Sontag and a journal article.
*Semester Project – Creating Your Own Media: A Cultural Intervention
2-parts: Midterm and Final
Based on the discussions and projects presented in class and on the blog, please create a short piece of media which focuses on a social (or political) issue to specifically address the role of media, technology, audience, owners and media makers. Ultimately your project should 1) Be publically visible. Provide clear criticism of a specific narrative or aspect of popular culture 3) encourage its audience to shift their perspective and take social action. These will be published to the class blog and presented in class.
The assignment can take many forms: Essay with embedded images. Video- music, documentary, performance, Researched article or extensive slideshow with captions or narration (think NYTimes), Magazine/Zine, Interactive Web Project/Site
*You must create a post on the blog for your final project. This will include a link to your project, a summary and explanation, images and or videos. You will present using/from your post – this will be much easier. ALL projects must be posted to the class blog and resource lists and summaries printed and handed in to me. Projects in print such as: papers, zines etc must be physically handed in to me. I have invited guests to attend our final presentations.
Please be prepared to present your projects to the class in approximately 5-7 minute presentations. Visuals are a must. Feel free to bring physical props and handouts if appropriate.
**You must create a POST for your final project – a link to your project, a summary, images and or videos. You will present using/from your post – this will be much easier.
ALL projects are due on the blog and resource lists and sumaries handed in to me. Print projects, papers, zines etc must be physically handed in to me.
You can find the link to the reading here
Femininity & Masculinity
Our presentation is going to be about gender and the culture of femininity and masculinity. We will be talking about Susan Douglas’s Where the Girls Are, The Oppositional Gaze by bell hooks , John Berger’s Ways of Seeing , Judith Butler’s Performative Acts and Gender Construction and bell hooks Understanding Patriarchy and Feminist Manhood. We will be deconstructing the meaning behind each of the readings.
By Rodrigo Valencia
Everyday, the first thing that we do when we wake up is open our eyes. This is done by instinct, as it is one of the 5 senses that all of us humans have that’s like no other. Being able to see is probably the greatest gift that we all possess, since it is due to our sight that we are allowed to discover, learn, appreciate what we have and get to whatever point we want to get in life. For the past few weeks, in this class we have been in full use of our sight that’s highly necessary in this pedagogy of the image. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary pedagogy is “the art, science, or profession of teaching,” and in this class we have been specifically focusing on the ways of looking at certain images and how to interpret them.
In a world where technology constantly undergoes upgrades and new forms of social networking gets introduced to society it is impossible not to get influenced by it. This millennium has so far witnessed people of all ages being fully involved in cultural activities regarding the proliferation of images, ideas and trends that have been greatly influenced by mass media. In other words, pop culture has penetrated the minds of average citizens who have basically adapted to live under certain norms that have developed as the use of technology devices has increased. In its entirety, what society has been experiencing for the past few decades as a result of mass media and constant modernization is a spectacle. According to Guy Debord who first introduced this theory in 1967 in his book The Society of The Spectacle, “Understood in its totality, the spectacle is both the result and the project of the present mode of production. It is not a mere supplement or decoration added to the real world, it is the very heart of this real society’s unreality. In all of its particular manifestations — news, propaganda, advertising, entertainment — the spectacle is the model of the prevailing way of life.” This combination of social ways of spreading information, news, products and just about anything, has gradually transformed this society into the type that bases everything through representation instead of direct experience as it was the case in the past.
Hegemony has always been present in a society where the categorization of the masses is a way in which everything is structuralized. Used as a general term, hegemony is defined as, “the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.” In terms of mass media and the spectacle, this word takes pretty much the same stance when it is used to define the distribution of power exerted by these corporations that survive with the use of mass media. The way media is used by these companies also represents their amount of power in the industry and to what extent they are dominating society. Through the many methods of spreading media, such as advertising, different groups make a statement of how powerful they are. When effective methods of marketing are displayed by companies, there is always an effect on society. Power
is reflected through imagery and the way media makers decide to convey their message.
