1 This book is part of a longer collective work which I coordinated a few years ago on the ‘captation of the public’ (Cochoy 2007). ‘Captation’ is a French word without an exact English equivalent; its meaning corresponds more to ‘seducing’ than ‘capturing’, given that it refers to an operation aimed at attracting a public without forcing it (Cochoy 2007).
2 At the risk of a lack of erudition, which is always possible given how difficult it is to prove the inexistence of something, I was unable to identify any general sociological study which deals specifically with this subject (perhaps with the exception of Merton and Barber’s remarkable survey (2004) on the related notion of serendipity; see below). Conversely, and as we shall see later, curiosity has been given repeated, and sometimes sustained, attention in history, philosophy, literary criticism, psychology, and psychoanalysis. It is only recently that curiosity appears to have made a notable appearance within sociology with, for example, the works by Beaudoin et al. (2001) on searching for information on the internet, the beautiful study by Nicolas Auray (2006) on exploration practices, or, more recently, research on the attention economy (Goldhaber 1997; Boullier 2009; Kessous et al. 2010). We will see that there is nothing surprising about this ‘appearance’, given that what all these works have in common is an interest in new technologies. In other words, their interest is in devices whose particular aim is to renew the relationship between people and the world, and which, for this reason, place curiosity at the centre (see fourth and final chapters). Rather than inflicting a long literature review on my readers in the very first pages, and thus risking losing their patience and them abandoning their reading even before being able to discover curiosity in action, I have decided to present and draw on the subjects and references to which I have just alluded throughout the text, where I believe they might best support the thread of my argument.
3 I have given this word the double meaning of logic of movement and logic of action – mobility as movement and mobility as what verges on a motive: a motive for action. I will go into this in further detail in the conclusion, once we have made sufficient progress.
4 This book uses a version of Bluebeard edited and made available online by D. L. Ashliman <http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0312.html#perrault> [accessed 16 June 2015], with some amendments. I am very grateful for his permission to reproduce this here. This text in turn is based on a version translated by Andrew Lang in The Blue Fairy Book (1889). It should also be noted that Ashliman translated and reintroduced the two morals at the end of the tale, which were excluded from Lang’s version.
5 For those readers wanting to take the time to read the rest of the tale rather than the summary that follows, I have included the complete version in an appendix.
1. From Eve to Bluebeard: the Difficult Secularisation of Curiosity
1 For a complete review of the oral versions that preceded the tale and for an analysis of the changes introduced by Perrault, see Soriano (1977). It must be noted that despite his impressive erudition, Marc Soriano completely forgets the structural link that unites Bluebeard and the Bible (as well as other mythological antecedents). It is just as surprising to read that, according to Soriano, ‘the concept of “curiosity” weakens the vastly broader topic of the forbidden room’ (Ibid: 165), given that we know both the anthropological and religious importance of this motif, and its preeminent role in the tale’s structure, in terms of both form and content (see the following analyses).
2 Genesis 3:1–13.
3 Lucas Cranach the Elder, Adam and Eve (1526), oil on wood, 117 x 80.5 cm (detail), Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London.
5 Let us not forget that Pandora was the first woman, created on the orders of Zeus, who specifically wanted to get his revenge on man because Prometheus had stolen fire from the gods. Pandora – whose name means ‘all gifted’ – was sculpted by Vulcan from a mixture of earth and water; Minerva taught her the domestic arts and clothed her; Venus gave her the power of seduction; Mercury inspired her with the art of lying, seductive discourse, and perfidiousness. Zeus tasked Mercury with introducing Pandora to Epimetheus, Prometheus’s brother, who was seduced by her and then married her, despite the promise he had made to Prometheus that he would refuse all gifts from Zeus. Pandora brought with her a mysterious box which she had been forbidden to open; as we know, Pandora disobeyed this order, freeing all the evils of mankind – old age, illness, war – with the exception of hope, which lay at the bottom of the box (according to Hesiod, Works and Days).
6 Eros, the god of love, who fell in love with the beautiful Psyche, asked her never to try to discover who he was, and concealed his identity in the darkness of the room in which he came to embrace her every night. However, Psyche’s two sisters, mad with jealousy, made her believe that her husband was in fact a horrible monster who would end up devouring her. Poor Psyche, consumed by anxiety, ended up lighting an oil lamp to illuminate the room where her lover was sleeping: she then discovered the most beautiful man she had ever seen. But a drop of burning oil fell on Eros’s body, who immediately awoke and fled, furious that Psyche had broken her promise.
7 On Lady Godiva, see chapter 3, note 5.
8 ‘The Lady of Shalott’, a Romantic poem by the English nineteenth-century writer Alfred Tennyson, tells the story of a woman locked up in a castle, isolated on an island in the middle of a river. She is under a curse which forbids her to see the world which stretches out from her window, apart from as an indirect reflection in her mirror. Every day she weaves a magical tapestry, onto which she sews an image of the landscape whose reflection she sees. However, when Lancelot (whom she loves) sings from beneath her window, she cannot resist, and immediately moves forwards to see him, all the while knowing that the curse on her means that she will surely die from allowing herself this simple glance. The mirror suddenly breaks into a thousand pieces. She leaves the castle and takes a boat to join Lancelot’s Palace, but dies before reaching it.
9 This particular concept of curiosity served as inspiration for Pascal’s famous text on the dangers of ‘amusement’.
10 Interestingly, Perrault condemns naive curiosity and says nothing about the morbid form of curiosity, which he activates when condemning its other form!
11 For further clarification on this matter, see the remarkable work by Nicole Jacques-Chaquin on the links between curiosity and demonology (Jacques-Chaquin 1998b).
12 ‘It is not without just reason that civil laws condemn mathematics so strongly. […] as God, like the police of Israel judge, issued a very severe ruling against them; that they would be put to death, with their accomplices. But let us imagine it had been allowed amongst men: given that we see that God detests it so, what madness it would be to want to join Christendom, as if we wanted to mix fire and water! And wondrous it is that those from Ephesus, who had given themselves to mad curiosity, after having believed in Jesus-Christ, burnt their books, as Saint Luke recites in the Acts. […] It must even be noted that Saint Luke does not say they were evil or diabolical arts; but he calls them perierga, which means frivolous or vain curiosity. What thus is the remedy for obviating such inconveniences? It is that the sobriety recommended by Saint Paul should act like a bridle holding us in pure obedience of God; and to do this, everyone must decide to keep this incalculable treasure of the Gospel in good conscience; as it is certain that the fear of God will act as rampart against all errors. […] Scholars must give themselves to good and useful study, and not frivolous curiosities, which serve only as silly entertainment. Let great and small, wise men and idiots believe that we are not born to occupy ourselves in useless things, but that the purpose of our exercises must be to edify ourselves and others in the fear of God’ (Calvin 1842: 132–134).
13 Incidentally, this point shows that Weber’s Protestants are bad Calvinists: if they respected Calvin’s word, they would not need to yield to the forms of curiosity involved in searching for signs related to their Election by God!
14 If classification was undertaken, it was secondary, and as Antoine Schnapper (1988: 11) points out very effectively, it was done for artefacts listed in catalogues – it is thanks to this that we know about them: the written description of a collection required a minimal degree of order, although this apparent order was misleading in view of the abundance and proliferation of the items that the cabinets contained. Modern perspectives on the collection came to accentuate this bias by dividing collections, in accordance with contemporary criteria and classifications, both intellectually and physically. This might be, for example, by describing only the works of art and forgetting the rest – all other objects are considered to be less valuable.
