Discourse II: MALBA

While Discourse I was the type of analysis which focused on the textual context and images, Discourse II analyses the institution or place rather than the object itself. Foucault emphasized that the setting of an object is important to how it is perceived by the viewers. Discourse analysis II involves a method through which an institution could be read or understood. These key features include pancoption, surveillance. Institutional apparatus, institutional technologies and photography. The features can be explained below in detail:

Pancoption: This referred to a design prototype of an institution which was first introduced by Jeremy Bentham in1791. This form of design was mainly used for institutions demanding discipline. A key feature of this institution was it play on being exposed. Some people in these kinds of buildings were always under the eye while the others were forever hidden.

Surveillance: In simple words surveillance refers to being watched by a person. The person who is being watched is always visible while the person watching is always hidden.

Institutional apparatus: The best way to explain this term is that these are the “forms of knowledge” constitution the institution. For e.g. “architecture, regulations, scientific treatises, philosophical statements, laws, morals, and so on, and the discourse articulated through all these.”

Institutional technologies: This is another one of the key features. Though easily confused with the institutional apparatus, this term refers to the specific features that make up the institutional apparatus.

Photography: A photo captures a moment in real time and hence can be considered a so called more truthful form of representation. It can be used to make distinctions between the institutional technologies and apparatus.


During the summer of 2016, I visited the The Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires of MALBA in Argentina and then revisited it again virtually few moments ago. I found this institution particular fascinating and chose to analyze this institutional through the second method of discourse analysis.

Let’s refer to the sources used for this analysis. Some of the main sources used are interviews with the principal person associated with the gallery or museum, be it the director, the curator and or the designer; the technical experts responsible for incorporating the culture and science associated with artwork displayed; and lastly the visitors who make a decision to visit the institution. From the point of view of a visitor, I decided to see this institution as a recommendation from one of my Argentinian friends who is an art enthusiast and categorized this as a must see attraction in Buenos Aires.

The apparatus of the gallery and museum was observed the architecture of the building and the internal layout. The institution was built as a prototype of modern architecture with neutral colored bricks and sharp geometric lines. It portrayed the image it was trying to portray. Inside, the museum had three floors, high ceilings, all white walls with a surprise splash of colours on one wall, which was probably done to attract the attention of the visitor to those art pieces.

Keeping the technologies in mind it was interesting to look at the arrangement of art pieces and structures in the museum. Each floor had a different pattern. The most interesting technology of display was the ground floor which had a theme of history of revolution had an open display with no protection. The artwork was exposed the same way the secrets of revolution were on the open display. The paintings used a simple placard which had the name of the artist along with name of the artwork. It was left open to the visitor to interpret the artwork and no details of the artwork was present. A feature that as important to note was the freedom provided to the visitors, there were no signs in the museum prohibiting photography. In fact a lot of exhibits were engaging and provided the opportunity to the visitor to be a part of the museum. For e.g the tree which had written messages on tags from people all around, the paint wall which was a blend of colors and emotions and the chalkboard filled with messages.

Visiting the MALBA was a wonderful experience and probably one of the most interactive museums have visited. I have visited many museums in my life butthis one has the most vivid memory.

Discourse I

The literal meaning of the word discourse refers to exploring an idea through written or verbal debate. Here, the word has a much more complex meaning and many interpretations. Rose mentions discourse as a group of statements which provides the basis of thought and action to us or knowledge which helps us understand the structure of reasoning behind decisions and concepts. Though the earlier focus in discourse was to keep the message hidden or subliminal, Foucault disliked the penetrative idea of discourse. Other scholars believed that if the meaning behind the action or subtext would become visible or apparent it will lose its meaning. He “rejected the idea of things losing their meaning if it is displayed consciously instead of targeting the subconscious.” The concepts mentioned as a method of explaining discourse by Rose can be explained by strategies used by Starbucks to provide an experience to its customers.

The first step or concept mentioned by Rose is intertextuality. The term can be interpreted as the meaning of an image being dependent on other images and issues related to it or surrounding and not just the image itself. Intertextuality can be used as a means to give multiple meaningful layers to an idea. Another concept mentioned by Rose is, power and knowledge. Foucault describes power and knowledge to be interdependent. He mentions that knowledge about the surrounding can be used to provide power to the strategy used or a strategy becomes more powerful if there is available knowledge about the things related to it.

Starbucks has time and again used intertextuality, knowledge and power to create a better brand. An example of that would be Starbucks changing the colour of its cup from white to red during the months of winter in United States and other locations. The colours red and green are the colours associated with the holiday season and Christmas in the United States, along with other places. Starbucks draws on the already existing existing association of colours to the holidays and incorporates it into its cups. Because of this the red cup is one of their signature pieces which are much awaited all year. People associate the cups with holidays coming closer and thus an emotional value is attached to it as well. Starbucks also adds other accents to the cups like snowflakes or doodles submitted by customs to further strengthen the emotional association by adding nostalgia. The cups have become iconic of Starbucks and winters. An extreme form of association can be seen through the website, countdowntoredcups.com. This website is a representative of the influence Starbucks has had on a cultural concepts of the holidays.

There are some similarities and differences in Foucault’s approach of discourse and Elliott’s analysis of Starbucks. One of the major similarities is how Starbucks rejected the penetrative idea of discourse, instead of subconsciously trying to influence the buyer into buying a Starbucks cup of coffee, it created an experience which is very upfront and direct. One of the examples of such a strategy is Starbucks mentioning or rather highlighting the location or site of manufacturing or coffee upfront. While coffee manufacturers would try to hide the location of manufacturing of their coffee, so the people do not feel hesitant to try the coffee from a mysterious and unknown place. Starbucks exotified the location and in fact openly marketed the location as one of its selling points.