Everyday, we are all bombarded with advertisement and there is almost no way of preventing it, wherever you go ads present themselves in all types of forms. Throughout time companies have developed ads that appeal to our senses making them powerful and very influential. This is when representation comes into play which according to Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, authors of Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, refers to “the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us” Rather than viewing media representation as an imitation of reality, we see it as something completely original and credible. This is a negative aspect of the spectacle, since mass media typically depicts different elements of society in a fictitious form that we then try to mimic unaware that it is all a fantasy.
Go on google and type in “Kanye West and Kim Kardashian” or better yet “Jay-Z and Beyonce.” Automatically the first thing you see is images of them being portrayed as the perfect couples, which is all a media representation.
The media pictures them as kings and queens which ultimately tricks the average citizen to think that whatever they wear, say or in general do is socially acceptable. These depictions of the two couples have made them perhaps the most popular as well as rich. With net worths that go beyond the hundreds of millions, they have all become part of this consumerist society. Not only are they consumers of even bigger brands, but they have also created a brand of themselves to sell to the general public who are the major consumers. Nowadays, everyone is so materialistic that they make it seem like it is basically a competition of who has the best clothes and items. By continuously buying products that are not needed and are only acquired to recreate styles that celebrities have put out there, people display a certain type of superiority that’s completely created by the spectacle.
With advertisement displaying images that makes people consume or believe in something, a case of sexism joins the discussion as an influential topic thats fueled by media representation. We constantly come across ads or videos that depict women in very little clothing which in a way does get a bigger audience, but it also sexually objectifies women. For instance, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” videoclip is the perfect example of sexism being part of media. In this video three young women are displayed basically as sexual objects, with the three artist (Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I.) controlling them and singing the explicit lyrics that directly state that these females are objects. Another important term, the gaze, plays a big role in this act of sexism involving images. Used in general terms, the gaze is how an audience views what’s presented and in this case with sexism it is all about how males look at females that are presented as objects in images. In ads, how men look at women right into the eye and get a sense of command is why females are the ideal tool to sell a product for many companies. They are the object that’s being sold, males buy the product and they get the type of girl that they want (usually like the ones on the ad), and it also works the same way with females, they buy the product and they get the men that they want. This is really how the whole spectacle is summarized, through images that do not only represent what they literally display but they also have different meanings that are only revealed with extensive analysis.
In this day and age people love spectacles. They can be loud and obnoxious or quiet and very shiny. Regardless, spectacles grab the attention of the people even if it is for small moment in time. In the simplest sense, a spectacle is an image. Theses images are representations of people’s lives and experiences. Representations alone do not tell the story, but Debord seems to believe that people accept the spectacle to tell their stories rather than engage in actual social experiences. The Society of a Spectacle is a society in which people have allowed themselves to be ruled by packages of images and cultural snippets to represent their lives rather than going out and experiencing it themselves.
Debord explains that the spectacle “consists of taking up all that existed in human activity in a fluid state so as to possess it in a congealed state as things which have become the exclusive value by their formulation in negative of lived value, we recognize our old enemy, the commodity, who knows so well how to seem at first glance something trivial and obvious, while on the contrary it is so complex and so full of metaphysical subtleties” (Debord Chapter 2,).
Power is easily associated with the large corp[orations trying to exert their force over the masses. Power, however, can be rather beneficial as it also lies in the hands of the people because technological advancements provide them with a cheap and easy means to battle control. In addition, people have the power to dictate how they’d like to be represented. Instagram is an interesting application because it allows people to literally capture moments they deem ideal for the message they’re trying to present and actually package it into a convenient file that be instantly be shared with millions of other users.
People have likened social media interactions with what it means in their actual lives. For example, Jimmy posted a status on his Facebook profile. Jimmy waits. Several hours later, Jimmy returns to his Facebook to see that over 11 people have “liked” his status. Jimmy now feels like he’s the man of the hour. It is seen on numerous occasions where people give others online incentives to follow each other’s profiles. What used to be hour long conversations on the phone with peers is now less than half a minute conversations between text messages and other social media applications.
