Vanity Fairs Competition in the Service of Self-Esteem. on Modern Science and Post-Modern Media Culture

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Georg FRANCK, Vienna University of Technology, Austria
Vanity is an intriguing motive for competition. Whether you take it to mean excessive self-regard or just craving for attention, it denotes a drive that is both strongly self-centred and eminently social. It is self-centred since it is, in the last analysis, pursuit of self-esteem; it is eminently social since the self-esteem we can afford depends on our income of appreciative attention. The pursuit of self-esteem thus includes that one has to compete for attention. Vanity fairs are socially organised competitions for attention.

Competition for attention is no one-way affair. You have to offer something if you want do be paid attention. This means that the organisation of vanity fairs can be functional regarding the generation of some sort of supply. Vanity fairs thus wait to be utilized by society as exchange systems where goods and services are exchanged for attention instead of money. Since the pursuit of self-esteem is both tending to high standards and highly capable in mobilising energy, vanity fairs wait to be utilized by society as markets for particularly challenging demands.

The paper goes into two cases in point: modern science and post-modern celebrity culture. Both scientific communication and advertisement financed media are information markets where information is not sold for money, but directly exchanged for attention. Scientists working for publication work for the ‘wage of fame’, celebrities are the new class of attention rich who live from the masses of attention collected by media leaving the exchange of information for money behind. Both science and media culture lie at the base of contemporary culture in economically advanced societies. The paper is on the constitutive role that vanity fairs play for this culture.