Posts tagged ‘kant’

October 31, 2012

On fashion and ethics – transparency

Pucci Spring 2013

In Paris, Elie Saab and Giambatista Valli. In London, Christopher Kane. In Milan, of course, Dolce & Gabanna, but also Pucci and Alberta Ferretti. In New York, we had Marchesa, Jason Wu and perhaps Tadashi Shoji? I´m talking about transparency taking a major role in shaping what Spring 2013 will look like: sheer joy indeed.

Christopher Kane Spring 2013

Of course there is nothing new about transparency, as there is in fact something quite old about shoulder pads or fringes, but there is a fascinating phenomenon to fashion that is in fact what fashion is all about — something about the spirit of our times being captured in a specific way of self-presentation that translate into tendencies, that is, suddenly, all at the same time, everyone thinks transparent skirts and pants and crop tops are very now.

Alberta Ferretti Spring 2013

I think sheer bottom wears and mid-riff baring outfits have everything to do with our post online-social-networking times. In the 2000s, we started creating our public profiles, publishing online photo albums, even writing our own blogs. Some adhered to twitter at rather early stages, and our lives were out there for the world to see: we would sit at home or at work (if possible) and update some or all of those windows we decided to open for others to glance into a bit more of ourselves, and it was like we were lighting up a room at a time in a house that represented our lives: Blogger, then Flickr, then Facebook. MSN Messenger was on while we were at it (does anyone remember ICQ? It was all the rage in the 1990s).

Probably it was smartphones that changed all that into something more, just as cellphones helped destroy punctuality. The routine of having to *get somewhere* to check your emails or updating your status has disappeared. Twitter has become massive because you still cannot update a blog over your cell — but you can post a funny sentence and a link to something you just found really interesting. Instagram provided filters for the masses to produce some immediate beauty out of their ordinary lives (and plenty of pictures of one or many pairs of feet photographed from above, dressed in a variety of shoes and placed over a variety of sidewalk patterns, rugs, all shades of grass, and floors in general) even if they are eventually ill-equiped for actually taking a good shot. And Facebook now brings everything together — including the other things, such as random online services for which you sign up with your social network account. It also guesses the people you know that are members too and you really wish they didn´t find you. So now, you don´t get to light up a room at a time. In fact, there are no more windows: life is, or at least it can be if you don´t compulsively check privacy options, a glass-walled loft.

Transparency is a common philosophical trick for bringing about moral behavior — think Kant and the famous (ok, not so much, maybe?) categorical imperative: act as if your actions and motives were absolutely public. Our society has taken this idea one step further by making it possible for everything you do be ACTUALLY subject to universal scrutiny — no need for idealizing publicity anymore. And some are still very suspicious of those who resist being fully connected, even though YouTube has proven transparency in excess might bring only pain and trouble — how many people have been ridiculed by millions (MILLIONS) because a private moment of play (singing a stupid song, dancing a stupid dance, falling on their asses) has gone viral? I always wonder when confronted with a new fashionable video of such kind if their protagonists will actually someday be able to get new jobs. Maybe in the long term.

So if you are no longer private about the inner workings of your soul, your honneymoon or your dinner, it only makes sense for the next step to be no longer being private about any of your body parts, hence sheer pants, thigh-high splits and crop tops. Cellulite? Shouldn´t have them, just like you shouldn´t sing around if your voice is mediocre or have sexual intercourse with people that posess cameras on their cellphones (they might take pictures of you naked while you are sleeping and then publish them on their twitter). Let alone body fat or an abdomen without evidence of hard muscles sitting tightly beneath your (flawless) skin. Definitely shouldn´t have THOSE, you weak minded, lazy bum!

