Happy 2012

posted Jan 3, 2012, 8:11 AM by Wendy Hein   [ updated Jan 4, 2012, 6:23 AM ]
You know it's been too long since the last blog post when a) you can't remember what it was about (not true in this case, I'm still laughing) or b) two seasons have passed in between (no sports seasons, proper seasons). Well, it's not spring yet, but we are in the midst of a bleak mid-winter and the rugby world cup was at the start of autumn. Although it's been busy, this has to change. We've had such a good run in 2011, let's build things from there.

Now that we're ringing in a new year, let's look ahead - although we can't really do that without looking back, can we? Then let's look back/ahead and ahead/back.

Looking back/ahead we hear that we are celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Dickens this year (pretty close to my own birthday in February actually, mind you, not in 1812, I'm not that old) and all that was good and bad about Dickens is flooding the media waves. Personally, I was always very fond of Dickens since he wrote for the masses, when this was quite an unpopular thing to do - excuse the pun. Writers at the time were apparently intellectuals who wrote for each other, but not really for Joe Soap on the street. Yet, Dickens' characters were often far from simple. Always a little shifty, never quite good or bad and rather three-dimensional, Dickens wrote as much of fun and frivolities, as he did of crime and death. The bad of course is that he has become very popular nowadays, maybe a little too popular - like Christmas - to the extent that all we remember is often the very two-dimensionalised 'Scrooge'. So, let's look forward to giving that a brush-up.

Another one looking back/ahead is the centenary of the Titanic, which is sure to dominate popular culture in April this year. No need to be reminded again of how much the Titanic has gained in prominence in consumer culture since Stephen Brown's fascinating description of the 'Hustler Business School', and the mysticism and cultural capital that it has shaped in countless places. Whether you find yourself in Southampton, Belfast or Cobh; or you dive into the narratives of the fathers of the American golden age (and you can start discussing now when that was), in constant pursuit of peerage and heritage, where the British connection often came in handy; or you move into the lower compartments of the ship where you would have found mere mortals like you and me - you cannot get away from the Titanic. And no doubt, they will all come back to life this year, no thanks to Julian Fellowes once again.

Looking ahead/back then, 2012 has often been predicted as the year of disasters... let's hold our breath whether the world is going to end, but maybe we'll have a Titanic on a grander scale. No panic though, it's not like I can tell you anything about it - I'm a consumer researcher, not a psychic. But since Lynx has brought out its 'final edition', it is fascinating to see how even these themes that are taken advantage of by marketers (careful, some ladies may hold Unilever to it - isn't it brave to call a product the 'final edition'? Cheeky. Or maybe not?). It may just be the ultimate feeble attempt to have the last man on earth get 'lucky'. If you ask me, it's not for everyman. Just shows you how the world's end can be perceived differently - resting on gendered perceptions no doubt - and marketed as men's success rather than his demise. Let's see about that then.

Another ahead/back: it is also the year of the Olympic Games in London of course, where sports will be mixed with politics, finance, and the attempt of boosting cultural capital yet again - yes, we are talking East London. Let's see how the past year of riots and demonstrations are going to catch on. Maybe we'll see a few tents in the middle of the Olympic stadium appearing (a la St Paul's). There will certainly be lots to report as our campus will play host to the media centre for Olympic broadcasting. Goodness, with all the fears of syndicate betting already in circulation I'm sure the excitement won't stop and we'll be right at the source of information. It couldn't get any better. Watch this space.

Apart from that, for me personally this year will be filled with lots of exciting work, fingers crossed a lot more research activities (hey, if you have something to say, you better say it, right?), conferences, teaching, and the starting madness of a young academic. Bring it on!! We may as well go for it if the world is going to end tomorrow, or the day after.

On a more serious note, I hope this year will bring everyone the happiness and joy in life they are looking for, through consumption or otherwise. Or, as my favourite New Year song goes 'may we all have our hopes, our will to try, if we don't we might as well lay down and...' - nahh, let's not do that just yet.

Happy 2012!!! Ready, steady, GO!!!