15 Museums occupied a pivotal position between the exuberance of cabinets of curiosity and the rigour of taxonomy: ‘The paradox of museums lies in their effort to confine knowledge yet simultaneously broaden its parameters. Whereas the ostensibly rigid yoke of authority stabilised the process of collecting nature, the endlessly flexible expression of curiosity adjusted the meaning by constantly finding gaps – unknown details and worlds of speculation – which collectors could fill’ (Findlen 1994: 95).
16 The Encyclopédie is a famous and ambitious dictionary project edited by Diderot and d’Alembert, and designed to cover the arts and sciences, in keeping with the Enlightenment spirit.
2. Bluebeard: Towards the Marketisation of Curiosity
1 Adam claims to have hidden out of fear because he was naked, but perhaps also because he feared God’s judgement; he only admits his mistake when pressed with questions, in the tone of ‘it wasn’t me, it was her!’ This is, of course, first the simple effect of being obliged to tell the truth to God, but also, perhaps, the expression of a certain degree of cowardice.
2 The same can be said for the technical paraphernalia that accompanies the character: if the key is the ‘fairy’, its magic is limited to a very prosaic propensity towards retaining the stain of blood for the sake of intrigue (to bear witness to the mistake but not to change the world); it is a far cry from magic wands, pumpkin carriages, or seven-league boots. Marc Soriano tells us that the very prosaic character of the tale is the result of a very deliberate concern on the part of Perrault, who meticulously tried to rid the popular tale to which Bluebeard refers of all of its fairy-tale elements (Soriano 1977: 164).
3 The parallel between the tale and Landru’s contemporaries made sense, given that the criminal was given the nickname ‘The Bluebeard of Gambais’.
4 Bettelheim is far from being the only psychoanalyst interested in curiosity. This interest is in fact an integral part of the history of psychoanalysis, ever since Freud (1962) linked the desire for knowledge to an earlier experience of childish sexual curiosity. Children are interested in discovering and exploring the genitalia, whether their own or of the opposite sex. In the wake of the master of their manner of thinking, psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have always been interested in curiosity (Winnicott 1953; Dorey 1988; Minard 1995; Collective 1996).
5 Having said that, the anachronistic nature of a contemporary point of view leads us to believe, a little too easily, in the fantastical nature of actual fairy tales and of the creatures which populate them.
6 Let us point out that this analogy did, nonetheless, seduce Marjean Purinton in the context of a study about George Colman’s Bluebeard, which came after Perrault’s (Purinton 2007).
7 See the similarities between both illustrations in Fig. 2: on the left, an authentic cabinet of curiosity mixing, haphazardly, works of art and trivial ornaments, things of value and ordinary objects, medals, shells, paintings, and animals. On the right, the inside of Bluebeard’s cabinet (wonderfully interpreted by Gustave Doré) with its spacious receptacles, as richly decorated as they are empty and covered in gold, albeit with a book on the left (perhaps a Bible, as might be suggested by the serpent twisted round a chandelier in the background?). However, the book is only there to bring out the stand on which it rests, and besides, the book’s characters have their backs turned.
8 Frans Francken II, The Cabinet of Rarities, oil on canvas 74 x 78 cm, Vienna (after 1636), Kunsthistorisches Museum (Inv. N° 1048), <http://www.astronomy2009.it/attach/Content/News/1936/o/2_wunderkammer.jpg>
10 The question of the articulations between customary rules of filiation and economic calculation is the subject of a fascinating alternate perspective provided by another famous Perrault tale, Puss in Boots. This tale can be read entirely as calling into question the economic effectiveness of birthright, given that in the end the a priori most modest inheritance which is left to the youngest member of the family – the deceased miller’s cat – appears to have economic returns that are far greater than the supposedly more considerable assets left to the eldest children to share. Going back to Bluebeard, we notice that in the hypothesis which we are examining, birthright would in fact have been inapplicable; given that in the tale, naivety is related to age, imagining two sisters who are equally naive would mean imagining the sisters were twins, and therefore indiscernible in terms of birthright.
11 We can find the same fatal link between forbidden curiosity and the game of mirrors in the ‘Lady of Shalott’ (see chapter 1, note 8).
12 Of course, self-interest is no more ‘natural’ than curiosity and can (or must), in order to be effective and to guide action, be itself subject to processes of activation (Hirschman 1977). However, as we have demonstrated, in Bluebeard’s time the activation of self-interest started to be based on the actions contained in a series of instances which both frame and extend beyond the sphere of the tale (the growing appeal and availability of consumer goods, and so on). Bluebeard is thus able to consider this disposition as something already existant and operational, and can consequently concentrate on the secondary implementation of curiosity. Note that these dispositions are both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the actors: just as ‘habitus’ refers to an external envelope which clothes a person (clothing is the very etymology of the notion (Heran 1987) and to the inner force which ‘inhabits him’ (if we refer to Bourdieu’s theory (1977)), every disposition acts as a resource belonging to the subject, but whose expression relies often on the configuration of the action’s context (Lahire 1988).
13 Weariness and curiosity have very strong ties, notably that the first promotes the arousal of the second, as will be presented and explored in greater detail in chapter 4.
14 Here again, as is always the case in stories, it is a question of an important economic motive – that of matching. As I cannot develop the exegesis that this point deserves, I recommend the excellent analysis of the subject by Philippe Steiner (Steiner 2008).
15 At least until halfway through, Bluebeard maintains the illusion of a possible choice in her fate, and therefore in the very direction of the tale. This anticipates a literary genre that would later be developed by Raymond Queneau (1967) in the context of the Oulipo. Queneau suggested a story entitled ‘A Tale Made Your Way’, in which he offered the reader the possibility of putting together their own story through a succession of multiple choices. Nowadays, computing makes this type of literary genre easier to operate: everyone can try this on the website below and will be able to immediately experience the influence that the implementation of a device of pure curiosity is likely to have on every one of us: <http://www.gefilde.de/ashome/denkzettel/0013/queneau.htm> [accessed 9 April 2010].
16 This term is borrowed from the computer game industry, which is very sensitive to the frustration that results from imprisoning players in these linear paths into which literature (by virtue of its very form as a linear, ordered sequence of words which forces the reader to go from the first to the last) has until now condemned them. One of the computer-games universe’s greatest achievements is that it invented new ways of scripting works of fiction in which the reader/player now has an infinite number of ways of reaching a specific objective (connoisseurs will recognise the entire evolutionary sequence, ranging from the extremely linear adventures of Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider saga to missions that can be carried out with almost total freedom, as proposed in the Grand Theft Auto series, to mention just two of the games which have had the greatest impact on the short history of computer games).
17 Although late on we do guess that it was legal business. However, this element only appears for the purposes of the story (to justify Bluebeard’s early return at the very moment that his wife has just broken her promise); moreover, the information only stirs up questions instead of answering them: What business? Who is angry with Bluebeard? For what reason? And what if Bluebeard had only invented his trip and the reason for it in order to remain hidden in the vicinity in order to better observe his wife’s behaviour?
18 Splitting the view between the outside (the hope of help) and the inside (the threat of Bluebeard) by dividing it between two characters is a real stroke of genius. This method introduces a switching between views, anticipating the use of two cameras during a chase, one to show the fugitive, and the other to show who is chasing him. By segmenting the continuous chase scene into alternate frames, the method means that time can be stretched (we could cheat by separating out the action while increasing its duration and that of the shot). This exploits the fear that is inspired by our restricted access to what is out of shot, thus exacerbating the suspense (to see this being used in a clever way, we can refer to a number of Steven Spielberg’s films, in particular Duel, the television film to which he owes his rise to fame).
