Author Archives: jori

The iconic branding of CHE

In Che’s Afterlife, Casey explores what has now become the brand of Che. The book outlines the ironic legacy of Che – a Marxist revolutionary who was completely against the commodity fetishization of capitalism – has become a cultural product made popular through the very channels of capitalism that Che sought to obliterate. Che, as the guerilla revolutionary, sought change through an armed revolution (much like how Fanon said that violence is necessary to achieve revolutionary ends.) However, many groups now use the iconic Korda image of Che to brand their revolutionary aims in posters, t-shirts, sweatbands, tattoos, and more. These new groups use the idea or ideal of Che as a way to gather support, yet the progress of these groups stops short of actual change. By hiding behind the branding of Che, these groups prove that ideas and ideals that may bring people together but will not bring about structural change; a brand cannot replace direct action.

Casey also explores the commodity tourism that the brand of Che has created. The powerful image broadcast globally is stripped from any photographic roots and replaced with an artistic illusive style; this has created a fetishization that brings travelers to South America to experience the life of Che. It is completely ironic that the legacy of Che is creating a market that many have exploited for profit. The tourists that buy into this market are not interested in the revolutionary ideas of Che but are instead drawn to the revolutionary spirit, which has inspired an eternal celebrity that lives through a youthful and sexy image. Casey compares the Che image to the iconic Marilyn Monroe picture and says that the Monroe picture is the only other image worldwide that has gained similar popularity. However Casey points to the fact that the Che image has achieved further global reach, appropriated by subcultures everywhere to stand for anything they wish. Casey tells us that, “The photos borrowed some of the sex appeal of pre-revolutionary Cuba and planted it in the framework of what many assumed would be a politically liberating new era. They turned Castro’s revolution into a top-selling cultural ‘product,’ an international brand” (88). This is completely contrary to the idea of the “new individual” that Che tried to emulate, “A New Man concerned not with material possessions but with ‘inner wealth’ and driven by a ‘love for humanity’… Utopia lay in the denial of desire” (60). Society today instead turned into a global culture motivated by our capitalist desires and a love for commodities. Che may originally embody ideals of the “new individual” but we have appropriated him to become a desirable commodity, one that can be used within our capitalist framework, appropriated by the youth who feel rebellious associating with the image, but would never want to leave the comforts of their material possessions.

Gender and Fandom

I really enjoyed Jenkins section on “Emotional Realism and Gendered Readers.” He defines emotional realism through Ien Ang as way to describe how viewers relate to the situations in television shows as “symbolic representations of more general living experiences.” The ways that viewers can emotionally invest in television shows, especially when they feel they have created an emotional attachment to a certain character, points to an increase in television fandom.

Jenkins discusses how emotional realism can be applied to gendered readings of a text. Women engaged with the text (television show) emotionally, investing in the relationships, while the men focused more on the writing of the story and external structure of the narrative. The example of Star Trek and Twin Peaks was used to show how women identified with the character development of ST while the male viewers of TP used the Internet to discuss the overall mystery of the murder on the show. Jenkins also points out that the female fans used a discussion of the show to fuel a gossip session where they related events in the show to their own lives; this type of discussion was completely absent from the male dominated message boards on the internet.

I was interested in how Jenkins took this discussion further to analyze how women have a more nuanced readings of texts because they are forced to circumnavigate a predominantly male driven field. Female viewers dissect the character development of shows so that they can rewrite the shows in some way that can serve their own entertainment interests. This was also applied to the ways that women will watch male gendered shows with other male viewers, such as cop shows, action movies, and science fiction shows, and be able rewrite the show in a way that gives them pleasure. By contrast, men rarely do this with female gendered shows such as soap operas and melodramas. Therefore, although the production of television may be male dominated, women have found ways to empower themselves as viewers by learning nuanced viewing techniques, which give them ability to re-appropriate texts in a way that is not seen with the male population. Males are taught to just de-value the female centered shows. Jenkins acknowledges that this only harms both populations. He quotes Segal and says, “Every trespass onto masculine fiction terrain by girls must have reinforced the awareness of their own inferiority in society’s view.”

This discussion goes back to the ways that from birth we are put into specific gender roles, brought on by gender stereotypes that are embedded into childhood rearing practices. I am not sure what Jenkins would advocate. Would he want to see more shows with gender neutrality? Or a balance of shows offered to each gender? Does marketing to a specific gender only reinforce gender stereotypes instead of opening up a discussion of gender? Or, does only focusing on gender neutral shows leave out issues that might appeal to one sex or the other?

