Define: Unitary Packaging
Lately I’ve been thinking about “unitary packaging.” Although, I can’t seem to find any definitive definition for that term.
Some people use it to describe a multi-pack of smaller packages. A six-pack carton of beer or soda, for example. Or the two-pack milk cartons we were looking at in an earlier post.
But people also describe packaging whose contents are only potentially separable as “unitary.” (A plastic wrapped head of cabbage, for example.) And in some cases a “unitary package” might only contain another single package. A bottle in a blister pack, for example.
Right now, I’m more interested in the “multi-pack” definition.
“unitary packaging” as metaphor
It’s this “multi-pack” definition that I have in mind when I tell you that “unitary packaging” is a good metaphor for each of us.
Crazy? In a world where men are “barrel chested” and women have “Coke bottle figures,” we’re already using packaging terms to describe our bodies. Likewise, some of our body parts have been given packaging-related names. (bags-under-your-eyes, six pack abs, “Get off your can,” her box, his package, etc.)
So what does it mean when we say that someone is “the whole package,” if not a collection of multiple parts? And since none of us is ever really just one thing, I think a unitary multi-pack is a much more apt metaphor for what we are. And (2 out of 3) novelists seem to agree with me. [Photo of Salmon Rushdie, via: American Booksellers Association]
…many of the characters in the novel [The Satanic Verses] are for a long time not really unitary selves, they’re just collections of selves. They’re kind of masks, they put on this or that role, and they can change very dramatically. And I think that’s also true about people, that we are not unitary selves, we are a kind of bag of selves, which we draw out from; we become this or that self in different circumstances.
“…the complete package of selves within each and everyone of us, a poorly coordinated and poorly chosen squadron of idiots, each with its own myopic drives…”
In Search of Destiny, 2008
Étienne de L’Amour
Of course, I haven’t actually read either of these books. But still, even out of context, I think these quotes are good proof-of-concept for the validity of the metaphor. But wait, there’s more! …
I like this idea of combining citations, memories and photographs to make a personal model of a thing. (I wonder how this kind of approach fits into h0p3’s Public Self-Modeling?)
That phrase was linked to a particular section of h0p3’s “Philosopher’s Life” wiki in which the anonymous “h0p3” starts out by instructing you to…
Publicly deprivatize yourself. Give the morally best answer you can to the non-fallacious ad hominem versions of the question: “Including yourselves without exception, why should anyone care about what you think or who you are?” Inside and out, define and unify the stories constitutive of yourselves as wisely as you can in your dialectics.
A shallow dive into h0p3’s wiki took me to his own list of 11 selves. Some of these were family roles (husband, father, etc.) But 1 included this unitary packaging metaphor: “a poor, broken man, and a box of contradictions, with few options, a chip on my shoulder, and a bleak outlook.”
My unitary-packaging philosophy
I’m no philosopher. But what I’d like to take from h0p3’s idea of “public self-modeling” is encouragement to continue doing what I’ve been (sporadically) attempting for a while. Namely, trying not to be so strict about keeping my business and personal selves so separate. Trying in some ways, to do just the opposite.
Many years ago I used to write songs and formed a series of bands. This history is not particularly relevant to my livelihood as a packaging designer, and yet I’ve repeatedly found ways of trying to making it so. (See: Footnotes as Headliners)
When I was performing locally, I used to send unsolicited announcements to an unlikely fanbase. My doctor and dentist, for example. Not that these health professionals ever came to any of the gigs. But the idea of just [patiently] staying in my “patient” lane was something that sort of chafed at me.
Another example: it’s supposed to be bad business to let your political opinions contaminate your public business stream. And yet, I’ve got 122 posts on BoxVox tagged with “politics” as a category. Of course, most of this content is historical and not super controversial. (Congress and Packaging, Peace Cigarettes, etc.) Sometimes the “politics” in such a post is pretty peripheral and hard to spot.
Integrating “alters” or just keeping it together?
What’s behind this unprofitable impulse to integrate my various disparate selves? It’s not like I have “multiple personalities” or “alters” that I must combine into a single unitary package for sanity’s sake. So why not just keep these separate selves in their own separate compartments — simultaneously discreet and discrete?
Could it just be my own odd response to personal “time management” issues? Sometime in 2006 or thereabouts, I wrote a song entitled Pie Chart. Not saying it’s anything great. [I deliberately omitted it from my Old! demo tape album, after all.]
There’s one stanza, however, that I do still like:
I made a pie chart, dividing up my heart.
Some small percent was meant for those I love,
though the chart just goes to show
the part you must already know:
The heart I’ve got, there’s not much of.
Not having much heart, of course, is nothing to brag about. The thing is—and it’s an equally shameful thing—the “pie chart” that I sang about was no fictional conceit. Prior to writing the song, I really had made just such a pie chart.
