In today’s lecture, Adrian talked about the reading, a chapter from Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life. His main focus was strategy and tactic or, how I’ve worded it here, strategy vs tactic. The way Adrian described it, the analogies he chose, seemed to frame it in this way. He talked about consumers having agency, their role is not to just ‘consume’ but to ‘create’ or ‘produce.’ This is directly opposed to the model that consumers are mindless and take in what they’re told to. But they never have. People don’t do that. People practice la perruque, people use tactics.
Adrian’s definitions: strategy is an attempt to frame power for its institutions. Tactics do not formally or deliberately engage in the strategy’s plan. Tactics circumvent it. Tactics aren’t about space, they’re about time. They are, as de Certeau says, about the utilisation of time.
This sort of gave me a lightbulb moment. For a few reasons. The biggest one was when Adrian was talking about students. Students at uni refusing to pick up marked work because it was unnecessary, and students at high school wearing their uniforms incorrectly. This made so much sense to me. School uniforms are horrible when you’re in them. When I was in high school I had a love/hate relationship with my uniform. I liked that I didn’t have to think about what I was wearing everyday nor was I judged for what I was wearing by my peers, but I did hate how structured and formal it had to be. I had so little freedom in my school’s strategy — I was weak. So I used tactics. I rolled the sleeves on my blouse. I wore sport socks instead of regular socks. They were such small things, but they were tactics. I was interested in getting around the rules for my own comfort.
Students are almost always young people. And young people suffer the perils of ageism in our society. The biggest targets of ageism are teenagers. Teenagers are the most reviled group, by age, in our society. After them comes children, then the elderly, then young adults, and so on. But back to teenagers — teenagers are considered, more often than not, lazy. And it’s because they use tactics! Because teenagers are so structured into strategy’s plans and told that everything must be aligned to either work or leisure, because teenagers are so powerless in all of this, they have no choice but to develop tactics. Their lives are essentially la perruque. If only I had this vocabulary when I was in high school.
This line of thinking led me to the idea that tactics are actually revolutionary. Adrian said that blogging and social media is tactical, but I’m thinking on bigger terms. Movements are tactical. Protests and rallies are tactical. They have to work around what strategy is already in place. They have to circumvent it. They must be able to change, quickly, suddenly. They respond to the circumstance.
But they can be on the smaller scale too, like Adrian says. He gave the example of a supermarket as strategic. It is designed for consumer flow, for product placement, for a methodical approach to consuming. And yet I approach supermarkets tactically. I don’t follow the rules. I don’t go down the aisles, one by one. I look for things as I remember them. I go down the same aisles more than once. And that’s even if I’m following a shopping list written strategically, which most people don’t do.
Strategy is not like this and strategy does not like this. Strategy is often surprised to find that it isn’t prepared to deal with tactical movements. Strategy wants to be in control of things and doesn’t think to cope with change if the change falls outside its predetermined possibilities.
This idea of framing and reframing was also kind of uncanny. I am currently reading Clarisse Thorn’s ebook Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men that deals with theory of pickup artistry (or as they refer to themselves, the ’seduction community’). Pickup artists are all about control of social situations. Their terminology for this is ‘framing’ or ‘reframing.’ In Clarisse’s glossary, she says:
A frame is a paradigm, or a way of thinking about the world. PUAs theorize that socially dominant people set the terms of social interactions by controlling the frame. A person can take control of a social interaction by reframing it to their advantage.
This is very interesting. Are pickup artists strategic or tactical? They seem to fall under both. But I think they’re tactical. They use the strategy of societal norms and structured social interaction to their benefit by taking shortcuts. They don’t mould the environment to their need, they travel through it and take advantage of it. PUAs are often described as ‘cheating’ in social interaction.
And so I became a little confused. On the one hand, tactics are revolutionary, they create change! But they also can be kinda evil. On the other hand, strategy is totally used for evil, but it can also be kinda beneficial. I mean, when you’re trying to walk down the stairs, it’s much easier if everyone stays on the left side of the direction they are travelling. But there are always those tactical people who don’t follow that rule. And it’s not necessarily because they want to bring down the system, they were probably just impatient. But we can’t all be impatient, can we?
Oh dear, now I’m thinking about Nothing to Envy and The Hunger Games and Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser and The Practice of Everyday Life, all the books I’ve been reading at the moment, and how they all seem to be running along the same lines. Power, control, strategy, tactics, revolution, change, power, power, power.