It is 2014 and society has made quite the number of scientific and technological advancements, but for some reason it is being said that people are becoming lazier and dumber. In theory, advancement is supposed to uplift the people,make them stronger. With these new devices such as smart phones and Google Glasses, people seem to have a more of an interest in living vicariously through them more than anything.
The commodity is only as valuable as people make it out to be. Society has a chance, albeit slim, to take control and devalue it, if that’s what it wants. The scary part is that society doesn’t know. The late Steve Jobs once said that, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” It’s aright for people to enjoy the technological advancements, but they must be able to distinguish between what is on their screen and what actually see in front of them.
If you want to look as good as Rhianna, you need to buy her MAC makeup line. This is what advertisements tell us. You wear the makeup but you still do not match up to how she appears. What you are not being told is that you need a personal trainer, stylist, hair and makeup artist, and a good photographer with excellent photo shop skills to actually look like her.
The power of media to control our thoughts and ideas on what we want to look like and what we want to own is incredibly strong. What is most unsettling about this is the fact that most people are unconscious to the media’s effect on what we expect from ourselves. Women want to be respected and taken seriously, but how can that happen when the covers of magazines and television…anywhere the media has a hold, shows us “flawless” women we aspire to be. They must be what is socially acceptable. Many of these women are shown wearing next to nothing, or posing in sexual manners. This encourages sexism… if women want to be like the media portrays, who is to say that men will not have the same expectations of them?
The cover of Cosmopolitan can be easily taken apart. Jessica Alba, beautifully retouched and perfectly disproportionate, lifts her dress and gazes at the viewer with an “I want you” stare. There are different ways of seeing this and it is all in the eye of the beholder. Some may say she appears more playful or innocent, shy and insecure. But the body language ultimately speaks for itself.
Plastered over the cover are the bold words “SEX” and “HIS #1 Fantasy”. This is a way that hegemony is put into play. Anyone who walks past this magazine, male or female, is being told that men must be pleased especially sexually. Since Jessica Alba is on the cover, it must be true. She looks like the epitome of perfection. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to achieve such status.
Pop culture is a large culprit in consumerism and the want to have the newest, best, and most highly coveted looks and items. If a celebrity has a new designer hand bag you too can look just as good as her by sporting the same item across your boney arm.
The representation of humans in the media is skewed in order to overpower and control the consumers into believing they must achieve a certain standard. In order to do so, they must obtain certain things and usually these are far from obtainable for the average person.
Chinwe A. Onuoha
Imagery and Culture
February 19, 2014
The images that we see around us are generated by people’s perception of what is popular or ‘high in demand.’ In the media, women are overly sexualized and men are revered as the Alpha and the Omega. Despite the fact that images are perceived differently depending on whose looking at them, people are fixated on being current and in style because of the fascination that advertisements offer. As a result people work for materialistic things that they do not need.
In chapter two of “Practices of Looking” the author wrote that “advertisers, for example, conduct audience research to try to ensure that the meanings they want to convey about a particular product are the ones viewers will interpret in the product’s advertisements. Artists, graphic designers, filmmakers and other image producers create advertisements and many other images with the intent that we read them in a certain way.”
For example, there is an advertisement on Ralph Lauren’s “Big Pony Collection.” In the advertisement there is a white man sitting with his dog. The man is wearing a green Ralph Lauren polo, smiling at his dog, whose holding a napkin that has an equestrian on it. They also seem to be at a brunch. The tables are filled with bouquets of flowers, the tables are set with the right plates and cutleries, and the man’s glass is filled with champagne. This advertisement gives the impression that people who wear Ralph Lauren’s polo’s are living beyond what we could ever imagine.
Representation plays a huge role in advertisements. Regardless of what that advertisement may be, “it offers a description or a portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.” With that said, the Ralph Lauren ad represents prestige, wealth, happiness, health, power, and an ‘up town and never down town’ sort of mentality. When regular, working class people look at that ad they are fixated on the fact that by wearing that polo they have reached that white man’s level of prestige. When wealthy people look at the ad the standard of their living conditions are solidified and envied by others, which would make people want to buy Ralph Lauren’s polo even more. This instance serves as an example of “the gaze” (an idea of how an audience interprets the people that are presented).