19 If the tale did anticipate the commoditisation that was to come, then it is in the way that today’s market sometimes uses a story-based approach with the sense of curious excitement which they share, seemingly connecting them inextricably to one other: ‘iPad, my beautiful iPad, don’t you see anything coming? This quasi-messianic object, marinated in the greatest secrecy and promoted with the greatest hype, Apple’s new tablet seems to concentrate the fantasies of a world which always wants to take mobile subtlety further’. This is how a four-page article began in the newspaper Libération, dedicated to the launch of ‘the Apple with the golden eggs’, as it put it in its mischievous headline (Libération 2010).
3. ‘Peep Shop‘? An Anthropology of Window Displays
1 Even fiction does not escape this constraint, insomuch as the world that we imagine always depends on the very real resources available to us.
2 The word ‘surprise’ is a wonderful one that means to astonish (to be unexpectedly struck by surprise), to mislead (to do the opposite of a prior expectation), and to captivate (sur-prise: the double seizing of the prospect).
3 More specifically: ‘In the 1950s, commercial spaces were clearly identified as urban. It was thus at the heart of this single place that the display had to show what it could do. The writers in the professional press (aimed at small shopkeepers) undertake to define what effect had to be produced by a good window display. A display’s effectiveness lay, according to them, in its ability to influence people’s movements: therefore it has to attract their attention, bring them to a halt and, in the best case, make them change their itinerary by encouraging them to leave the open space of the street and enter the closed space of the shop. Unlike the publicity poster (of which there are many examples and whose essentially graphic nature make it legible from afar), there is only one window display which can only be deciphered from the pavement in front. A particularly lively and successful window display would at the most attract attention from the other side of the road, encouraging people to cross in order to see from closer up’ (Leymonerie 2006: 97).
4 Sartre’s scenario can be described as a modern version of the Augustinian position, where the idea of God watching you is actually the root cause of the subject’s awareness who, feeling judged, is led to think of, define, and justify himself; further, the Confessions are said to be one of the very first occurrences of the subject’s introspection.
5 Nor do they exclude other references: this theme of observing things through a keyhole, curiosity as voyeurism and indiscretion, is found in many works and stories which have given it a near-mythical status. The Golden Ass by Apuleius has already been mentioned. We should refer to another tale in particular, so clearly does it establish the link between Bluebeard and Sartre’s model: the English legend of ‘Lady Godiva’ and ‘Peeping Tom’ (the second character appearing in one of the subsequent versions of the original tale). It was said that Lady Godiva was the beautiful wife of Leofric (968–1057), Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry, who starved his people by imposing heavy taxes on them. Many times Lady Godiva vainly begged her husband to be less harsh on the population, until eventually he put her to the test, promising to yield to her request if she rode through the town on horseback naked. Godiva took him at his word and crossed the town clad only in her long hair, but not before cleverly telling the inhabitants to lock themselves indoors so that she could avoid being seen. Only one curious person, called Tom, dared to disobey the order and stole a glance at the naked woman… for which he was punished by being struck immediately and suddenly blind (Davidson 1969; Hartland 1890; Mermin 1995; Donoghue 2004).
6 In fact, let us not forget that Bluebeard, whilst appearing threatening, remained extremely vague about the punishment he was going to inflict (‘I forbid it in such a manner that, if you happen to open it, you may expect my just anger and resentment’). We might even ask ourselves if there is not in this a secondary motivation for curiosity, pushing us to discover (in a rather masochistic way for the wife and a somewhat sadistic way for the reader), the nature of the punishment incurred!
7 In nineteenth-century France, looking through a keyhole was established in case law as ‘unhealthy curiosity’. This form of guilty visual exploration transgressed the ‘wall of decency’ that Article 330 of the 1810 Penal Code erected between both public spaces (where performing sexual acts constituted indecent assault) and private spaces (where the same practices were lawful and ‘stripped the witness of his status of representing the State’s watchful eye’) (Iacub 2008: 81–82).
8 Incidentally, Perrault uses both variations in equal measure: the first, as we know, in Bluebeard and the second in Donkey Skin: ‘Now, some authors believe that Donkey Skin’s people had seen the moment the Prince put his eye to the keyhole; and that, looking from her little window, she had seen this Prince, so young, so handsome, and well-proportioned, that the idea of him stayed with her, and that often the thought of him had made her sigh’. It is unsettling to note that here Perrault depicts the scene later imagined by Sartre (some people saw the Prince looking through the keyhole), even multiplying it (Perrault saw that is was certain authors who had seen that some people had seen that the Prince seeing) and generalising it by reversing it (from the other side of the door, through the ‘little window’, which is to Donkey Skin what the lock is to the Prince: the subject being watched saw she was being watched).
9 Certainly, and ever since Saint Augustine, the embarrassment of curiosity and one’s own secrets appear to be inextricably linked, no doubt because of the extreme significance of the theme of guilt with which it tends to be associated.
10 Starobinski specifically expressed and expanded on his refusal to reduce Rousseau to his psychological and physical afflictions in a scathingly ironic article dedicated to ‘Rousseau’s illness’. In the article, he draws up ‘the rather grotesque list of diagnoses that have claimed to say the last word on Rousseau. Both with respect to his urinary troubles and his psychology: melancholy (1800, Pinel); depressed monomania (1830, Esquirol); degeneracy (1880, in the wake of B. Morel’s publications); paranoïa (1889, P. J. Mobius); psychasthenia (1900, by applying Pierre Janet’s theories); obsessive spasmodic neurasthenia, arteriosclerosis, and progressive cerebral atrophy on a base of neuroarthritis (1900, Régis); resigned variety of the delirium of interpretation (1909, Sérieux and Capgras); schizophrenia (1918, Demole); latent homosexuality with hysteriform obsessions and reactions (1927, Laforgue); toxic delirium of an interpretative form (1929, Elosu); and more recent experts incline towards “sensitive delirium” as this was defined by Kretschmer’ (Starobinski 1961: 69). Starobinski thus justifies his scepticism about Rousseau’s clinical exegesis: ‘For my part, I have no great liking for the curiosity so often revealed concerning the illnesses of illustrious men. They were men, they had a body, they are dead – in this they resemble everyone else. Perhaps they have striven to become nothing but art and discourse, to dissimulate themselves behind the perfection of their work. […] The true Rousseau is to be found in the admirable writer, social reformer and pedagogue; the persecuted obsessional character is the man with the urinary infection who is intoxicated by increasing nephritis; his youthful follies are but the psychological consequences of a urethral malformation; admittedly, at certain moments in Rousseau’s life, there was delirium, but for this he is not responsible’ (Starobinski: 68).
11 In fact, for him, ‘Taken separately, neither individual psychology nor sociology offers a satisfactory explanation. If nothing important is to be left out of account, one must resort to a unified method capable of analyzing affective behavior in its social context’ (Starobinski 1989: 18).
12 We could say that the ‘normal grocer’ confronts Starobinski’s ‘normal man’, except that the grocer’s profession consists precisely in not reasoning in terms of the average. The grocer adapts himself every time to the person he faces, or rather finds the most systematic and productive way to manage the variation of subjects. The grocer’s logic is therefore, in my opinion, somewhat different to the ‘normal’ attitude described by the literary critic.