Chick flicks that secretely hate women.

I came across this website that was funny commentary about chick flicks and how the movies “hate” women.

http://www.cracked.com/article/194_7-popular-chick-flicks-that-secretly-hate-women/

The “WHY” behind melodrama

I was reading this article for another class, “Melodramatic Identifications” by Ien Ang who is a media studies scholar who did a similar study that Radway did but with women and their viewing of Soap Operas. Anyways, I think these two quotes especially related to our conversation in class today.

162- “fictional characters…cannot be conceptualized as realistic images of women, but as textual constructions of possible modes of femininity: as embodying versions of gendered subjectivity endowed with specific forms of psychical and emotional satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and specific ways of dealing with conflicts and dilemmas. In relation to this, they do not function as role models but are symbolic realizations of feminine subject positions with which viewers identify in fantasy.”

and

164- “the social display of forms of traditional femininity – dependence, passivity, submissiveness – can have quite detrimental and self-destructive consequences for women when strength, independence, or decisiveness are called for. In fantasy and fiction, however, there is no punishment for whatever identity one takes up, no matter how headstrong or destructive: there will be no retribution, no defeat will ensue. Fantasy and fiction then, are the safe spaces of excess in the interstices of ordered social life where one has to keep oneself strategically under control.”

I think Ang’s analysis of melodrama is interesting because many people who have studied feminist theory/race theory still enjoy media that portrays characters with blatant stereotypes that those same viewers are working to expose. By separating reality and fantasy, Ang allows us to explore this pleasure in a different way, maybe in a way that is not problematic from the start. Or maybe I am just trying to justify my own consumption of melodramatic media…

Articulating why we like what we know we shouldn’t like…

Reading The Romance begins with a heavy and complicated question that Janice A. Radway seeks to answer: (p.15) Does reading romance literature, with passive women characters, only confirm a patriarchal society? OR does reader satisfaction from choosing to read, against others wishes, act as a form of independence and opposition? Radway acknowledges the difficulties of answering this question when she states, “The struggle over the romance is itself part of the larger struggle for the right to define and control female sexuality. Thus, it matters enormously what the cumulative effects of the act of romance reading are on actual readers” (17). I think what makes this question even more difficult is that when talking about topics such as these (consuming romantic fiction, watching soap operas, etc) it is hard to articulate exactly what draws the reader or viewer in as well as what effects the consumption has. It is similar to asking someone if they are affected by mass advertising. Everyone likes to say no, when in fact everyone is, subtly or overtly.

The part we are reading for Monday does not answer this question yet, but it is interesting to see the results from Radway’s questions that she gives to her group of readers. Looking over the results, it seems that the average romance reader does it for relaxation as “me time,” likes a happy ending to a love story, and likes the hero of the love story to be intelligent, tender, and with a sense of humor. These answers seemed very predictable. The element of romance reading that most aligned with Radway’s assumption of the reading furthering patriarchy was that, “the romance’s short-lived therapeutic value, which is made both possible and necessary by a culture that creates needs in women that it cannot fulfill, is …the case of its repetitive consumption” (85). The book is similar to a melodrama television show that leaves the viewer unfulfilled and brings them back again next week in the hope of that fulfillment, only to repeat the cycle over again. One element that did seem interesting in her research is that the women liked to read historical romances because they felt they were able to learn something about the historical time period and impress their husbands and family with facts that they learned while reading. This attribute of reading the romances seemed the most aligned with Radway’s proposal that the reading could be seen as a form of empowerment. However, I feel that the act of reading in general is more of a form of empowerment. Therefore reading romance novels doesn’t necessarily seem like an act against patriarchy, but reading novels that teach some type of history align with reading in general as a form of gaining knowledge and therefore confidence in that acquired knowledge.

I have been looking at the viewing habits of “guilty pleasure” television shows as a form of research for my senior project. Women’s consumption of guilty pleasure TV shows has one major difference. The act of romance reading is mostly done solitary, as an individual activity, usually not with a romance book club. By contrast, guilty pleasure television is mostly consumed as a group activity. While the act of reading is seen as a legitimate activity because it is used as a deserved “me time,” watching shitty television is made legitimate by enjoying it in a group setting. Can the ways in which women consume television be used to answer Radway’s overall question of confirming or fighting against patriarchy? Or- is television consumption a different field entirely? I am not sure I can answer this question yet but I think demographics make this question very difficult. I do not think women can be grouped into one category. Consumption of media is very different for teenagers, young women, educated women, stay-at-home moms. Etc.

