Saturday, September 18, 2004

Imago Corporis: The Institutional Mirror Stage

A loose hypothesis hinged on anecdote, with a corollary and two anecdotes:

Hypothesis, easier annotated than formulated: Built into the communications system is a fundamental unit of syntax, namely, that the speaker will endow the listener with the same attributes which he, she, or it possesses him, her, or itself.

Corollary: If you represent an institution such as a corporation, you will, over time, internalize an image of the corporate body, as it were. You will incorporate, internally, the structure and features of the corporation. This is in part why people representing companies often sound like they have never heard of meatspace, but exist entirely in realms of hierarchical infrastructure.

Thus: Institutional representatives who have "self-incorporated" in this way will project that internal image upon customers with whom they come in contact in the normal course of business.

Example A:
A storm has killed your home. Your normal framework of life and work is disolved. You call your insurance company to tell them your expenses have exceeded their disbursements of funds alloted for "Loss of Use."
"Do you have receipts"


"Can you fax them to us?"

"I don't have a home."

Silence. "I'll have to have a supervisor call you."
Example B: Sprint, meanwhile, has exceeded even its own generous estimate of how long it would take to restore telephone service to my home after it was knocked out by a hurricane on August 13. The company had indicated it would get around to repairing it by September 13, but as of today, service is still out.
The company has thoughtfully provided an 800 number so we might keep in touch.
From which, Frere Jacques, one accedes to the Hypothesis of the Institutional Mirror Stage: To The Corporation, I'm not a person. I am a ghastly creature consisting of an numbered account, a stream of money, and a metallic voice on a wire. From my head, or right shoulder perhaps, sprouts a fax machine, or better, an All in One fax/copier/scanner/printer/, while my larynx has telephone/answering machine capabilities, and my arse, I suppose, contains a shredder.

QED: The corporation is always addressing a spectral image of itself, even when it has trained its employees to sound human. This holds true at all times, especially when the provocation for contacting the Corporate Imago is to address the absence of these very items.


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