Symbolic Order of Furniture

I have been reading Baudrillard’s ‘The system of objects’, and have been quite taken with his analysis of the role of furniture in socio-cultural history. How social status and structure is defined through the materiality of the home, how it reflects the nature of the family. I never really thought about my furniture before beyond its function and comfort. Yes, I admit that there is an obvious connection between material ‘things’ and social status (marble over melamine), but what I see Baudrillard talking about is a bit different. He talks about the architecture of old homes being many rooms, compartmentalized by social status and familial hierarchy. The dinning room is a room that is disappearing in contemporary homes that favor open concept living. Mirrors are decorative elements are diminishing, becoming more and more purely functional. Family portraits are waning etc, etc. All this a reflection of the change in society.

When I think about it, I am startled at how it makes so much sense. That when we are young, we buy functional furniture (usually low to mid price, with a short life span). There is no symbolic order in the furniture. The pieces don’t mean anything except their function. As people grow up, marry and have children, there is often a tendency to move towards furniture that moves beyond its function, becoming both a functional and symbolic artefact.

I am trying to think through my work on identity in mmo’s with this… the difference between symbolic and functional order. At what stage is the symbolic element implemented? How does materiality or the virtuality of material alter the potential symbolism? functionalism? Is it relevant at all? Or is it just a really interesting thought project that Baudrillard is taking me on?

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2 thoughts on “Symbolic Order of Furniture

  1. ooh – now I understand what you were on about… this is a cool material culture application vis a vis MMOGs… but are yuou hoping to think about avatars here or their clothesd/gear?

    -bart

  2. I think – so far – that it is both. The avatar is the functional vehicle, and meaning is imbued through the gear/clothes shifting its syumbolic order (of the avatar). But I need to read more and think more as I think there is something here, just haven’t connected all of the dots just yet.
    Any other material culture refs are more than appreciated here =)

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