“The Closed-World Principle”: Corporations and the Metaculture of Newness via Oldness

  • Eitan Wilf

Abstract

Although many corporations make claims about the newness of their products in order to make the public interested in purchasing them, not all of them make the same kind of claims. Whereas previous studies have highlighted claims to newness that are based on emphasizing the newness of almost all the parts of new products in relation to the parts of those products’ previous versions, I highlight claims to newness that are based on emphasizing the oldness of the parts of new products in relation to the parts of those products’ previous versions. These two distinct kinds of claims are patterned after two diametrically opposed normative ideals of newness that have a specific intellectual history in the modern west. This history and its contemporary instantiations have implications for the study of the motion of culture in general, and of the mechanisms that propel it in the corporate world in particular.

Author Biography

Eitan Wilf
Eitan Wilf is a cultural and semiotic anthropologist whose research interests focus on the institutional transformations of creative practice in the United States. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork on the institutionalization of jazz music in academic programs, the development of art-producing computerized algorithms and sociable robots, and business innovation consulting services. He is the author of School for Cool: The Academic Jazz Program and the Paradox of Institutionalized Creativity (University of Chicago Press, 2014), and Creativity on Demand: The Dilemmas of Innovation in an Accelerated Age (University of Chicago Press, 2019). Wilf holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

References

Abrams, Meyer H. 1971. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. 2005. Weather. Los Angeles: Make Now.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. 2007. Traffic. Los Angeles: Make Now.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. 2008. Sports. Los Angeles: Make Now.

Howard, Ron, dir. 1995. Apollo 13. 140 min. Los Angeles: Universal Pictures.

Ingold, Tim, and Hallam, Elizabeth. 2007. “Introduction,” in Creativity and Cultural Improvisation, eds. Hallam, Elizabeth and Tim Ingold. London: Bloomsbury, 1-24.

Keane, Webb. 2002. “Sincerity, ‘Modernity’, and the Protestants,” Cultural Anthropology 17(1): 65-92. https://doi.org/10.1525/can.2002.17.1.65

Kwoh, Leslie. 2012. “You call that innovation?” The Wall Street Journal, May 23.

Latour, Bruno. 1996. Aramis, or the Love of Technology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. The Savage Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1991 [1964]. Totemism. London: Merlin Press.

Moeran, Brian, and Bo T. Christensen, eds. 2013. Exploring Creativity: Evaluative Practices in Innovation, Design, and the Arts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139519724

Perloff, Marjorie. 2010. Uncreative Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Redfield, Peter. 2000. Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520219847.001.0001

Rusbridger, Alan. 1999. “Autopilot Jeep Grand Cherokee,” The Guardian, May 10.

Sillery, Bob. 1998. “Grand Cherokee Keeps Its Bloodlines,” Popular Science, December, p. 32.

Storck, Bob. 1998. “1998 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee: The Icon of the Industry Gets Its First Rework, and No Old Components Survive,” Woman Motorist, Fall.

Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Urban, Greg, Ernest Baskin, and Kyung-Nun Koh. 2007. “‘No Carry-Over Parts’: Corporations and the Metaculture of Newness,” Suomen Antropologi 32(1): 5-19.

Urban, Greg. 2001. Metaculture: How Culture Moves through the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Wilf, Eitan. 2012. “Rituals of Creativity: Tradition, Modernity, and the ‘Acoustic Unconscious’ in a U.S. Collegiate Jazz Music Program,” American Anthropologist 114 (1): 32–44. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1433.2011.01395.x

Wilf, Eitan. 2014. “Semiotic Dimensions of Creativity,” Annual Review of Anthropology 43: 397–412. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-102313-030020

Wilf, Eitan. 2015a. “Ritual Semiosis in the Business Corporation: Recruitment to Routinized Innovation,” Signs and Society 3(S1): S13–S40. https://doi.org/10.1086/679321

Wilf, Eitan. 2015b. “Routinized Business Innovation: An Undertheorized Engine of Cultural Evolution,” American Anthropologist 117(4): 679-692. https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.12336

Wilf, Eitan. 2019. Creativity on Demand: The Dilemmas of Innovation in an Accelerated Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226607023.001.0001

Young, Edward. 1759. Conjectures on Original Composition. London: Miller.

Published
2020-04-30
Section
Articles