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Databite No. 28: Judith Donath

Fashion as a signal of status in an information-centric society


March 12, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Data & Society
36 West 20th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY, 10011

Databites are Data & Society's weekly lunch conversations focused on unresolved questions and timely topics of interest to our community. To request an invitation, please email events at data society dot net.

Judith Donath on fashion as a signal of status in an information-centric society:

Fashion is a tremendous force in our society. The desire to stay in fashion affects the clothes we buy, the music we hear, the food we eat, and the stories we tweet. Fashion signals status in a mobile, information-based culture: following new styles (or not) indicates one’s level of access to new information, adeptness at recognizing new trends and willingness to continuously adapt and change.

The impact of fashion reaches far beyond the social world. It motivates innovation, both the drive to create new things and the willingness to adopt and adapt to the new. Yet fashion is also extravagant and costly. The rate of change in fashion accelerates as information moves more quickly; today’s instantaneously global communication results in unsustainably wasteful consumption.

Judith’s talk will introduce fashion as a signal of status in an information-centric society, trace its history from the early Renaissance to today, discuss the relationship between fashion and innovation, using examples ranging from programming languages to the contemporary art market.

Judith will be presenting work from an upcoming book and would love feedback about what resonates and what is confusing.