13 This, moreover, is where Starobinski begins his inventory, even before outlining the impossible three-part problem: ‘Escape the disapproving gaze and surreptitiously take hold of the coveted object: this was a temptation that Jean-Jacques knew and sometimes succumbed to. If occasionally he filched things (usually ‘snacks’), it was in order to avoid the shame of revealing his desire. In this way he believed he could achieve immediate ecstasy, without asking anyone’s consent and without needing to interpose any coin, an abstract sign that tarnished every pleasure bought with money. Unseen and unidentified: paradoxically, in becoming a thief he abolished crime, simply because he put himself beyond the range of the accusatory gaze. Stealing became an innocent act, but only on condition that consciousness regress in imagination to a stage before it comes to be inhabited by an internalised witness. Jean-Jacques resorted to thievery not in response to a challenge or a penchant for crime but merely to simplify the situation, to get rid of an “inconvenient third party”, and he protected himself by taking refuge in a primitive amorality, prior to the knowledge of good and evil’. (Starobinski 1989: 21).
14 For more about a field whose radical characteristics – sexual curiosity on the one hand, moral pressures on the other – make it possible to understand, in a particularly acute way, the imperative of the commercial management of customer discomfort, see Baptiste Coulmont’s survey (2007) of the layout of sex shops.
15 As in Bluebeard, the layering of instances of observation plays a significant role in the fascination that operates with curiosity and its exegesis: Sartre and Starobinski are interested in the observer who finds himself or believes he is (respectively) being observed. However, they themselves are observers of the scene, who are themselves, or believe they are, being observed by an audience, and who I myself, and then my reader in turn, will investigate or can investigate, thus continuing the game endlessly (if, for example, the reader refers to my analysis and asks himself what the relevance of borrowing this point of view is in the eyes of those that surround him, on whom his reputation depends). Behind this game of mirrors, what is felt is the excitement of knowledge and of sharing this knowledge: on the one hand, when we desire an object we know nothing (not about what we will truly discover, nor about what others will think), but on the other, acquiring knowledge and possibly sharing it depend on suspending this uncertainty and giving in to the risk of curiosity.
16 Later we will see that after having been insurmountable for a very long time, this constraint has now been removed.
17 It is here that the whole body of urban sociology and anthropology should be referenced. For an overview of the literature, see Sauvageot (2003).
18 Of course, certain window displays involve human figures, but with the occasional exception, as they are usually objectified human figures, taking the form of mannequins.
19 From this point of view, Latour’s wordplay suddenly becomes ineffective: of course Starobinki’s analysis has ‘no object’ but only in the material, rather than the figurative sense of the expression: if The Living Eye ignores objects, it is in order to clarify a situation that has conferred them no role; in this regard, Starobinski’s analysis, far from being inaccurate, is, rather, wholly consistent and relevant.
20 From this point of view, the window display and self-service devices operate in both analogous and distinct ways. They operate analogously because the function of both is to channel the gaze differently – to free from inhibition, and to make the appeal of things take precedence over that which constrains people. Nonetheless, their modi operandi are quite dissimilar. Whereas the window display concentrates gazes like a parabola (making them converge towards a common focus of attention in the hope of using a customer’s intersubjectivity to create a shared interobjectivity), self-service aims instead to ‘loosen’ the gaze and to allow each person to concentrate on the objects that interest them, regardless of the others present. The style of visual layout accompanying the latter has played a considerable role in promoting the acceptance of self-service. Of course there was indeed a reluctance to accept self-service selling because of the loss of service and changes in social status it implied. However, it also emancipated consumers (especially those on the lowest incomes) who became able to make their choices without the intervention, or at times, the uncomfortable judgements, of the shopkeeper and/or other customers (Du Gay 2006). Of course, between service that is paralysing and service that is emancipatory or dangerous (Bluebeard) is to be found the problem of shoplifting, the fear of which constituted one of the main obstacles to the development of self-service (Cochoy 2010b).
21 The original text mentions ‘00’ cents. However, this figure must be a typographical error. In fact, if we are given the cheese for free once we have guessed its weight, if we can acquire the same cheese for 00 cents (its exact weight multiplied by 00 cents a pound), and if we fail to guess correctly, then in both cases we obtain the cheese free of charge and the game does not make sense… additionally, there is not the slightest profit for the shopkeeper who gives all his cheese away for nothing (which contradicts a subsequent clarification, according to which according to which ‘nearly all the giant cheese [was sold] while it was on display’).
22 The key deciding factor between the two figures is liquidity. By matching the company’s value to the market’s current price and uncoupling it from its fundamentals for a period of time, the highly liquid nature of title deeds puts a premium on the short term and therefore also on market speculation, rejecting the longer-term test of an assessment linked to fundamentals (in case of bankruptcy, for example).
23 Often markets are presented as worlds of rationality in which assessments relating to assets are matched. However, for exactly this reason, markets are also worlds of gambling which introduce forms of curiosity that relate to oneself (will my assessment be right?) and to others (what will be the assessments of the other agents? Where will I position myself in relation to the assessments and the agents?). This is highlighted in the wonderful words of Jacques Crave (2008) in his thesis on the second-hand book market: ‘I don’t know if you’ve been to an auction yet? Well, it is very, very unusual – it is nothing like the mechanisms of buying and selling that you might find in an ordinary shop. You don’t have time to think. There is enthusiasm, a frenzy amongst those that surround you. You are not making your purchase alone […] And you are influenced by a range of factors that do not exist when you have the time […] to read calmly: “Well, I’ll think about it, I’ll get back to you…” You do not have the time to think: the guy in front of you wants the book and you, you do not want him to have it. So you become willing to invest a lot more money than you had been. Well, it is not that you become willing to invest, it is more that at a given moment you stop thinking […] And we can far exceed what we were initially willing to pay, especially when we forget the additional fees behind it. Because this goes completely out of the window in the game, in the excitement’ (Hélène, book seller and expert in old books, interview, rue Peyras, 30 April 2004). If we ‘stop thinking’, it is paradoxically because the market is ‘thinking heavily’ – it draws you into its infinite games of mirrors: markets are indeed places that are just as social as they are economic; they not only gamble with the value of things, they also create an intensely social shared moment through the experience of gambling and the curiosity that is attached to it.
24 Except, of course, in the rather rare and random case when speculation adjusts itself to the deeds’ fundamental value.
25 We might object by saying that this vision is rather inexact in the scenario where the aim is to guess the weight of the same initial cheese, given that, because the average of the estimated weights tends to be close to the cheese’s real weight, the way the estimates implied by this kind of objective are distributed is perfectly Gaussian (Desrosières 2002). Thus, a player who had access to all of the estimates given by those who preceded him, could very significantly increase his chances of winning by proposing the average of these estimates rather than his own assessment, irrespective of the condition that all of the previous estimates were produced independently (that is based on the cheese and the cheese alone), without considering the estimates made by other players. Therefore, unless the equal treatment of the candidates is distorted by forbidding some people from knowing the estimates of others so as to allow someone else to access them at the end of the game, we return to the situation in which only a direct estimation of the weight of the cheese will prevail.
26 It should be noted that, in neither case – whether we win or lose – does the bet have to be paid for. It is therefore completely free for the winner, given that he did not have to bear the temporary cost of paying for the right to participate.