(On a total side note- I found Radway’s analysis too narrow. I would be interested in seeing her proposed project of researching working, educated women and their consumption of romance fiction.)

Pop-culture will always trump high-culture

In A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Pierre Bourdieu, outlines how our tastes are determined by our “cultural capital,” a knowledge of culture that comes from our class, upbringing, and formal education. Bourdieu aligns with Certeau by analyzing the importance of things that we do everyday. However, he makes an important contribution to the field with the addition of his statistical research that backs up an anthropological and sociological study.

Through one of his studies, Bourdieu shows that taste in music or painting is directly related to academic capital. “Academic capital is in face the guaranteed product of the combined effects of cultural transmission by the family and cultural transmission by the school (the efficiency of which depends on the amount of cultural capital directly inherited from the family)” (23). The school decides what is in fact legitimate culture. This argument makes a lot of sense. However, it comes with many implications. What we are told to like or appreciate basically dictates how we view the world and the objects that we come into contact with. This seems to restrict the free will of an individual and instead gives strong power the factors that mold this individual through youth. Is it possible to abandon our preconceived notions, engrained through education, of what we think to be legitimate or not?

Bourdieu also talks extensively about the “popular audience.” The popular audience wants simplicity and participation in their art. They want to shy away from the symbolic and ‘formal refinement’ of high culture that “keeps the uninitiated at arm’s length” (33). Popular entertainment provides extravagant sets and costumes, brings in the imagination, overturns conventions, and provides an escape from the ordinary. Yet, it still manages to remain simple and easily digestible. Bourdieu reiterates throughout the chapter that the working-class always simplifies an object to what its function is and compares its form to the form of other objects; everything must have a purpose.

While education defines “high culture” or “high art” it is ultimately the masses that dictate the production of culture. Bourdieu’s description got me thinking about the high culture of today versus pop-culture. Although anyone could rattle off ‘legitimate’ forms of culture (museums, old English novels, etc.), we are nevertheless inundated with examples of popular culture and manifestations of popular culture transcribed into mass advertising to the public. What’s getting higher ratings – that PBS showing of an opera or the latest American Idol episode. So, although Bourdieu is making interesting observations about taste and where our predispositions come from, I think it is vitally important to study how popular culture has trumped “high” culture and what that says about our society. Is this problematic?

Incarceration Vacation

While reading The Practice of Everyday Life, I found it easy to grasp the initial discussion of Certeau’s main terms of a strategy vs. a tactic. A strategy being a way for corporations, governments and big businesses to control people as well as the environment around them; And, a tactic being a way that individuals, subordinate to the “big” businesses, negotiate the world, “constantly manipulat[ing] events in order to turn them into ‘opportunities’” (xix). However, with the introduction of other philosophies, I began to get lost in Certeau’s overall argument and found it hard to grasp the detailed analysis he is putting forth.

Chapter 8, “Railway Navigation and Incarceration” was a breath of fresh air (maybe because of it’s length); I thought it was beautifully written and put forth an interesting analysis of something we rarely do – ride in a train. Certeau refers to riding in a train as “traveling incarceration” (111). Inside the train car, you are in a tiny ordered world, with no way out; you are detached from the outside world, constantly viewing a changing scenery of vast immense objects that stand alone and are unmoved. Certeau illustrates this symbolic and real separation through a description of the iron rail and the windowpane that isolates the traveler. This all links back to the superior machine, “the solitary god from which all action proceeds. It not only divides spectators and beings, but also connects them; it is a mobile sym-bol between them, a tireless shifter, producing changes in the relationships between immobile elements” (113). In our lifestyles today, we are so dependent on technology and machines in that these machines have become god – an all powerful god that provides the means for us to connect with each other as well as businesses to operate. Machines have become our life-support.