In it, I counted out how many extra-curricular hours were available, after subtracting sleep and work. And how I might best spend them. The bottom line of these calculations was that, whatever else I was (parent, spouse, child, friend, patient, aspiring songwriter, etc.) I had about 8 hours a day to fit it all in.
Not surprisingly, in the sleep-deprived real world, my actual chart only allowed for 7 hours sleep, giving an extra (lunch) hour to an 8 hour work day.
In the song, I kept things more symmetrical. 8 hours sleep + 8 hours of work + 8 remaining hours = a day in a life.
A Unitary Package of Consumer Selves?
Of course, like most technocratic, life-scheduling concepts, my pie chart had such limited utility that I can’t even remember how quickly I abandoned it. (I reckon it might have lasted a couple days, maybe.)
My determination to be all possible selves simultaneously, seemed doomed from the start. And yet my interests and inclinations do remain multifarious. (See also: nefarious “muti-pack”)
While exploring this subject, I stumbled onto Shalini Bahl’s 2005 dissertation entitled: “Multiple selves and the meanings they give to consumptions.”
The dissertation furthers our understanding of self-concept in consumers by showing that consumers have multiple selves, each with its own history, experiences, and voice and that these selves have different relationships with consumption experiences and marketplace interactions.
…My findings supported the premise that consumers are comfortable with a multiple self orientation. However, when the selves encounter conflict or ambivalence they may be more motivated to resolve the conflict and make one self more dominant than the other. By exploring a wider range of multiple selves in consumers and conflicts, the dissertation bridges the gap between theorists who celebrate multiplicity in self-concepts … and those who believe that consumers are motivated to use consumptions to create a unified sense of self.
Metaphor & Meaning
Here again, I have not actually read her entire doctoral dissertation. I’ve only perused the abstract and the (free) sample introductory pages. I’d certainly like to read more. The table-of-contents looks fascinating and she even uses metaphor as a research tool!
…respondents are asked to provide metaphorical representations of what their discerned selves mean to them. Finally, in the fourth stage, the respondents are asked to provide metaphorical descriptions of their positively and negatively perceived consumptions of products, brands, or experiences in order to understand what these mean to them and how they relate with the identified selves.
Perhaps I should be more willing to pony up the $41 that Proquest would charge me to download the entire document. Sadly, my “sales-resistant self” is dominating my “due-diligence/aspiring-academic self.” (At this particular moment.)
A 2004 TV spot, cited in the 2010 paper: “Talking to Ourselves: A Dialogical Exploration of Consumption Experiences“
As it happens, Shalini Bahl went on to write or co-author a number of other related papers. Such as The Dialogic Consumer Self, The Multiphrenic Consumer Self and Talking to Ourselves: A Dialogical Exploration of Consumption Experiences.
This 2010 TV spot (with anthropomorphic shoes) was cited by Bahl in her 2013 paper: “The Dialogical Consumer Self”
She was also interviewed in 2010 for a TIME Magazine piece, in which she (like h0p3) revealed her own (partial) list of personal “selves.”
How the Different Voices in Your Head Affect What You … Buy
TIME: Everyone has seen … the classic portrayal of the inner dialog, in which a character listens to his own little devil on one shoulder and the little angel on the other… Is this even close to how people really think, and how they make decisions — in your line of study, in how they buy and consume? Or is this much too simplistic a portrayal of how things work?
Shalini Bahl: The devil and angel depiction is indeed very simplistic. Multiple selves can be better understood as different positions or worldviews or voices shaped by significant experiences in a person’s life.
For example, … I have a constellation of selves including the ideal Indian daughter, an American wife, a mother, spiritual being, a perfectionist, mindful consultant, adventurer, etc.
These different selves have their own worldviews, some of which may overlap and some may conflict and some may be indifferent to others. As such they may have inconsistent preferences. For example, the Indian daughter’s preferences may be inconsistent with the American wife.
In cases of inconsistent preferences there are different ways in which my selves can interact to arrive at a consumption decision. The six different ways we found in our study are … compassion, compartmentalization, negotiation, coalition, opposition, and domination.
How the Different Voices in Your Head
Affect What You Eat, Drink, Wear, Drive, and Buy
Brad Tuttle, TIME Magazine, Jan. 15, 2010
More recently, she has given her political “self” a place at the table, having won a seat last year on the Amherst Town Council, District 5 (Precincts 7 and 8).
“Variety Pack” of Selves
Circling back to the subject of unitary packaging, I think it’s important to note that the metaphor isn’t worth beans if you’re imagining yourself as a “value pack” of identical containers.
If your multiple “selves” were identical, after all, there would be no conflict between them. Nothing to negotiate with an inner dialog.
No… Clearly, we are each more like an assorted variety pack.