of the database-generated video NASATAK.
1. Measuring Economic Performance, Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Jean-Paul Fitoussi
2. Cultural Bank is an allusion to Max Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno’s development of the term culture industry to call attention to the industrialization and commercialization of culture under capitalist relations of production (1972).