Metasemiotic Projects and Lifestyle Media: Formulating Commodities as Resources for Identity Enactment

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Abstract


There has recently been a notable increase in the amount and perceived significance of new lifestyle media. Besides the instructive and entertaining function, these media arguably play a more fundamental sociocultural role of constructing identities. In consumer societies, these identities are to a great extent enacted through the acquisition of commodities and engagement in commodified practices, which thereby become semiotic resources of identity stylization. The purpose of this article is to explore the discursive mechanisms underpinning the process of formulating commodities and practices as such semiotic resources. To this end, several discourses from new online men’s magazines have been analyzed drawing on a model of discourse analysis that sees discourse as one of the “moments” of the social practice it is embedded in. The results indicate that the mechanism behind the processes in question can be described as a metasemiotic project. As such a project unfolds in discourse, various commodities and practices are being typified by a metasemiotic term. One of the most frequent prototypical metasemiotic terms in these resources is stylish man . The term is instantiated in texts by several lexemes, including the lexeme style and its derivatives, as well as lexemes naming various “masculine personas” such as man , guy, kid, gentleman, bad ass. It has been shown that an increasing number of commodities and practices are being “theorized” by the discourse of new online men’s magazines and typified by this term. One important feature behind the workings of the metasemiotic project is intertextuality. Specific texts are always dialogically linked to other texts of lifestyle discourse, while object-signs are reformulated and imbued with different social values. These results contribute to the exploration of contemporary lifestyle media and discursive mechanisms of identity construction used by them, and, in a more general sense, to recent discussions of operationalizing wider sociocultural context in textually oriented discourse analysis.


About the authors

Evgeni Nikolaevich Molodychenko

Higher School of Economics National Research University

Author for correspondence.
Email: emolodychenko@hse.ru
St. Petersburg, Russia

PhD, Associate Professor

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