8. Participatory culture


Participatory culture is generally a concept that involves the participation of users, audiences, consumers etc. in creating a culture. For Henry Jenkins, who has been developing the notion of participatory culture in web 2.0 emphasize the web 2.0 as spreadable media that involves user’s active shaping of the content that led culture to be a participatory one.

Jenkins defines participatory culture as culture “in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content”” (Fuchs, p.54)

There are 5 points that Jenkins defines participatory culture with

  1. relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement,
  2. strong support for creating and sharing creations with others,
  3. some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices,
  4. members who believe that their contributions matter, and
  5. members who feel some degree of social connection with one another

(Fuchs, 2014, p. 54)

Fuchs (2014) however, holds a very negative and critical view on Jenkins’ theory of participatory culture. He criticizes Jenkins of being overly optimistic on the issue. Fuchs also suspect that Jenkins positivity might be due to that his research is being funded. There are four main points of critique by Fuchs (2014) towards Jenkins’ theory.

First that Jenkins reduces the notion of participatory culture into a cultural notion which Fuchs strongly disagrees with. A problem of the “participatory culture” – it is a term that highly connected to the participatory democracy theory. As Fuchs (2014) suggest that one should use “participatory culture” in relation to participatory democracy theory to avoid the vulgar use of it. He criticizes Jenkins definition of participatory culture which ignores the aspect of democracy.

The second point criticizes the idealized view of fan culture in Jenkins theory. As Jenkins mistakenly made a link between fandom culture and political actions. With this Jenkins also have a mistaken view of politics by seeing it as micro politics within popular culture. The example, Fuchs suggests that fandom in popular culture is not what starting or motivate a political action, for instance, a political protest. Popular culture and fandom are involved in politics more as a medium to spread and support. However, for the real political actions, it is exercised by the political activists and not the fan community.

The third point Fuchs regards Jenkins theory of participatory culture as a theory of reductionism and determinism. Jenkins theory is reductionist in many aspects. It mainly all come back to the critique that the theory reduces the understanding the aspects of the social media and the world into the cultural dimension. In this, it ignores the political dimension that is very important for Fuchs.

The last main point is that  Jenkins made a flawed assertion that exploitation of users’ digital labor is not a problem as they have social benefits from platform usage.

The ownership dimension of platforms is also being neglected. The large social platforms that own by large companies mediate the cultural expression of the internet user (p. 56) Users or employees are excluded from the decision making of it.

Some other points of criticism by Van Dijck & Nieborg (2009) will also be discussed and show how those link to Fuchs’ criticism.

Van Dijck & Nieborg (2009)  criticism of Jenkins’ theory of participatory culture is that Jenkins works is replicating the cooperate discourse that is first found in the business sector. That Jenkins model is not a new or more critical model. But the fact is that Jenkins aimed to develop his theory for the business use, and therefore the criticism by VanDijk is rather unconvincing.

On the criticism of users, Van Dijck & Nieborg (2009) criticize Jenkins disregards the significance of a large amount passive spectators on the internet and a relatively small percentage of active creators even though Jenkins knows that not all users are equally active.

Van Dijck & Nieborg (2009) also made some critiques that related to Jenkins and Fuchs critiques. Similar to Fuchs, Van Dijck also criticizes Jenkins’ belief in communal action and collection intelligence as that belief made his argument to override the aspect on political economy.

To conclude, while Jenkins’ cultural theory of the detailed notion of  participatory culture includes the acknowledging of the relevance of economic and ideological interests in social media,  his ignores or avoidance of political culture/ theory led to much criticize from different authors.

Reference List:

Fuchs, C. (2014) Social Media: A Critical Introduction. London: Sage. (chapter 3)
Van Dijck, J., & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its Discontents: A Critical Analysis of Web 2.0 Business Manifestos. New Media & Society, 11(5), 855-874.


6. Persuasion and Rhetoric

Persuasion and rhetoric have its long history date back to Plato and Aristotle. In the two literatures Simons (2001) and Sonesson (2013) introduce us to the many different approaches and theories of persuasion and rhetoric developed through history.

Persuasion according to Simons (2001) is the “human communication designed to influence the autonomous judgments and actions of others.” (p.?) With the intent to persuade and use of communication, persuasion attempt to influence who others think, feel or act. Simons (2001) disguises 3 ways to influence others and indicate that persuasion is different from the 2 other forms (inducement and coercion) to influence. And indicate the persuasion differs in that “persuasion predisposes other, but does not impose.” (p.8) Simons emphasis persuasion as a practice, whether it succeeds or fails still account for a practice of persuasion. The study of persuasion is called rhetoric academically.