Having said that, I guess the best way to enjoy the beautiful and ever unrealistic proposals emanating from Spring 2013 Fashion Week shows is, as always, to select and adapt — just like you already probably do with your social networker life. I, for instance, have this blog, no Facebook or Twitter accounts, and have been in love for quite a while with a pair of Valentino sheer gauze top that´s sitting on the Outnet´s virtual shelves for months (and for a relatively matching pair of lace pants that have been long sold out):

Valentino Appliquéd jersey and gauze top @ the Outnet


May 21, 2012

Social networks and the great cosmopolitan adventure

If my memory is not failing, at the year that came out the movie “The Social Network”, about two law suits founder Mark Zuckerberg has faced concerning the circumstances under which Facebook was created, the Time magazine had the youngest billionaire in the world elected Person of the Year (yep, I was right – my memory is not failing me). While on the big screen, the guy is portrayed as an unethical and tactless genius-but-jerk who steals ideas and actual money from his closest friends, the paper redeems him and turns him into the person who brought the world together and saved internet from the nameless perverts that thrived in the anonymity of the web.

Although I do find I am absolutely not capable of passing judgment on Mr. Zuckerberg’s character or lack thereof — I have not met the guy or done any research on him — I can say I find social networks a sort of Bentham’s Panopticon, a new take on surveillance upon which everyone embarks with a smile because, well, it’s fun. The Panopticon was conceived by philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century as an allegory of the perfect prison: a completely see through building, where inmates cannot see if they are or not being observed. Without knowing if there is anyone actually watching at any given moment, each person strives to behave according to rules at all times. Apparently, the folks at Time magazine are huge fans of the idea.

The clever difference between the Panopticon and Facebook — or any other social network that should currently be in fashion, such as Google’s Orkut used to be, or twitter also is in its own different way — is that joining the thing is a completely voluntary choice, related only to reward: getting to know other people, sharing a lot of stuff, having constant feedback from your friends and mostly, showing off. Yep, showing off. Things you would never do in person, you do there. Sharing your art with every single person you know: your drawings, your photographs — including portraits of yourself, tapping your inner model — your skills as a musician. Sharing your happiness with your ex-boyfriends, telling the world you have such unique skills and interests, and also that even your daily routine is so special: would you take time to invite your boss to grab a bite and show him the pictures of your mother’s 63rd birthday celebration? Well, if you make them public in your profile, chief may see them all. What about travel? You haven’t really gone anywhere if you didn’t post any news from your adventures. Well, what’s the problem? I’m not doing anything wrong.

No, you’re not. And that’s the entire point — you’re not doing anything wrong, are you? So why can’t you share it? Why can’t we watch it?

Somehow, I see Bentham’s Panopticon and Kant’s Categorical Imperative as ideas that somewhat relate. If Bentham’s concept was self-surveillance forced by the publicity of acts, Kant turns publicity into a voluntary test on your own ethics: if your motivation for your action is not compatible with it being made public, what your are doing is wrong. This maxim supports his entire work, upon which international and legal order find ample justification until our days. His project of cosmopolitanism was based upon the exchange of hospitality for trade and truth; the problem that comes with that is to discover what the truth is when reality is subjective: what tells a border control officer that one person is a potential illegal immigrant and should not be allowed to enter a country? How many questions — and which ones — must he ask until he feels he knows enough to send back a person who has spent maybe thousands of dollars on a plane ticket? How many tweets will ensure that the 14 years old girl from your brother’s class in high school did actually offer herself to most of her male classmates? Or perhaps the number of Likes her justification will get might redeem her reputation.

Well, if Kant did not invent sovereign borders, he did contribute immensely to how they were legally shaped, and now that society has transposed its existence to a virtual, global environment, the Categorical Imperative is all the rage. Transparency, the liberal obsession, is catching us all by transmuting into displays of uniqueness and promises of recognition. As we dive into the paradise of surveillance, offering and being offered tantalizing amounts of personal information, we give into the temptation of judging without recalling our own publicity comes with judgment as well; and as we project our own opinions into others by telling ourselves, “I’m not doing nothing wrong — so why can’t I share it?”, we — maybe dangerously — forget that we are, indeed, unique.

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