All posts tagged with 'activism'
11. a.m., Saturday, April 16, room 715 | Faculty respondent: Dean David Scobey
Added Value: Signs and Symptoms of HIV/AIDS Awareness and Activism
This paper argues that the commodification of HIV/AIDS awareness and activism in the product (RED) brand relies on unstable branding logic that operates as a sign value without a material basis. Activism around HIV/AIDS has evolved since the disease was first diagnosed in the early 1980s, and the business community has increasingly taken on the AIDS crisis within the framework of “cause marketing,” using diverse promotional strategies. The paper provides a preliminary sketch of the cultural history surrounding branded HIV/AIDs awareness in the fashion domain as context for its discussion of product (RED). It then argues that the increasing commodification of HIV/AIDS activism currently seen in product (RED)’s advertising has culminated in a “meta-brand,” in which (RED)’s sign value of compassionate consumerism obscures the material reality of the AIDS crisis. Goldman and Papson (2006) argue that capitalism is increasingly branded with qualities of care and benevolence, producing a sign value that informs the advertising and promotional activities of corporate brands and banks. Following Goldman and Papson, this paper suggests that (RED) likewise signifies care and compassion around HIV/AIDS of HIV/AIDS activism through a “meta-brand” strategy. Utilizing their model, this paper demonstrates that the (RED) brand’s sign value is precarious and bears little relation to the material reality of the cause it is marketing. It subsequently becomes unstable and prone to a crisis in its identity, undermining its purpose as an activist mechanism.
Brand Yourself: Freelance Writers, Social Media, and the Discourse of Self-Promotion
Due to shifts in corporate workplace structure and the rapid development and proliferation of new media technologies and modes of communication, the process of finding work and shaping one’s career is different now than it was even a decade or two ago. At the same time, late capitalist society has witnessed what Norman Fairclough calls “the colonization of discourse by promotion”: that is, the saturation of public dialogue by promotional speech typical of consumer culture, even in the most informal social exchanges. One striking example can be seen through the “microblogging” website Twitter.com, which, in its relatively short life span, has become an object of interest for business gurus and marketing experts who have built a cottage industry around how to use the site for “personal branding” – the crafting of one’s online persona for social and/or economic gain. Drawing from discourse analysis practices and informed by Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of social capital, this paper explores self-promotional discourse and “brand-building” through interviews with a group of people for whom networking and personal brand cultivation is of particular importance: freelance writers and editors. The following questions are raised: How have we internalized the discourse of personal branding? How do our professional and personal lives blur together online (and off)? And what are the subjective implications for a culture in which even a seemingly casual online exchange carries the performative overtones of “always be closing”
Who is Responsible? Liberty Mutual’s Construction of a Faux Public Sphere
The strategically crafted practices a company disseminates regarding its “corporate social responsibility” has become a popular industry buzzword referred to as cause-related marketing (CRM). Though CRM measures are overt, advertisers are considered cultural mediators of an affect industry pioneering creative methods to reach and move consumers towards consumption.
Recently, there has been a mounting trend to articulate social contributions through interactive forms of online advertising, which are less easily distinguishable. New media CRM mediations, I argue, are complex cultural sites of veiled corporate objectives and mixed consumer interactions.
As existing companies shift gears in their public portrayal of social consciousness, the aim of my project is to gain a richer understanding of the conflation between consumerism and citizenship. One such commercial space that presents the ideological tensions of corporate responsibility may be studied within Liberty Mutual’s The Responsibility Project website (www.thereponsibilityproject.com). After receiving tremendous positive feedback after a television ad campaign tagged “Doing the right thing,” the insurance company announced its commitment to this upright moral principle by developing a website specifically dedicated to nurturing conversations of civic responsibility. Forging partnerships with other “responsible” enterprising organizations such as NBC, the website features a library of celebrity films, a blog, and stories for all users to engage in discussions regarding ethically challenging situations. This paper is focused on tracing the collective value grafted within this social media ad that assigns the affective prospect of social change to consumption. From a critical cultural studies perspective, I offer the concept of a faux-“public sphere” to analyze the discursive strategies of Liberty Mutual within this interactive advertisement (Habermas, 1989). Here, textual analysis of the Responsibility Project website offers a unique optic to examine mechanics of Liberty Mutual’s posturing of citizenship. Finally, analyzing the user-posted comments offer a rich understanding of the shifts in consumer culture and the interactions within the faux-public sphere.
Traveling at the Speed of Light: QR Codes
The small dark lined bars appearing on products and/or price tags employed for retail inventory purposes have graduated from practical non-human clerical activities to 21st century social networking, product enhancement and consumer activity. Advertisers have been co-opting codes as a tool to capture the imagination of the public by creating a direct link to product information and/or activities. These creative elements enhance the item’s visibility and desirable factors by offering up lush visual interactive digital material. Employed largely as an element within marketing campaigns, the “QR” code(s) (Quick Response) allow the user to travel to an alternate universe, creating a time and space shift through mobile application and device. Individuals have the ability to receive and act upon geo tagged consumer offers, DNA ancestry portraits and a bevy of entertainment options from landing on a micro website to viewing holiday films. Just as 20th century travel was explored and institutionalized by automobiles, trains, planes and spacecraft, 21st century journey has arrived through the reconstruction of time and space by traveling within mobile technology. The exploration of this growing phenomenon is examined through diverse examples of QR codes and digital imaging that illustrate a connection to 19th and 20th century communication practices and outlets, the cultural shift of human to non-human interaction and results of those findings.
