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Sabrina Whittaker’s Postmodern Perspective

consumer behavior placemaking Sep 30, 2021

Perception is the process by which people select, organize, and interpret sensation. It refers to your awareness and is the result of observation. In many ways, it represents your capacity for the comprehension of various stimuli. Postmodernism is a vague term that demands we update our current beliefs and processes to accurately reflect the times we live in, relative to our history. It represents the need for an evolution of our thinking. In simpler terms, it's a perspective.


Perspective is HOW you view things.
It’s your point of view; your interpretation

happens in three stages:


  • Exposure

  • Attention

  • Interpretation


Throughout those three stages, our brains work to translate raw stimuli into meaning.

Today’s blog post will focus on interpretation. The subject will be explored using a postmodern lens.

The meaning we assign raw stimuli depends on the schema we use (which is a psychology term that describes the set of beliefs/ pattern of behaviors we use to organize and assign meaning to what would otherwise be meaningless input).

In creating Orchids Octopi, LLC and my other creative efforts, I have become a proponent of a paradigm shift happening in Consumer Behavior where multi-passionate researchers and analysts (like myself!) apply postmodernism (interpretivism) to our work. More on that in a bit.

First, we need to define the prevailing, opposing perspective: modernism.


The Prevailing Perspective


People that subscribe to modernism (positivism) believe in objective truth, stress function over form, and assume the world is a rational, ordered place. In a matter of words, neither your culture, your soul, nor your identity matter. It's a contradictory philosophy with many branches, the commonality between branches is the general belief that the only things in life that matter are measurable.

The not-so-obvious flaw in this logic is that it fails to account for any underlying historical or sociocultural influences behind statistics. It's a narrow, archaic perspective that uses the just pursuit of "science" as a guise for bias. When specifically applied to the study of behaviorism, modernism dictates that researchers "[focus] on modifying observable behavior, rather than the thoughts and feelings" of the living being being studied. You're probably familiar with classical conditioning so I won't bore you.

Just know that the utilitarian belief that the end justifies the means allows modernist to practice questionable ethics because "things will work out in the end" (for them, mostly).

The great irony of modernism is that its virtually impossible to account for all the possible effects of an action through utilitarian-based ethics. This is primarily because our laws and social norms were created by a group of old, white men with a relatively homogenous set of values.

Take a moment with me to bask in awe of the audacity.

How much audacity does someone have to have, to assume that their values and concerns matter most to the nation at large?

Before “diversity policies” or “representation matters” campaigns, the people defining “good” and “bad” values neglected to account for unpleasant history or the sheer variety of culture represented in our proverbial melting pot… because they could; plus it made complex calculations much easier and reduced guilt.


The reality is we can no longer claim ignorance; our society is growing and changing, so should we.


Ask yourself:

How could the creators of our nation have imagined and accounted for the digital age? How might current technology and resources change our need for equitable regulation in government, business, or daily life? I digress.

In case you haven’t noticed yet:
Modernism (positivism) is HEAVILY based on Western art and science during the 16th century (read more here).

here’s the definition when you Google it:


Key Considerations


  1. What does postmodernism mean for perspective?

  2. How does postmodernism (interpretivism) affect the causes I support or the way I run my business?

  3. How might the modernist perspective we’ve been using to process information and apply meaning negatively effect sociocultural progress for Americans today?


Let’s explore


“This study translates into dollars and cents what the literacy field has known for decades: low literacy prevents millions of Americans from fully participating in our society and our economy as parents, workers and citizens,” said Robinson. “It lies at the core of multigenerational cycles of poverty, poor health, and low educational attainment, contributing to the enormous equity gap that exists in our country.”


Low Literacy Levels Among U.S. Adults Could Be Costing The Economy $2.2 Trillion A Year, Forbes

What does this mean for perspective?


Despite a history of idolizing savvy businessmen, valuing profits over people, and an apparent lack of moral conscience, the US Department of education reports that more than half of US citizens read below a six-grade level. Last September, Senior Contributor at Forbes, Mitchael T. Nietze, wrote about the silent epidemic in an article entitled Low Literacy Levels Among U.S. Adults Could Be Costing The Economy $2.2 Trillion A Year. Either we’re on the wrong path, or investment into the betterment of American people just isn’t worth it. Perspective.

Low literacy rates lead to minimal understanding. Despite having access to the greatest culmination of publicly accessible information in human history, many American’s struggle to keep track of what’s going on. This isn’t to feign superiority. It’s to highlight how many people don’t have the capacity to see where you’re coming from. There are so many varying perspectives, and most of them are riddled with cognitive dissonance and ego. When applied singularly, modernism plagues the study of behavior as an insufficient means for establishing cause and effect.


Do not fall for poorly constructed arguments designed to exclude you.
(link them to Purdue Owl instead)


It is your moral obligation to do what it takes to set an example of compassion and understanding amidst a culture that resents you for it. Speak up about long-standing social issues and confront opposing perspectives with historical evidence and the unadulterated beauty of your culture.

My postmodern approach to Consumer Behavior means that I put a great deal of effort into studying targeted communication, the interpretation of art, and individual experiences. My background in technology and analysis does not limit me to objective fact; instead, I know that there’s a story behind every statistic, and that subjective experiences color our world.

All of which is why I urge you to do your research, show up for your friends + clients, and be as authentic as possible. The benefits of REALLY listening to one another outweigh the threat of those that would have you silenced.

Keep up the good trouble. 

To my beloved creators and entrepreneurs, this means that without the power to explain themselves… without the confidence to create and share art, our would-be supporters may feel lost in an ocean of communication, without a voice.


