The Active Engineering of the Affective Register and Rebranding

March 7, 2012

‘…what might have been painted as aesthetic is increasingly instrumental. Third, affect has become part of how cities are understood. As cities are increasingly expected to have ‘buzz’, to be ‘creative’, and to generally bring forth powers of invention and intuition, all of which can be forged into economic weapons, so the active engineering of the affective register of cities has been highlighted as the harnessing of the talent of transformation.’

Transformation, regeneration, rebranding – all parts of creating a certain scene in which people can identify themselves, as who they are, and even more importantly, the ‘who’ they strive to become. Today’s society revolves around the cult of individuality, or ones perception of it, which is something the capitalistic market has tapped into, (and initially, even co-created).

The active engineering of the affective register of cities plays an important role in this process, which revolves a lot around sampling known concepts, we know this, we have seen it before and have learned how to react and feel about these concepts, very much like the training of feelings which comes with the movie industry of Hollywood. The preparatory groundwork has been done and the receptive audience of customers is easier to pinpoint, and an industry will follow which further enhances this rebranding of an area.

 Which brings us to SoFo, an area inStockholm, where the rebranding has been taken so far it has now become a caricature of what it once was aiming for, ruled by symbolic materialism, only a shadow of resemblance to what it once was. The areas self-proclaimed label as being bohemic, and described as ‘having a relaxed, yet highly aware atmosphere’ (1), an awareness that stretches all the way from hats and clothes, to the kind of foods one should eat, all to fit the collective individuality.

Authenticity is not being created, it is purchased and identity is fulfilled through guidelines which perhaps lack actual substance, all the while anxiously embracing the (commercial) bohemian lifestyle and the romanticising of poverty.

‘…now affect is more and more likely to be actively engineered with the results that it is becoming something more akin to the networks of pipes and cables tat are of such importance to urban life, a set of constantly performing relays and junctions that are laying down all manner of new emotional histories and geographies.’

By attempting to tap into and actively engineer the affective register, to orchestrate an affect, a possibility for a core and driving force of rebranding is uncovered. Steered by feelings, ruling over logic, the brands could now talk straight to your senses – a rebranding dream come true.

– Sofie Andersson



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