27 The production of equivalence specific to the market follows an irrefutable logic, if we follow Epictetus: ‘For what price do you buy a head of lettuce? An obol. If then someone pays an obol and obtains a head of lettuce but you, not paying an obol, do not obtain one, do not think that you have less than the one who did: for he may have the lettuce, you have the obol, which you did not give’ (Epictetus, Manuel XXV). But in the scenario where the aim is to guess the weight of the same initial cheese (the terms of exchange having been clearly specified beforehand) we might consider that, for the consumer playing the game, the piece of cheese is ‘worth’ the money he has to pay in exchange, and that as a result, the actors ‘end up quits’. However, Epictetus was only giving the example of the lettuces in order to support the existence of the more discreet and less monetary forms of remuneration associated with exchange, which we must not lose sight of: ‘You were not invited to someone’s feast? Because you did not give the host the price for which he sells his feast. He sells it for compliments, for a visit, for kindness, dependence’ (Ibid). Epictetus’ idea is that the balance or imbalance of an exchange must be obvious and relies on a hidden dimension being brought into play (in this case, personal dependencies). Later, we will see that, in our case, monetary equivalence (‘money in exchange for cheese’) can be called into question according to its specific terms.
28 On the condition of course that we assume that there is a strict substitutability and perfect value equivalence between the money and cheese, which is obviously very unlikely: firstly, the cheese does not have the same liquidity as the money (although it can melt, it is nonetheless highly non-fungible!); secondly, the cheese I am being sold comes with a mark-up, making the value of the cheese that is delivered actually smaller than the value of the bet I agree to in order to receive it; lastly, the preference for cheese decreases the more we obtain. These points are important, and I will come back to them in the next part of the analysis.
29 This calculation should not be excluded: even if the player does not necessarily calculate statistically or probabilistically, it is indeed a calculation that he uses when he tries to ‘win his money back’; only one colossal win, which remains a possibility, is needed in order to compensate for all the previous losses (I thank Martin Giraudeau for this remark).
30 Incidentally, this is the only hypothesis capable of taking into account an addiction to gambling: pathological gamblers are well aware that, structurally speaking, they are losers. However, they do not get their satisfaction from their profits but from taking part in the game and from engaging in compulsive curiosity.
31 Let us recall that the spectacular dimension of the game and its consequences as a ‘diversion’ from personal judgement, and giving in to the sham of idle curiosity was perfectly identified by Saint Augustine.
32 Conversely, the audience is also just as capable of holding the player back if he condemns a passion for the game (here we then find the effect of Sartre’s shame being multiplied). Moreover, the development of online games shows to what extent an entirely ‘single-player’ game, far from allowing the player to concentrate on calculation alone, absorbs him instead in a spiral of his own abandonment.
33 We could even complicate the problem of taking the game’s implicit costs into account by extending it to consider the ‘opportunity cost’ inherent to participation in the game: it in fact only appears to be free; even if playing does not imply spending money, it does take time, and for many participants this time could be put to better use (they could work overtime if they are employed, carry out household chores, find better business opportunities, amuse themselves, or rest, and so on).
34 We find something similar in literature, in the beautiful metaphor provided by Céline, who alludes to the stick plunged into water in order to demonstrate the twisting that needs to be applied to everyday language in order to ‘render’ it in written form: ‘Style, my lady, does indeed stop everyone in their tracks, no one simply comes to it. Because it is a very hard job. It involves taking sentences […] off their hinges. Or there is another image: if you take a stick and want to make it look straight in water, you have to bend it first because if I put my stick in the water, the refraction will make it appear broken. It has to be broken before it is dipped into water. It is a lot of work. It is the work of the stylist’ (Céline 1987: 67–68).
35 It is a very general characteristic of window displays to propose scenarios that make an effort to mimic the effect of a ‘projective’ mirror, like the presentation of mannequins in clothes shops, for example.
36 From the very start of this analysis, I have chosen to take the article in the Progressive Grocer seriously. This is, of course, not a matter of being deceived: the tale oscillates between the ‘business case’ (which works like a field report) and the ‘success story’ (which, conversely, works like a rhetorical discourse with a fragile empirical basis). Nonetheless, once we take the article as a generic example of a thousand possible and different situations, examining it allows a certain number of rather general figures to emerge, but which I hope turn out to be useful when studying their more particular and specific manifestations.
37 In the United States, it is the punched-card ballot paper (punched according to one’s choice/choices) more than the polling booth that draws the attention, given that it is intrinsically more discreet than the ballot paper. The punched-card ballot, invented in Australia in 1856, was introduced in the US in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the punching machines, which appeared in 1892, became widespread in 1930 (Garner and Spolaore 2005). In France, it was not until 1913 that the polling booth was introduced (Garrigou 2008).
38 On the notion of fun food and its contemporary forms, see De la Ville et al. (2010).
39 We are still far from the interactive window displays of today (Cochoy 2011d).
40 We will meet Alice again and accompany her further in the following chapter.
1 If this identification is very strong, the nasty surprise will be shared and the tale will seem intolerable; this is where a danger lies – of reading the tale to children who are too young. That is, unless one considers that this is an opportunity for them to grow up, to learn to distinguish between points of view, and to acquire the double skill of being immersed in something while maintaining a critical distance, which is where all the pleasure of literature lies.
2 We could also mention the considerable efforts made by advertising professionals to ban certain misleading advertising practices and even make ‘advertising honest’: a technique in which the reliability of a particular commitment is less an objective in itself, and more a means of obtaining greater commercial effect – as John E. Powers, one of the founders of modern advertising who played a key role in introducing practices such as free trials or refunds on products in case of an unsatisfied customer, sought to demonstrate (Presbrey 1929: 302, sq.).
3 From this point of view, economists were quicker than sociologists at drawing conclusions from this situation and ‘moving on to other things’, namely by studying those situations that contradict adverse selection: in particular, they demonstrated that the opposite phenomenon existed – termed ‘favourable selection’ or ‘advantageous selection’ – which, for instance, drives those who are least in need of insurance to be the first to acquire it, due to a positive connection between risk aversion and caution in everyday life (Memenway 1990; Chiappori and Salanie 2000; Eisenhauer 2004).
4 As shown by the ‘free toy inside’ or ‘surprises’ of our childhood, the over-packaged gifts of McDonald’s (Brembeck 2007) and even more so the Kinder eggs of today (Iulio 2011) bring about the very early socialisation of children in commercial curiosity. More generally speaking, on the importance of marketing in the socialisation of childhood, see Cook (2004), Cochoy (2008b), De la Ville (2009), Dupuy (2010), and more.
5 The balance between the pleasure of the wrapping and desire for the object is very subtle and can at any moment tip over towards the frantic destruction of the package that we see in very young children, or, conversely, towards a fetishistic enjoyment of the packaging that has a tendency to replace the object itself. As Roland Barthes noticed with respect to Japanese packages: ‘the box operates as a sign: as a cover, screen, mask, it has value because of what it conceals, protects and yet points to; it pulls the wool over our eyes, if we understand this expression in both the monetary and psychological sense: but even that which it encloses and signifies is postponed for a very long time, as if the package’s function was not to protect in space but to delay in time; […] the content that has been announced flees from wrapping to wrapping and when we finally hold it (there is always a little something in the packet) it appears insignificant, derisory, worthless: the pleasure, rightfully belonging to the object, has been taken: the package is not empty but emptied’ (Barthes 2007: 65 translation JTL).
6 <http://maxtv80.actifforum.com/avis-de-recherche-f3/monsieur-plus-de-bahlsen-t2591.htm> [accessed 16 May 2015]
7 This comment is somewhat inaccurate, or rather it only applies to the ‘generic’ definition of advertising that concerns us here. In practice, the advert presents itself in a material form – a poster, brochure, insert (Canu 2007) – often putting it in a position where it is itself ‘wrapped’ by the newspaper publishing it, the shop sheltering it, the ‘package’ that goes with it, and so on.