Plato considers rhetoric as the art of persuasion and discussed whether such is a corrupted art.For Plato and Aristotle rhetoric is linked to truth. Plato proposes that truth and persuasion, always lies in two different domains so that that can be no truth in persuasion. His student, Aristotle, however, defended persuasion as persuasion can be used in deceiving people, but as the same time it can also be used to communicate truth.

It is important that persuasion deals with matters of judgment rather than certainty. Persuasion requires communication work in two ways, with a persusader and a persuadee. Sonesson mentioned 2 people who renovated rhetoric as the theory of persuasion. There is Chaim Perelam (1977) as an attempt to get other to adhere to one’s propositions (p.8). Groupe (1992) with a new way of analysis the classical rhetorical figures into fundamental operations. There are 4 parts in the original, classic rhetoric – inventio, dispositio, elocutio, and actio.  They four is Invention: the art of finding out what to talk about (p. 9), disposition: “putting discourse in order”, elocutio: stylistic elaboration of the arguments. The purpose of rhetoric is to produce adherence. The second tradition of new rhetorics by Groupe: to discover a set of general operations responsible for the functioning of the figures in verbal language (p.10). Two two approaches are mentioned. Critical studies approach- (persuasion as a whole) treats it as an art, careful reading of the message, a critic assess to the message (artisty, logic, ethics, social consequences). And behavioral approach – (quantitate) treats persuasion as a science, methodologies- quantitative content approach.

Sonesson (2013) wrote his analysis on three brands/products, the Absolute Vodka “European cities series”, a Turkish advertisement for car service and IKEA.

Sonesson (2013) studied the Absolut vodka and the relation to Europeans values, he analyzed the Absolute Vodka in 2 levels. Sonesson relate the Absolut “European cities” series to the figurative rhetoric. He analyzes the design of vodka bottle of different cities in the series to see how it present a certain city.

At the second level, he looks at the Absolut publicity from the point of view of argumentation and persuasion to see how and why Absolute Vodka creates the image related to Europe with its topos being a rich cultural heritage.

In the analysis, Sonesson analyzed the figurativity of the products/ advertisements to see how he brand attempts to use figuration to relate its product to some (positive) values that can persuade consumers to buy the products. The figuration does not necessarily be “true” because the values behind a certain advertisement is highly related to the cultural values of different cultures and more importantly, the cultural values that one country project no other country.

An example of persuasion in the advertisement is the advertising from coca-cola: Coca-Cola Small World Machines – Bringing India & Pakistan Together can show how persuasion is used to link two opposed cultures. The advertising link used virtual machines with cameras and place the two machines in the two countries, one in Pakistan and another one in India.

“A moment of happiness has the power to bring the world closer together.”

This slogan together with the content of the advertisement create a very meaningful message that persuades the viewers.

In the advertisement, the people on the two sides joint hand and trace a sign together and they got a can of Coca-Cola. This advertisement persuades people that a tidy action can break the barriers between people, even from the conflicted countries. This is also to say, Coca-Cola can be the drink to ignite a moment of happiness and pull people close together.

Reference List:

Coca-Cola Small World Machines – Bringing India & Pakistan Together. (2013, May 19). Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://youtu.be/ts_4vOUDImE

Simons, H.W. (2001). The Study of Persuasion. In: H.W. Simons with J. Morreale & B.E. Gronbeck, Persuasion in Society (pp. 3-24), Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Sonesson, G. (2013). Two strands of rhetoric in advertising discourse. International Journal of Marketing Semiotics, 1(1), 6-24.




9. Draft for final paper

The topic of my final paper will surround the marketing of Disneyland. While in the current stage my focus and research questions  are unspecific and unclear, the draft hope to at least act a brainstorm for my final paper.

The method use in my final paper is discourse analysis. Through gathering texts and media text from the internet, the paper attempt to uncover the Disneyland discourse beyond the “dream and fantasy” that it long created.

Discourse analysis I focus on discourse articulated through visual images and verbal text (p.???)

As Rose (2001) mentions there are 2 areas Tonkiss (1998) suggests in the discussion of discourse analysis., the first one is the analysis of the structure of discursive statement, the second one is the analysis of the social context of the statements. In working with discourse analysis I

With the newly opened Shanghai Disneyland Resort, the way Walt Disneyland promotes it has shown a rather different emphasis than its previous Disneylands.

Brannen (2004) identified the way Disneyland has designed and marketed Disneyland in Toyko and Paris. Disneyland used to copy the exact America design of Disneyland to other places in the world. Therefore, people can have a taste of the Disneyland as a foreign place to enjoy. While this strategy gained a huge success in Toyko, the one in Paris faced resistance from the French people.

What makes the Shanghai Disneyland marketing special is that it take the emphasis of “Chineseness” to another level. Shanghai Disneyland is not the first Disneyland that enters China. The Hong Kong Disneyland that opened a decade ago did not have such huge emphasis on Chinese element.

