07 Jul 2022
The Sasin Lecture series returned this week with a fascinating look at exoticism by Senior Research Fellow and Visiting Professor Gérald Mazzalovo. The talk was based on an article approved for publication and a book he is currently writing. The lecture began with a montage of images and staged illustrations, showing how exoticism has been used for everything from art to movie posters and advertising. This was followed by a brief discussion about the article, which was recently approved for publication in the Spanish journal CIC (October 2022). The paper’s genesis was explained, as was some of Professor Mazzalovo ‘s background. The abstract and structure introduced a number of points about the paper and what it sets out to achieve. Numerous definitions of exoticism were displayed, with more important points highlighted. Exoticism can be viewed differently depending on cultures and viewpoints and is, therefore, generally considered as subjective. Next, the mechanism of production of exoticism was examined in table form, introducing new analytical and thymic definitions. The process of production of exoticism was split into four phases – existence of differences, perception of difference, awareness of differences, and judgement of value allowing for the separation of the awareness of difference and the attitude developed therefrom A slide called ‘the individual cultural and memorial base’ was introduced, which included the idea of the individual repertory. This is the idea that individuals build their own repertory based on their experience. This was followed by a look at the modalities of the phenomenon of exoticism as defined by Segalen, which includes: geography, space, nature, time, sexes, culture, and others. The professor then looked at watch brands and how they use exoticism. For example, communication choices can show the product, which is the reality, or lean toward an advertising involving the customer in the creation of meaning. These choices are used differently depending on the culture of the advertising agencies. For example, the US prefers products and facts, whereas Europeans explore concepts and ideas. Asia uses a blend of both. Professor Mazzalovo then introduced the semiotic square of advertising ideologies. This consisted of four points – referential , substantial, mythical, and oblique advertisings. Examples of the four types were shown and discussed, with images added to the square, followed by a brief look at postmodernism versus neorealism. The next semiotic square was the production of exoticism. The four points were presentation, induction , non-induction, and non-presentation of differences. These were discussed and split further into objective and subjective, followed by examples. The concepts were illustrated further in a table which showed an overview of differing advertising ideologies and four types of exoticism – staged, absent, inducted, and undefined (or latent). These were examined and broken down into several sub-divisions. Professor Mazzalovo then showed a graph with one axis being ‘the creation effort in communication requested from the brand’ and the other being ‘the imagination effort requested to the consumer’. The our different types of exoticism were added to the graph to show relevance to brands. The lecture concluded with a look at some of the main references and influences on the topic, including Victor Segalen, Juri Lotman, and Jean-Marie Floch. This was followed by a look at what the research will explore next. The talk ended with a lively Q&A session covering various subjects. It began with a question about the clarification of definitions and asked whether the taxonomy had been discussed with brands and businesses and if they used the definitions. At present, this is not the case, but that might change. Then there was a discussion about how different types of advertising ideologies and how the best approach depends on the product. The professor suggested it is often best to make people dream but noted that in some cases, such as Apple Watches, the product is strong enough just to show it. Other subjects covered were how large companies like Starbucks position themselves and the implications for society relating to how they embrace exoticism as opposed to conformity.