8 The following text refers to and completes two articles published in Gérer et Comprendre (Cochoy 2011a) and the Journal of Marketing Management (Cochoy 2015).
9 This advert was created by the CLM/BBDO advertising agency and produced by the glamour and fashion photographer Jean-François Jonvelle (Le Monde 1988; Devillers 2001).
10 When referring to Little Red Riding Hood, Marc Soriano (1977) reminded us that riddles from the tale’s oral versions pepper the main version. From this perspective, it is as if Perrault had carried out a transfer: although he removed the secondary riddles to focus the tale of Little Red Riding Hood on the principal plot, he made them instead the principal device in Bluebeard.
11 If we look at the referent itself, we notice that in addition to the linguistic element it is a semiological one. Just as Kellogg’s increased the number of unpacking motions with its inverted striptease, here the literal striptease refers to the discovery of the message’s successive layers of signification and to the revelation of the ‘inside story’. We are clearly in the presence of semiological virtuosity, in which the device consists not of playing with one sign as a signifier for another, as in Roland Barthes’ (2010) Mythologies, but rather in entwining two distinct signifiers – the layered advertisement; the striptease – in such a way that together they lend their form to a signified that is shared, thereby almost stereoscopically reinforcing their own process of signification.
12 In recent years, performativity has drawn considerable attention from specialists in economic sociology because the concept allows them to discuss and ask themselves about the ability of the formulations of the economic sciences to transform the world, rather than simply represent it (Callon 1998). For an introduction to these studies, of which there are too many to mention here, one might consult the different collections of articles dedicated to the topic (MacKenzie et al. 2007; Licoppe 2010; Cochoy et al. 2010).
13 For a history of how decency has been considered in law throughout history, see Marcela Iacub’s book, very appropriately called Through the Keyhole (Iacub 2008).
14 Marcela Iacub has carefully retraced the legal and social history of the reception of the monokini. Since its first public appearance, this fashion item, invented in 1964, has resulted in a number of legal cases, given its supposedly indecent character. In July 1964 in particular, in order to promote his establishment, the manager of a beach in Cannes had the idea of photographing a young woman, who he had asked to play Ping-Pong in a monokini on the beach in return for payment. Both the employer and employee were found guilty in the County Court, given the intention, in the eyes of the judge, of using this scandalous act for advertising purposes. They were later discharged on appeal ‘due to the fact that the spectacle of nudity contained nothing capable of offending a normal or even a delicate sensitivity to decency, unless accompanied by the display of sexual body parts, or lascivious or obscene attitudes or gestures’. This arrest, to which Myriam clearly pays a peculiar tribute, was given considerable publicity and played a significant role in the trivialisation of the monokini (Iacub 2008: 170–172).
15 A scandal would emerge, as we shall see later, but locally, without affecting the campaign as a whole or overturning the logic behind it.
16 On the economic contribution of humour to advertising and more generally to the life of organisations, see Alden et al. (1993) and Yarwood (1995), respectively.
17 Note that in Bluebeard, this figure had already been introduced: the heroine’s friends are the projection of the crowd of other readers. Whether reading the tale or participating in it, everybody wants to know what will be found by using the forbidden key, but no one wants to learn except for by themselves: the premature revelation of a plot’s outcome is always perceived as a tragedy, of which we have a recent example; the solution to an Agatha Christie mystery, which for decades had been shown in a London theatre and whose secret the spectators had been invited to keep, was posted on Wikipedia (Malkin 2010).
18 For a less schematic presentation of Berlyne’s theory, and more generally for a well-informed account about how the discipline of psychology conceives curiosity, see Loewenstein’s (1994) impressive review.
19 I am, of course, alluding to a personal anecdote here. When an article in an academic journal was being assessed by reviewers, I received the following anonymous comments (in the spirit of confidentiality appropriate to the procedure, I have deliberately omitted the subject of the article and name of the journal): ‘There is a risk that this kind of exercise results in a functionalist account. The researcher – equipped with his or her particular understandings and scientific preferences – provides an interpretation of how things “must have been”. […] Since work within STS has introduced some sensitivities in this respect, it would be unfortunate if the case study was interpreted as a functionalism dressed up in new clothes’. Admittedly, this comment was just one of many, and the journal finally agreed to publish my text. Nonetheless, perhaps this would not have been the case had I not taken care to make amends and accept the censure of my guilty bouts of functionalism!
20 <http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbcz7_pub-neuf-vous-preferez-les-brunes> [accessed 14 May 2015]
21 Therefore, the homage goes as far as skilfully replaying the idea of the ‘private joke’ intended for the professionals of advertising that inaugurated Myriam, as we shall see later.
22 This campaign is clearly – like Myriam, which tried to challenge billboard companies less punctual (than Avenir, see below) – a distorted form of comparative advertising (a form of advertising that is constrained by severe legal restrictions in France). In this respect, like all its fellow adverts, it dances to the tune of the law, proscribing all ‘denigration’, with the privileged exception granted to ‘humour’, an opportunity the judge conceded to plaintiffs, given that it is never possible to find a priori in the letter of the law what can or cannot make a judge laugh (Cochoy and Canu 2006).
23 Out of respect for the author quoted and for Saint Augustine, I have taken the liberty to cut out the clarification ‘that we would be searching for […] in vain in the text of Genesis’, because this comment, although applicable to certain versions of the Bible, is not to others, such as that by Douay-Rheims, revised by Challoner: ‘And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves aprons. Not that they were blind before (for the woman saw that the tree was fair to the eyes, ver. 6), nor yet that their eyes were opened to any more perfect knowledge of good; but only to the unhappy experience of having lost the good of original grace and innocence, and incurred the dreadful evil of sin. From whence followed a shame of their being naked; which they minded not before; because being now stript of original grace, they quickly began to be subject to the shameful rebellions of the flesh’. Now, this version of Catholic tradition – although long after Saint Augustine, given that it dates back to the seventeenth century and to a desire to counter the Reformation – is in fact a translation of the Vulgate; in other words, it is precisely the Latin version of the Bible which the philosopher was familiar with.
24 The circular ambiguity of the dressing/undressing, which neutralises the eroticism and the screening of virtue even as it is being displayed, is inherent to striptease, as was brilliantly noted by Roland Barthes: ‘Striptease […] is based on a contradiction: desexualising the woman at the exact moment when we are undressing her’. And Barthes demonstrated that the removal of the clothes, one by one, has a symmetrical counterpart in the continuous addition of other layers, which conjure up the former: the exoticism, the imposition of a known rite, with the gloves, feathers and fishnet stockings, the layering of the dance (Barthes 2010).
25 Without of course telling us that, from one case to the next, the subject and meaning of the promise have changed: in Genesis, the promise made by Adam and Eve is to abstain from tasting the forbidden fruit; in Myriam, despite appearances, the promise is less that made by a female subject, and rather that of the serpent who adopts these traits and does everything in its power to get to taste that commercial offer that he presents.
27 Genesis has been used in marketing more than we think: let us not forget that ‘temptation’ is the name that nursery owner Delbard gave to an apple that he created in 1990 by crossing the Grifer and Golden Delicious varieties <http://www.pomme-tentation.com> [Accessed 14 May 2015].