Supplementary materials: Vanity Fair/GQ advertising spread for Broadway Empire | Critical Themes Conference participants who wish to download a mobile QR code reader may visit the I-nigma reader application website or visit the app store on your mobile phone and request I-Nigma. It is a free installation.
1:30 p.m., Saturday, April 16, room 701 | Faculty respondent: Dominic Pettman
The Politics of Being Political in the Digital Age
The discussion about the relationship between increasing use of new technologies and political engagement has recently shifted to a new level thanks to the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt against authoritarian governments, Wikileaks’s launch of diplomatic cables and following DDoS attacks by Anonymous. Joined by academics, journalists, and policymakers, one group argues that the Internet and other new technologies enhance citizen participation and promote being political while the other group points out that less and less people are engaged in actual politics at local and national levels. What is not clear in this discussion is the definition of ‘being political’. In the midst of Twitter revolutions, DDoS attacks or Wikileaks cables how are ‘being political’ and its online practice defined? This paper attempts to seek the definition of being political in digital age through analyzing the debate on ‘Twitter revolution’ that was initiated by one of Malcolm Gladwell’s articles, published in the NewYorker last year. The common agreement in that debate seems that being political refers to the citizens’ capacity to participate in a liberal democracy. However this participation is mostly clickable (momentary) and portrayed as it should serve dramatic purposes or promote a cause/an idea. In that respect, being political in digital age shows similarities with the dynamics of a mediated (neo)liberal democracy and its conceptualization on the media hinders the bigger challenge of creating a progressive collective political identity that should continuously engage in critical deliberation and be taken into account in political governance.
Supplementary materials: “Small Change,” Malcolm Gladwell
Censorship in the Age of WikiLeaks: Identifying a New Propaganda Model
Censorship of information is not a new or recent concept, but the means by which governments, private corporations, and institutions stifle thoughts and ideas in the general public consciousness are constantly evolving.
Prior to the transition of the internet as a primary medium for news and entertainment, print and broadcast media in the West were subjected to self-imposed commercial filters, as outlined by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. This seminal work in media studies identified the “propaganda model,” through which media coverage and interests were viewed for over a decade.
The advent of the internet has changed this model, and has circumvented many, if not all, of the filters Herman and Chomsky outlined. Yet, as other theorists have observed, new forms of internet censorship are emerging as quickly as previous ones are extinguished. State-sponsored restrictions to free speech have been modernized in countries like China, Moldova, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates, while corporate censorship of the mass media continues to flourish, as has become evident in Amazon and PayPal’s compliance in the attempts to shut down WikiLeaks. Thus, the future restrictions to free speech are looking increasingly similar to those of the past.
Toward this end, my goals in this paper are to 1) explore different cases of telecommunications censorship; 2) identify the trends underlying this censorship; and 3) outline the philosophical and political implications.
Incendiary Tweets: From Liberal Democracy to Anarchy in the U.K.
In Understanding Media theorist Marshal McLuhan, following political philosopher Alexis De Tocqueville, alleged that England has never had a revolution because, unlike the United States and France, the country had never shaken off its reliance on oral culture and tradition; print and visual media never had quite the disruptive effect it had on other nations. Has a proliferation of new media has threatened to drastically undermine traditional power structures at the start of a new decade? When the Liberal Democrats were forced by their Conservative partners in the ruling coalition into imposing Austerity measures this past Fall, the response was spectacular. A proposed tripling of tuition costs, combined with an 80% cut in funding for Universities and an elimination of benefits for high school students, brought tens of thousands into the streets of London. Social Media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allowed vast crowds to form, spread news of university occupations and allowed, through the #UKUNCUT network, roving blockades of some of the country’s biggest retail brands. Yet this was an uprising sparked by a distinct social scenario, not new technologies. This paper will attempt to argue that social movements both define and develop new media, while sparking rapid changes in old media.
Andrea Benoit is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. Her research interests include advertising, consumer culture, media literacy and activism, and converge around the commodification of social causes. Andrea’s PhD dissertation is about the intersection of branded consumer goods and HIV/AIDS awareness and activism. She did her BA and MA in English at the University of Toronto. After taking time out to raise her family, Andrea returned to academia and graduated in 2009 from the Joint Graduate Program in Communication and Culture at York/Ryerson Universities. Her Major Research Paper for the MA investigated consumer responses to media activism within the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Andrea’s professional experience includes a stint in Relationship Marketing at telecommunications firm British Telecom (BT) in London, England. She also worked in the Strategic Growth department of the New York-based investment firm D.E. Shaw & Co., doing on-campus recruiting in both the New York and London offices.