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Firms across many sectors now engage in “cultural strategy” to anticipate risk, maintain relevance, and strategize for the future. For trend forecasters who do the work of identifying cultural change for businesses, this requires developing “cultural intelligence” (McCracken 2009) through the application of methodologies (including media content analysis or ethnography) to predict how culture may unfold.
Drawn from research on the history of trends, I argue that this strategic use of culture exposes how techniques and technologies of qualitative cultural measurement are being developed, used, and exploited. I show how forecasters conceive of basic cultural “units” that they understand as illuminating the future of culture, as well as generating more precise “intelligent” systems of cultural forecast. The growth of cultural strategy reveals the repercussions of mediation in ways that are reminiscent of, yet distinct from, those raised regarding datafication (e.g. boyd & Crawford 2012; Andrejevic, Hearn, & Kennedy 2015).
Andrejevic, M., Hearn, A., & Kennedy, H. (2015). Cultural studies of data mining: Introduction. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(4-5), 379-394.
boyd, d., & Crawford, K. (2012). Critical questions for big data: Provocations for a cultural, technological, and scholarly phenomenon. Information, communication & society, 15(5), 662-679.
McCracken, G. (2009). Chief culture officer: How to create a living, breathing corporation. Basic Books.