28 It does even more. This leaflet – found in a car dealership while waiting for a repair on my car – recalls the ‘within-reach’ adverts through which Roland Canu and Alexandre Mallard (Canu and Mallard 2006; Canu 2011b) demonstrated the extreme importance of the following: advertising documents insinuate themselves within commercial interaction; they provide a distraction, they help the customer waiting for an available salesperson to compose themselves, to help them think, to take notes; they also help salespeople to give information to their customers as well as to disengage from interactions that are dragging or that stand little chance of being successful. From this perspective, advertising manipulation takes on an entirely different meaning: it does not involve the mysterious force of symbolic discourse, but rather the physical grasping of advertising, in relation to both supply and demand – in commercial settings, advertising manipulation exists, but it is both material and crossed by the two entities (what I mean by ‘crossed’ is that supply manipulates demand, and vice versa).
29 Remember that in economics, since Kenneth Arrow (1962), ‘moral hazard’ refers to opportunistic actions that involve making the most of the incompleteness of a contract, for example by taking more risks once we have insurance cover.
30 I hope I can be forgiven for the slight anachronism in the following parenthetical comment of mentioning brand names, some of which did not yet exist at the time of Myriam: it must be understood that here, form is more important than substance!
31 See for example: ‘All of Literature might be saying: Larvatus Prodeo, I move forward while pointing at my mask’ (Barthes 1972: 32).
32 I chose the expression ‘the two-sided public’ in order to draw a contrast between targets that are ‘cost-free’ (the general public) and targets that are commercial (both advertisers and the communicators of advertising that together make up the ‘two-sided market’ within which advertising is ‘negotiated’).
33 This method, consisting of layering shifted representations of the same body part so as to give the impression of movement, echoes not only the technique used in cartoons that was perfected at the start of the twentieth century (Laloux 1996) – the use of tracing paper was invented in 1915 – but it also adopts a technique dating back to prehistory, given that it can be found in parietal art (Azéma 2005).
34 Archives from the History of Advertising Trust (HAT), Advertising Association collection (AA), reference number 13/1/3.
35 This little article, barely half a page long and lost amongst the thousands of pages in a magazine that provides a thousand other commercial tricks, had escaped my notice when going through the Progressive Grocer page by page, covering the period 1929–59 (admittedly while working on a project that was not about curiosity). I only noticed its existence four years after my investigation, whilst leafing through the magazine’s tables of contents that I had photocopied. I was able to obtain the article with the assistance of Berkeley’s NRLF librarians, who will never know how satisfying it is to find the needle that pricks one’s curiosity amongst a haystack of records!
36 Note that the technique is not limited to the commercial world. In 1933, the English magazine, The Listener, reported that the American Federal Ministry of Education had published a brochure on the art of teaching on the radio. Amongst other pieces of advice, it suggested that ‘in addition to the regular broadcast announcement [teaching by radio], ‘teaser campaigns’ may frequently be used advantageously to stimulate interest in broadcasts. Begin with an announcement a week before the broadcast and add an additional announcement each day until seven are given on the day of the broadcast’. And The Listener was intrigued to conclude that: ‘“Teaser” announcements, which aim at catching the listener’s attention by a riddling, puzzling or startling allusion, have indeed been tried over here, but they require most cautious and sparing use if they are to avoid arousing hostility’ (The Listener 1933).
37 <http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3sco6_fnac-version-1_news> [accessed 16 May 2015] http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3r6a4_fnac-version-2_news [accessed 16 May 2015]; <http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3qyqm_fnac-version-3_music> [accessed 16 May 2015]
38 These variations are minimal: the ‘butterfly’ books in the filmed advert that we have chosen to follow are in others replaced either by flying cameras, or a path paved with flat screens.
39 Let me reveal the anecdote: it was thanks to the use of a high-tech curiosity device, mentioned briefly in the following section, that I was able to identify the song and the singer! (See this chapter, note 45).
40 Kierkegaard, Either/or, quoted in Kornberger (2010: 256). I thank the author for having mentioned this text and its relevance to the question of the awakening of curiosity.
41 The connection between boredom and curiosity continues throughout history, as identified and pointed out by Nicole Jacques-Chaquin, who reminds us of the extent to which (in particular in the eighteenth century) boredom intensifies an inclination towards curiosity: ‘[During the Enlightenment] [i]ntellectual curiosity and its passionate energy […] appears as the only activity capable of providing a lasting escape from the boredom, which we know is one of the obsessions of the eighteenth century. Unlike other sources of pleasure, it does not become satiated or grow old’ (Jacques-Chaquin 1998a: 20). Much later, the link between boredom and curiosity was explored in a different way by behaviourist psychology in attempting to demonstrate, using the experimental method, that boredom is one of the prerequisites of exploratory curiosity (Fowler 1965). In order to reinforce the fascinating relationship between these two opposing dispositions, we might also cite the archetypal literary figures of Faust (encouraged by boredom to make a pact with the Devil so as to undergo new experiences) and Mallarmé’s Sea Breeze (‘The flesh is sad, alas! And I have read all the books. Let’s go! Far off. Let’s go! I sense that the birds, intoxicated, fly deep into unknown spume and sky!’) <http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/French/Mallarme.htm> [accessed 7 August 2015]. In light of the lessons of history, psychology, and literature, all in all we can only hope that sociology in turn will get to grips with this question seriously, in its own way, so as to explain to us the delicate link between habituation and exploration processes.
42 As was noted by Siegfried Kracauer (2005), in a beautiful text on boredom, ‘even if a subject would like to do nothing, things are done to him’. Fnac’s scenography consists precisely in operating both levers simultaneously: it is a matter of ‘creating the boredom’ of the subject (representing the waiting) in order to better be able to undo it (stirring curiosity).
43 For an in-depth exploration of the different facets and uses of serendipity, see Andel and Bourcier (2009) and Andel and Bourcier (2011).
44 Merton discovered the term himself through serendipity when attempting to found the sociology of the sciences, while thinking about the unforeseen consequences of social action (Shulman 2004).
45 See the applications ‘Shazam’ and ‘Soundhound’.
46 See the applications ‘Around me’, ‘Fonefood’, ‘LocalPicks’, ‘Locly’, and so on.
48 The questionnaire was designed in collaboration with the École Nationale Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques of Bordeaux and its students, who carried out the survey in November 2009 under the supervision of Fédéric Couret and Alexander Lee. The statistical analysis was carried out with the help of Jan Smolinski. The focus groups were led with the assistance of Aurélie Lachèze. This survey would not have been possible without the support of the Œnotrace (a pseudonym) project of wine geo-traceability and all its partners and participants, of which there are too many to list here. I warmly thank all these people and institutions.
49 For more detailed results from the study, see the following three references, from which I have taken certain elements: Cochoy (2011c); Cochoy (2012); and Cochoy (2014).
50 ‘The term agencement denotes a form of arrangement that acts and at the same time imposes a certain format on the action. Saying that an agencement is a market-agencement (as opposed to agencements that can be for example qualified as altruistic, political or scientific) means specifying that it is structured to direct the collective action towards the establishment of bilateral commercial transactions. This structuring of collective action is achieved through a series of specific framings, which contribute to giving collective action the specific format that it should have’ (Callon 2015).
51 The adapted French idiom meaning ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’.
52 In 2009, a study carried out in Japan showed that 78.3% of Japanese people knew that their mobile phones were equipped with a QR-code reader and that 84.7% of these people had used it <http://whatjapanthinks.com/2009/07/05/qr-code-reading-phones-held-by-almost-four-in-five-japanese/> [Accessed 14 May 2015].
