Sit in a cafe with a Mac PowerBook, and chances are you’ll get The Nod–that acknowledging, approving, knowing, we’re-special look. MINI owners give each other The Nod at intersections. Display Gnome on your ThinkPad and you’ll get The Nod. But run Windows on your Dell and you won’t. (Never confuse the "I feel your pain" look with The Nod.)
To give The Nod is to recognize and appreciate another person who "gets it", whatever it is.
Kathy tells us that the "nod" tells a consumer someone thinks he/she is smart, risk-taking, indie, or fun.
I guess this is better than the "nervous glance," when consumers scope out one another’s shoes or cars with fear or envy. Happily, the competitive consumption of the 1950s is mostly dead.
But I have to say "the nod" creeps me out. I don’t want to be a co-conspirator in someone else’s act of self congratulation.
I am pleased that you believe your choice of computer or car or browswer makes you look riskier or indie-er. But leave me out of it. The fact that we share consumer choices, put that down to coincidence. The moment you start sending me the nod for my MINI is the moment I take it to the used-car lot and see if I can’t trade it in for a Nod-proof Valiant. No, actually, a Valiant isn’t Nod-proof. (Valiant’s are wonderfully expressive cars, aren’t they? The one pictured above looks as if it’s on the verge of tears. And can you blame it? Mind you, it has clearly found a pretty good friend in the airstream. And thus was a children’s story born.) Make it a Camry. The Camry is a triumph of nod-proofery, and I’d be damn proud to drive one.
Self-by-other congratulation, it’s an ugly thing. I can see how it works in California. But constructing community (or an affinity) out of a non verbal gesture at a traffic light, that has to be a Californian’s idea of a lasting social bond…not to mention as big a boost to the ego as a Californian is likely to get in the 2006 calendar year.
Now, there is a third candidate for non-verbal gifting, and that’s the big laugh of sheer gratitude. These are not calculated, these are not self congratulatory, they are involuntary acts of reciprocity, as in "you purchased something" so funny, interesting, clever, unexpected, or imaginative, I just have to laugh out loud. In fact if I saw a Valiant in my little town in Connecticut, laughing out loud is precisely what I would do, an act of gratitude for an act of imagination. (Any consumer choice that makes one doubt one’s senses is a very good consumer choice indeed, especially in this part of the world where many consumers appear to hope that will have anticipated your expectation to perfection.)
Let the typology building begin. Call it the typology for non verbal gestures that approve and police the consumer society. We have:
1) The Nod. (Thank you, Kathy, I hope you take my comments in the spirit they were offered.)
2) The Nervous Glance
3) The Big Laugh of sheer gratitude
4) The Gaze (I went on about this awhile ago, as below)
McCracken, Grant. 2005. The Economics of the Gaze. This Blog Sits at the… August 24, 2004. here.
Sierra, Kathy. 2006. The Nod. Passionate. July 7, 2006. here.
Hat tip to:
Tom Guarriello at the True Talk Blog here.