I particularly liked how Certeau uses Jules Verne to show that the railway can connect these technologies with dreams. This is apparent when leaving the incarceration (an “incarceration-vacation” -114), and all the chaos of the workplace returns. The word incarceration conjures up images of prisoners, crime, and a place that no one wants to be a part of. However, Certeau reminds us that with the chaos of everyday life – the stress of the workplace, the constant hustle of people on the streets, and our postmodern scatterbrains – we all crave an “incarceration vacation,” a few minutes of order. In moments of weakness, we want someone to tell us what to do, to give us a schedule, to make hard decisions for us. I think this hints back to ideas of hegemonic forms of consent. If the hegemonic culture provides an easy way out, an easy lifestyle governed by simple rules, it makes sense that the majority of individuals give his or her “consent” and buy into it. To be radical, to go against the norm, takes enormous energy, courage, and willingness to constantly be different, defending your ideals. It becomes far easier to just jump on the train, and take an “incarceration vacation.”

Annotated Bibliography

Dahlberg, Lincoln. “Democracy via cyberspace.” new media & society 3.2 (2001): 157-177. Web. 29 Oct 2009.

This journal article was published almost eight years ago but I think it is important in studying the future of the internet, to really understand what the internet was proposed or thought to be at the beginning stages. Dahlberg outlines two positions on the internet, that of the individual user and a more “communitarian” view. In outlining these two points of view, he argues for a third position, deliberative democracy, and the ways in which this could be incorporated into the web. This article is interesting to my paper to compare the ways people envision deliberative democracy over the web, and how those visions have or have failed to turn into realties.

Frechette, Julie. “Cyber-Democracy or Cyber-Hegemony? Exploring the Political and Economic Structures of the Internet as an Alternative Source of Information.” Library Trends: “The Commercialized Web: Challenges for Libraries and Democracy” 53.4 (2005): 555-575. Web. 30 Oct 2009.

In this journal article, Frechette argues that many people are quick to criticize government regulation of the internet but largely overlook the ways in which corporations are beginning to regulate the internet through advertising. These practices, she argues, leads to a power play between businesses and users of the internet where users are “tricked” into giving their consent to seeing ads. This article is important to my argument because in exploring trends of internet usage in developing countries, it is also important to analyze the introduction of ads into those communities and the effects that this advertising has on deterring users from taking advantage of the technology as a tool for democracy.

Lessig, Lawrence. Code Version 2.0. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 2006. Print.

This book will be particularly helpful in my discussion of cyber-democracy and the ways in which the internet is regulated now, as well as discussions on the future of internet regulation. Lessig challenges the belief that many assume thinking that the internet cannot be regulated. Many of my sources and examples of youth that have utilized social networks to get around strict governments seem to show the ability of the internet to be autonomous from government rule. Lessig shows that the structure of the internet is based on code. Therefore, the ways in which internet can be a place of freedom depend on who is controlling the code. He argues that with the surge of consumerism on the web, the internet is becoming more tightly controlled. However, this isn’t necessarily inevitable – who controls “code” is not set in stone.

Passy, Florence, and Marco Giugni. “Social Networks and Individual Perceptions: Explaining Differential Participation in Social Movements.” Sociological Forum 16.1 (2001): 123-153. Web. 28 Oct 2009.

This journal article offers an important sociological perspective that seeks to understand the how and why behind participation and action within social networks advocating for change. The authors argue that participation in social networks rely on intensity of participation as well as how embedded the network is. The article shows the progression of participants from when they join a network, are socialized in the ideas of the network, and finally their decision to be actively involved. This article talks about social networks in general, separate from the internet. I am interested in using this sociological framework and applying it to the ways that social networks, via the internet, function. I will apply these theories to see if they match up with internet participation.

Shapiro, Samantha M. “Revolution, Facebook-style.” New York Times 25 Jan. 2009: Web. 7 Oct 2009.

This newspaper article talks about how the youth in Egypt is protesting and sharing their anger of Israel’s occupation of the Gaze strip – via Facebook. In Egypt, the government has rules since 1981 that the state is under a “permanent state-of-emergency” law. Therefore, many political organizations are banned as well as gathering in groups with more than five people. Shapiro shows that Facebook has been an important tool in giving the youth and dissenters of the government a voice that they were previously denied. She also gives a history to the April 6 protests and the ways that internet technologies influenced the participation. The article concludes with an important statement central to my thesis. Many protesters are able to meet online but can rarely move this participation to the streets – What does it mean if online “democracy” cannot translate outside of internet blogs and chatrooms?

“The road to e-democracy.” Economist 16 Feb. 2008: Web. 30 Oct 2009.