The author of “Practices of Looking” also wrote that “an image “speaks” to specific sets of viewers who happen to be tuned in to some aspect of the image, such as style, content, the world it constructs, or the issues it raises.”An image can also be an object (“a thing you can see or touch that is not alive”). For example, if someone were to open a history book and see a picture of indigenous people, such as Black slaves, they are usually depicted in a negative light. You wouldn’t see a slave smiling hand in hand with their white master or a Native American working side by side with their oppressors.
Most likely there would be a clear disproportionate representation of them. In reality, Black slaves would do some sort of hard labor while their master stands above them. If a person were to see such an illustration in numerous books or on television, they would begin to form the idea that white people, due to hegemony (“a state or condition of a culture arrived at through negotiation or struggle over meanings, laws, and social relationships”), are powerful and that Black people aren’t. In order for advertisers to keep that power exclusive to Whites, for instance, one must influence the ‘crowd’ or the masses into believing this ideology that their creating. Once this continues we will see such spectacles in popular culture (commercialized interests of what the masses share), the media, and in government and politics.
For example, in Lucy R. Lippard’s “Doubletake: The Diary of a Relationship with an Image” she wrote that “our communal “memory” of Native people on this continent has been projected through the above-mentioned “stoic”, wary, pained, resigned, belligerent and occasionally pathetic faces “shot” by nineteenth and early twentieth-century photographers like Edward Curtis, Edward Vromen, and Roland W. Reed –all men.”Not only does that arouse the topic of sexism, but Black slaves are perceived in the same negative light. As a result, the images that we see serve as a fixed pedagogical (a method of teaching) form of learning, which drives a set perception of indigenous people or places. Furthermore, this will be a forced ‘ways of looking.’
For example when a foreigner thinks of America they imagine a paradise that’s filled with a lot of opportunities. They assume that America is a place where money falls of trees. But, once they get here, they are introduced to something called reality. After some time they begin to understand that in order to make it, they have to work hard. The same instance is true for Americans who believe that the commercials of the Caribbean islands that they see are one hundred percent true. But, in reality, they aren’t. There are many places in Jamaica that probably don’t have clear, blue waters and beautiful houses. But, of course, Americans believe these spectacles (commodities) and work tirelessly to get them in the pursuit of fitting a certain class of people.
In fact, that notion gives consumers the desire to consume more than what they need and of course advertisement is the cause of that. In John Berger’s “The Way of Looking,” he wrote that “publicity I usually explained and justifies as a competitive medium which ultimately benefits the public and the most efficient manufactures –and thus the national economy.”That example proves how influential the spectacle is in our lives. Even in “The Era of Crowds,” the author stated that “while all our ancient beliefs are tottering and disappearing, while the old pillars of society are giving way one by one, the power of the crowd is the only force that nothing menaces, and of which the prestige is continually on the increase. The age we are about to enter will in truth be the Era OF CROWDS.”All in all, the author of this essay is saying that regardless of what your beliefs are, soon they will feather away because whatever is popular or in high demand now will prevail and consume the masses.
In conclusion, “times have changed and the world comes to us in different ways Narrative has leaped from the page to the screen, music demands to be seen as well as heard, computers have jumbled our relationship to information, surveillance, and money, and television has merely changed everything. Now things feel like they’re moving really fact, leaving us with the attention spans of kitties riveted by mouse-like movements. With the blink of a blind eye, we are soaked in sales pitches and infotainments that make history when they do business.”
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Viking, 1973: 46.
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing: 54.
Debord, Guy. “Chapter 1 Section 4.” Society of the Spectacle. Detroit: Black and Red, 1977.
Krueger, Barbara. “Arts and Leisure.” Remote Control. N.p.: n.p., 1993. 1989
Lippard, Lucy. “Doubletake: The Diary of a Relationship with an Image.” (1996): 82. Rpt. In The Photography Reader.
Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: 45.
Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: 45.