As technology of the Information Age continues to advance, modern-day innovations have the possibility of being manipulated to both “create insights” and “facilitate cooperative work between people,” or to “amplify human misery” when people sacrifice their freedom to the government and become “dependent on complex technologies that they don’t comprehend.” In simpler words, these two platforms can be defined as utopian and dystopian.
On one hand, a utopian perspective ultimately exaggerates the benefits and desires of social changes, as the use of “specific technologies play a key role in shaping a utopian social vision.” Although forms of mediated communication change from one generation to the next, a utopian standpoint assumes that the adoption of mediated communication will always be synchronized and thriving. Thus, by allowing technological access to all will guarantee an optimistic life for all members of society.
Images of what department stores are thought to look like in the future.
On the other hand, a dystopian or anti-utopianism perspective examines the possibilities of computerized systems for coercion, while others emphasize alienation. Dystopians disagree with electronic technology for a variety of reasons—withdrawal from social interaction, diminished long-term relationships and overreliance on the Internet as a primary source of information are only a few anti-utopianism motivations for limiting the use of new technology.
Immediately after entering Spain, or ultimately any European country, a Zara clothing store can be found on virtually every corner. In fact, there are approximately 1,120 shops in Europe, 449 being in Spain. Founding chairman Amancio Ortega, who keeps an extremely low profile and is rarely photographed, opened his first Zara store with his wife Rosalía in 1975. In fact, last August, Inditex, Zara’s parent company, reached a valuation of €100 billion for the first time in its 30-year history. Of the eight brands housed under Inditex, Zara is the flagship and, as of December 2014, represented 66 percent of total sales.
After further researching Zara’s corporate philosophy and approaches compared to traditional retailers, I believe this clothing company reflects a utopian perspective on technology. Just from the optimistic and environmentally advanced words used in their mission statement such as, “eco-friendly,” “energy-saving,” and “environmentally aware,” it is clear Zara views mediated social possibilities as a positive advancement, catering to its customers to provide the best shopping experience possible. As Kling explains in his writing, a utopian vision normally serves significant roles in “giving people a positive sense of direction” (Kling, 42). Zara’s corporate philosophy does just this by stating that, “[our] commitment extends to all our staff and increasing awareness among our team members.” This norm primarily focuses on individual experience and a clear, simple store face that can be comprehended by all. Zara also promises to transport products as sustainably as possible by using biodiesel fuel, along with using ecological fabric and organic cotton to create each individual garment.
Another reason supporting the company’s utopianism is its democratic approach. Rob Kling states “the goal of participants in these civic networks is to make information flows more democratic.” Likewise, Zara attributes its success to their quick response to consumer trends, embracing the fast-paced world of fashion crazes. In order to accomplish this, Zara has established an extremely effective supply chain that enables new deliveries of fashion as soon as a fad emerges. In terms of businesses strategies and brand awareness, it is likely that as the output of information by independent writers and bloggers continue to increase—with the growth of communication technologies in the past decade, Zara will have the ability to produce and deliver quicker than ever before. This eventual transition will minimize the purchases of magazines and newspapers, and instead, influence people to rely on the ideas of others.
Another one of the most important things that Zara has accomplished is perfecting online shopping, directly leading its audience into a utopia of “integrating new databases” and exploring new wardrobe necessities and accessories. Kling explains these improvements in precise words, writing, “the cost and complexity of advanced computing systems tend to give special advantage to already powerful groups in shaping their use, and in turning them to the further advancement of group interests,” (Kling, 28). Because new stock drops twice a week on Mondays and Thursday (the same as in-store), if you don’t live near a Zara you still receive the same benefits as an in-store customer would. Additionally it offers an ‘in-store availability’ function, which allows for fast and free delivery on orders over €50 to either your home address or a Zara store of your choice. If something is out of stock, the system offers an email alert system that informs the customer as soon as the product he/she desires becomes available again. These details highlight Zara’s utopian-centered values, as the company continues to expand opportunity for information and push the limits of existing technology.
Lastly, Zara’s overall corporate philosophy proves to possess a utopian quality in that it enables wide-reaching communication to and from computers all over the world. In Kling’s piece, he goes on to express his optimism regarding technological development, explaining that the need for information crosses all borders.” Although Zara originated in Arteixo, a small town in northern Spain, the business’s mission is to “facilitate access to information for the entire world, and in every language.” The company successfully supports this key value by offering a search interface in dozens of different languages, hundreds of Internet domains, stores in numerous countries, as well as creating translation tools and a variety of formats for universal convenience.
All in all, Kling describes technological utopianism as, “the assumption that a society that adopts the proper technologies will be harmonious and prosperous remains constant” (Kling, 42). It is evident that Zara’s corporate philosophy would seamlessly fit under Kling’s definition, as the company uses software to solely focus on each individual user to provide high-quality searches and additional applications to expand modern conveniences. Zara’s “constant dissatisfaction with the way things are” serves as an incentive to continue finding new ways to make a difference in the technological world, therefore demonstrating utopianism in all ten facets of their corporate philosophy.
Zara Overview Video:
Zara Employee Interview:
Kling, Rob. “Learning About Information Technologies and Social Change: The Contribution of Social Informatics.” (2000): n. pag. Center for Social Informatics, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Web. Mar. 2016.