1 For a recent exception, see Manguel 2015.
2 I would also like to confess my own curiosity from my own modest position, given how often subjects of research have a deeply biographical dimension. Here, curiosity will have served not only as a theme and a lure, but also as method: the elements that this book has touched upon are not so much objects that the sociologist has gone looking for, in line with his interests and research programme, as a series of events, images and texts found along the way, purely serendipitously, during his professional and personal journey.
3 What makes the door-closer ideal is that it offers universal access, even if Bruno Latour correctly demonstrated that its technical imperfections often lead to the movements of the weakest being jeopardised (Latour 1988).
4 On 4 July 2011, the British daily newspaper The Guardian revealed that its rival newspaper, the News of the World, had hacked the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a thirteen-year-old teenager murdered in 2002. The affair shocked the public and led to the revelation of widespread illegal phone hacking carried out by the tabloid, in collusion with police officers and political complacency, to the extent that the media group owned by the magnate Rupert Murdoch was shaken to its foundations, as was the British political class (for a summary of the affair, see LeMonde.fr (2011)).
5 These two forces are closely linked: a radical innovation of form, such as the invention of a new product (the people carrier in the car market, 3D for the cinema industry, body movement recognition replacing ‘joysticks’ in the computer game sector), at the same time involves an economy of surprise.
6 By the qualification of people, I mean operations that are far from limited to the professional training brought to mind by this expression, encompassing rather all procedures which, within a wide range of different relationships, involve providing others with skills, values, motives, reasons, impulses (and so on) that they would otherwise not possess.
7 One should perhaps add sensations to this list (Sauvageot 2003) – that is to say, the complete list of auditory, gustatory, olfactory, tactile, and visual perceptions that occur upstream of emotions, as something more corporeal and infra-cognitive. For some years now, sensations have played a major role in the social organisation of markets, and thus in awakening curiosity, via the development of atmospheric marketing (Grandclément 2004) and sensory marketing (Hultén et al. 2009), not forgetting the emerging approach of neuromarketing (Fugate 2007; Lee et al. 2007).
8 To pursue this attempt at semantic precision would of course require additional research that could well entail using sources of inspiration other than the current body of social sciences. In fact, forging ahead could paradoxically involve returning to old references: it would not only be a case of reconnecting with Weber (as we have just seen) but also of reactivating, in a new way, the programme of the seventeenth-century moralists. We know the extent to which authors such as La Bruyère, La Fontaine, or La Rochefoucault excelled in the art of painting people’s moral portraits, which we could define as practising a kind of inner ethnography of human motives. It would be a matter of recovering this source of inspiration whilst revisiting it: this would involve concerning ourselves (as was the case long ago) with the ‘moral traits’ driving social practices, but understanding the word ‘trait’ less as an ‘inner characteristic’ and more as an ‘externally circulating arrow’ – in other words, a moral element that is recovered or constructed and brought into play through relational artefacts in order to redefine economic and social relationships.
9 Unless we returned to the Freudian hypothesis of infantile sexual curiosity (Freud 1962), or, even more unlikely, unless we endow the reader of the advert with a paedophilic inclination.
10 Note that this sales pitch, which aims to render curiosity innocent (even holy) by evoking its social benefits, reminds us of Francis Bacon’s argument – him being the first to find a means of ‘saving’ curiosity from religious condemnation, by highlighting its contribution to the expression of Christian charity.
11 ‘No, and despite appearances, “Le Canard” [the duck] has not come to paddle in the net’, it reads. This single-page website, with only a few links to click on (with nevertheless one link too near to that week’s front page which gives access to other front pages), and as a consequence, eminently ‘iconoclastic’ – in the sense of informational radicalism – to put things in the wordplay so beloved of this medium, arouses curiosity in perhaps a far more subtle and effective way than many other media forms <http://www.lecanardenchaine.fr/> [Accessed 14 May 2015].
12 The Karachi affair concerned an attack on the town in 1995 which left 14 French people dead, and which some people attributed to the payment of commissions being suspended, apparently to have been paid in the context of arms deals; these commissions would have led to return commissions for French political figures (Mediapart 18 November 2010). The Mediator affair concerned a healthcare scandal, involving the drug of the same name, the use of which may have led to several hundred deaths (Mediapart 16 November 2010).
13 I am referring to the classical objection made by Pierre Bourdieu (1979), according to whom ‘public opinion does not exist’, except as an aggregate effect of people’s responses to surveys that make them give their opinions, often in spite of themselves.
14 Of course, there is sometimes a distance between the fictitious and real ‘I’. As we can see, the person who clicked (a sociologist of curiosity) is an atypical reader, who was evasive, perhaps even embarrassed about having to give his opinion about this question, but who wants to know the answer for his investigation: thus, between the two screenshots, he let some time pass, to the point that nearly 200 people expressed their opinion in the interval!
15 Of course, the old-fashioned letter to the editor anticipated this sort of device, but had such a time delay that it was not able to contribute to arousing the public in an instant.
16 It is not by chance that Closer, along with its rivals Public and Voici, was one of the first organs of the press to experiment with using Data Matrix-type codes in France, especially to spread videos that complemented the printed magazine (AFMM 2007).
17 Loana was the winner of the first reality television programme in France, Loft Story, which continuously filmed the ‘private–public life’ of a group of young people and broadcast it to the general public.
18 In my defence, I have nonetheless tackled these questions, thanks especially to Closer, which saved me, in extremis, from the accusation of having forgotten the issue of entertainment (an issue which has admittedly already been tackled with Saint Augustine, but so long ago that my reader may have forgotten!). I also touched on the social dimension in my detour via the quantitative survey, even if the latter showed the entirely secondary and inconclusive contribution of most of the classical social variables with respect to the propensity towards curiosity.
19 I subscribe without reservation to sociologists’ duty of vigilance, and even to their duty of engagement, as long as they are sure of their ‘science,’ and sure that they are acting wisely (two points which, on a purely personal level, and in spite of the desire shared by myself and all my colleagues to do the best sociological work possible, often leads me to act with a certain amount of restraint). This said, having come to the social sciences from the world of contemporary literature, I have always been astonished to observe that in sociology the word ‘criticism’ has hardly any meaning beyond that of the very narrow and negative ‘denunciation’ or ‘objection,’ whilst in literature it has a much more positive and constructive meaning. A literary critic (in the academic rather than the journalistic sense of the word) would find little point in criticising a work without having a high opinion of its qualities. Thus, in literature, ‘criticism’ does not aim to pass judgement on its subject, still less to undertake political or moral policing, but rather to explore ‘what is at work within the work,’ namely, how texts are organised, how they function, what complex relationships the writing may have with its sources, and via what means, for the production of which effects, and so on and so forth. Even though I have left literature, I have retained this concept of criticism. I see my work as a sociologist as similar to that of a literary critic who must first write the book that he intends to critique (to gather data by means of an investigation and order them into a narrative) and then conduct this critique with the aim of elucidating rather than denouncing his subject. It is this type of method that I have endeavoured to follow here, by thinking that it ought to be possible to practise sociology in the manner of Jean Starobinski, to adopt a model encountered in this book.
20 Incidentally, there is a beautiful sense of anticipation here, certainly operating in a different register to the surrealist wordgame, the ‘exquisite corpse’ – a game in which the goal of the participants is to write a sentence collectively, with each subsequent player starting from the last word written by the previous player, without any knowledge of what has come before.