How does postmodernism affect the causes I support or how I run my business?


t means I like to monitor trends and understand humanity, now and throughout time. I believe that we don’t put enough effort into understanding cultures outside of our own. My focus on data analytics has taught me that it’s about more than blanket logic and numbers. Remember: there’s always a story behind the numbers, so question the statistics you see, AND the logic behind why they’re significant.

In my business, I do not rely solely on numbers to influence my decision-making. Instead I strive to understand the individual values and motivations of clients and community members. Ultimately, I focus on building mutually beneficial relationships with clients and followers. My postmodern perspective in conjunction with my desire to address the overlooked or underserved needs of communities, uniquely positions me to offer a fresh POV on issues that disproportionally affect people of culture..

I read once that Marketing is Pop Culture is Marketing and I absolutely fell in love with the phrase because of it’s resemblance to another phrase I love, Art Imitates Life Imitates Art.

To me, this means that the influence marketers have on the daily lives of pop culture consumers is so significant that there isn’t a clear answer as to who influences what.

Our belief systems are a pastiche of the sociocultural circumstances we’re born into. This means that we construct our own meaning based on our unique or shared cultural experiences. There’s no way to make inclusive, well-informed decisions about consumer behavior or consistently nail marketing campaigns without acknowledging your audience’s belief system.

Consider the traumatic events of Summer 2020 and the January 6th Storming of the Capitol, which confirmed that a system refusing to account for sociocultural motivations is allowing the mounting consequences of its neglect to fester. We are more connected now than ever before in human history. We have planes, trains, and the internet. All it takes to get a taste of the sociocultural factors that influenced (and could have prevented both events) is a Twitter login. Why then aren’t we taking better advantage of qualitative data to solve problems in our businesses?

Postmodernism has taught me that placing a greater focus on the variety of human experiences clarifies complex, widespread issues. The belief that I can be apart of the postmodern paradigm shift gives me hope and encourages me to connect with others via critical blog posts such as this.


How might the perspective we’ve been using to process information and apply meaning negatively affect sociocultural progress for Americans?


Economic assumptions of rationality (rely on the outdated, relatively homogenous thinking of… you’ve guessed it! old, white men) The system they created, and that we follow today, did not and does not account for all parties participating. Issues such as the disproportionate spread of wealth, racially motivated laws and regulation, mass incarceration, and the over-valuation of certain persons/ the devaluation of others has caused citizens to turn on their neighbors.

Without the wisdom to acknowledge different perspectives (or recognize when the values of the person we’re speaking to aren’t inherently bad) we are perfectly poised to misunderstand each other.

As a coach, I always begin by asking clients what they value. If you haven’t answered that question lately, your efforts, your energy, and your business MIGHT be out of alignment. If you take nothing else away from this article, know that I want you to figure out what you value (+why) and align yourself with a lifelong goal. I digress.

Economic assumptions of rationality are a symptom of systemic racism. This is how systemic racism manages to touch every facet of our lives.

If this is a difficult concept for you to wrap your head around, consider that the creators of American Government cared a great deal about creating a sustainable quality of life for themselves and their children. The system works well, but its heavily dependent on exploiting others.

At the time, that was socially acceptable. They didn’t (and couldn’t have) understood and accounted for the far-reaching consequences.

According to Sir William Macpherson, the researcher that coined the term “institutional racism” (also known as systemic racism),


It is defined as:

“The collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behavior that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

Opposition to the validity of systemic racism most often comes from people that just want to maintain their quality of life. They do not always understand “butterfly effect” type consequences, or even know enough black history to re-derive the conclusions of those hurting.

As I’ve mentioned, the modernist viewpoint doesn’t account for sociocultural influences. Naturally, systems created by modernist do not reward participants for cultural variety.

It doesn’t stop with black history though,


  • Go back to Mexico/Africa
  • Speak American
  • People from X culture are “Thugs/Gangsters”
  • Irish need not apply
  • Executive Order 9066 (Anti-Japanese)
  • Anti-Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh sentiment
  • Antisemitism
  • Mass Incarceration
  • Yellow Peril
  • China Virus
  • Eskimo vs Inuit
  • Indian vs Indigenous person (there are already Indian people!)


When we allow one group of people to define and describe social norms and American patriotism almost exclusively, then pass the benefits onto their children for HUNDREDS OF YEARS, the consequences add up.

According to my own husband, hearing stories about lesser-known bombings or brutal murders for the first time can be gut-wrenching.

Whether you’re a researcher, business owner, or a growth-oriented decision maker, it’s important that we have both compassion for one another, and a desire to pursue the greater good.


In summation, all the meaning in your life is assigned by you

Some of us need help assigning meaning, and that’s okay.
Others assign meeting to familiar situations in dramatically different ways, and that’s okay too.

What’s not okay is refusing to update our perspective to reflect inclusivity and subjectivity. Choosing not to do so pours toxins into our research and corrupts our value systems.

You’ll recall that we made three key considerations while defining postmodernism relative to modernism.


  1. What does postmodernism mean for perspective?

  2. How does postmodernism (interpretivism) affect the causes I support or the way I run my business?

  3. How might the modernist perspective we’ve been using to process information and apply meaning negatively affect sociocultural progress for Americans today?


We learned that in adopting a postmodern perspective for research and analysis, we stand to yield better results, define + solve problems more efficiently, and satisfy client concerns more effectively. The power to affect change belongs to the informed consumer that decides to take a stand and the brave activist that decides to use their voice to address issues that matter to them.

The future of digital marketing, however, belongs to supportive communities and business owners maximizing collaborations and prioritizing quality output over numbers games or competition.

If this resonates with you then who knows… maybe working with a multi-passionate Digital Marketer, Data Analyst, and Postmodern Consumer Behaviorist like Sabrina Whittaker is EXACTLY what you need to improve the quality of your communicative efforts, in life and in business!