This article in The Economist talks about the general arguments and positions surrounding “e-democracy.” The article cites Web 2.0, with the introduction of almost free file sharing, as a hope to promote more democracy on the web. The article argues that technology has shown to intensify the democratic process, but not fundamentally change it. It also argues that e-democracy is more incorporated in places where the middle class was previously disengaged with politics. This also alludes to another facet of e-democracy, which is that it leaves out disenfranchised communities who are not connected to the web or have very limited access. This article is helpful to my paper in laying out general arguments but is only a starting point for me to dig deeper into these issues.

Tsagarousianou, Roza, Damian Tambini, and Cathy Bryan. Cyberdemocracy: Technology, cities and civic networks. New York: Routledge, 1998. Print.

This book will also aid in my discussion of cyber-democracy as well as the ways in which electronic technologies interact with forms of democracy. The book is a compilation of essays that explore case studies of technology and democracy in the United States and Europe, as well as debates around public participation in cyber technologies and the ways in which the public service uses or will use these technologies. I will use discussions of theory in this book to help me analyze my case studies of technology use in the developing world.

“Twitter revolution beats old-style media.” The Business Telegraph: Independent News and Media (Northern Ireland) 25 Jan. 2009: Web. 7 Oct 2009.

This news article from Ireland talks about how the newer social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, allow for cyber-democracy that was never present on the internet before; this is because it is hard for governments to censor the micro blogs of these social networking sites without affecting the country’s economy. Even though governments, such as Iran in this case, can shut down websites, they cannot control what people post in other countries, which allows them to serve as proxy-servers for protesters in Iran. We are such an interconnected world via the internet, that no country can isolate themselves anymore.

Austen’s production of ideology

The first realization that I came to while reading Said’s Culture and Imperialism was that I had not been exposed to many of the influential writers than he discusses. It was difficult to move through his analysis without having read many of the texts. I have read Mansfield Park, so I will focus my response on Jane Austen.

Said looks at how English writers, through their articulation of England and culture abroad, laid an ideological framework that was manifested through colonialism. Said states that English authors wrote of “positive ideas of home, of a nation of its language, of proper order, good behavior, moral values… [and] positive ideas of this sort do more than validate ‘our’ world. They also tend to devalue other worlds and, perhaps more significantly… they do not prevent of inhibit or give resistance to horrendously unattractive imperialist practices” (81). Said shows the power of subtle representation and its power in creating certain harmful ideologies that can lead to horrendous practices.

Austin’s novels achieve this by expressing an “attainable quality of life, in money and property acquired, more discriminations made, the right choices put into place, [and in] the correct improvements implemented” (84). Austin does this by chronicling the life of Franny Price, a poor young girl, who ends the novel marrying into wealth, becoming a product of a lavish lifestyle – ultimately becoming ‘civilized.’ This becomes apparent to the reader when Fanny returns home to her poor family. Once Fanny has become exposed to the luxurious lifestyle of wealth, as well as knowledge of greater Europe and abroad, she can no longer occupy the space she filled in her ‘previous’ life. This can be seen as a way of advocating for colonial rule abroad in order to bring Austen’s view of a legitimate lifestyle, involving wealth and worldly awareness.

A parallel story Fanny’s is the life of Sir Thomas, the ruling male of the family who is often away in Antigua on plantations. Through Sir Thomas, Austen shows that domestic peace and control is directly related to rule and possession of the imperial estates (87). Through these two characters, Austin is creating a narrative that advocates moral control domestically to parallel physical control abroad. In the end, Austen wants to “restore every body, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest” (91). I see contradictory arguments here: Austen at times seems to advocate for the civilizing of territories that do not have the wealth of Europe. However, it also seems that Austen is showing that to have the wealth that Europe holds, it is necessary to exploit sources abroad. These two systems seem contradictory and unable to function together. Is it possible to bring ‘civility’ abroad while at the same time exploiting resources? Furthermore, what does “to have done with all the rest” entail? Is Austen advocating for civilizing some, and leaving the rest behind?

Said’s critical analysis of literature is important because it shows how subtle references in literature can lead to the production of imperialist ideologies. It is also interesting how most of these references are not readily apparent – Mansfield Park could be read as a tale of a disadvantaged young girl who enters into a world of knowledge and worldliness and wins the hearts of others (very straightforward pleasure fiction). It is only on careful analysis that the production of ideologies becomes apparent.

Edward Said radio show

I came across this radio show that interviewed Edward Said on Culture and Imperialism.

It’s long (one hour) but goes over the main themes of the book and a background on Said.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3442235942259420708#