The discourse behind the Shanghai Disneyland Resort than is interesting. From the design of the street and castle to the language and food inside is redesigned for Chinese. It is Disneyland, it is China’s Disneyland.

Robert Iger, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company said  “China Disneyland – authentically Disney and distinctively Chinese” during his visit to Beijing.

The localization (cultural) discourse and the political discourse behind the every decision and marketing of Shanghai Disney is different from the others Disneylands.

“When it comes to culture, the world is not flat. Disney cannot take our culture and export it to China.” Said Iger.

Why would it be a success to have the same (America) Disneyland design in Tokyo while the team must perform lots of changes in Shanghai Disney?

How was such Chinese understanding of Disney constructed? And how Walt Disney adapts to such understanding?

The cultural reason can roughly be that the Chinese do not grow up with Mickey Mouse. Of course, one can see Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters in China, Disney characters however is not the cartoon characters most Chinese grow up with. There was a long negotiation between Walt Disney and the Chinese government on establishing the Disney channel in Mainland China before the opening of the Shanghai Disneyland. Walt Disney finally gave up on this plan. Therefore, the importance of Disney characters in China might not be as much as in the America or Japan society.

When it comes to the foreignness, the Chinese seem to have less appreciation for the American culture. The Chinese can identify with the wonderful Disneyland as a theme park to spend a nice day or two.  However, compare to Japan or Hong Kong, Mainland has a much less identification with “Americaness”, for instance, the Midwest America designed street in the park. In one of the interview of Phillippe Gas, the general manager of the Shanghai Disney Resort, he mentioned that

“for example, in every Disney park you have a main street, but we don’t have main street here. We felt it was a very Midwestern America concept from the turn of the 20th century, and not something that was the most compelling or relevant to Chinese consumers.

“So what we have here is Mickey Avenue, with beloved Disney friends welcoming our guests at their entry into the park.”

“But there are some elements that are important to me as my culture tells me, food is one. Language is one.” “If you go to see our shows, take the stunt show, the pirate show, this show was developed in Mandarin.” “People in China like to eat Chinese food…actually we only have one place where we serve burgers.”

From the stances in Gas interview, it clear show something very much related to the Chinese culture. The interview, as one of the marketing strategy for the Shanghai Disney Resort, telling so much about the uniqueness of Shanghai Disney Resort as an attempt to attract Chinese customers.

Marketing, after all, lies its importance in aiming at the right customers. The huge population of Chinese provides so many business opportunities for Disney. In the surrounding 3km of the Shanghai Disney Resort already have 3.3 million potential customers. It aims more than local Chinese than to the tourist from other countries.

The political discourse of Shanghai Disney Resort is explicit. According to Brannen (2004), Walt Disney took into a political discourse by using characters of different origins and fit them into the America ideologies. The choice of localizing Disneyland is never only about cultural differences.  The political discourse here is linked to the China resistance to many of the American ideologies.

The Chinese government and the Walt Disney company wrestled on the negotiating table.  In the face of such a super entertainment kingdom of Disney, the Chinese government took into account the cultural and ideological factors that a Disneyland in China can present.

However, Walt Disney did not say much on the political factor that affects their decisions. Politics, maybe that seem too ugly to put into a “fantasy land”. On the statements that the general manger Gas comments on the challenges working with the Chinese government, he puts much of the emphasis on to the great partnership with China. It is helping not fighting.

“One of most exhilarating missions that the CEO, Iger, gave me was to think of this as not only building the business, but also helping the country raise its level.” said Gas.

While the Disney company seldom mentions its relationship with the Chinese government. On exploring a Chinese newspaper article, a more critical fact was mentioned. The power that the Chinese government has over the Walt Disney Company. 57% of the shares of the Shanghai Disney Resort is owned by the company owned by the Chinese government and the remaining 43% shares are held by the Walt Disney Company.

One point that is very important is that although there are many Chinese elements incorporated in Shanghai Disneyland, it still places the “Disneyland” before everything. It is Disneyland as Disneyland, which present some core values that will not change, those values that are cross border. Local elements will never override the Disney values.

7. Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Dove Real Beauty Sketches – You’re more beautiful than you think

This is a commercial that launched on April 2014 by Dove US that reached viral. The commercial features an artist asking several people to describe themselves (physical appearances). According to their own description, the artist draws a sketch without seeing them. After that, the artist asks another person that has seen the person previous person earlier to educible the person they saw.

The result the commercial show is that for the drawing that depicts from the person own descriptions, it depicts a more negative picture like for instance “look a bit closed off and fatter. Sadder too.” While the drawing from the descriptions of others show a more positive picture like “A friendlier and happy” one. The message behind the commercial is that we appreciate more of ourselves – “You’re more beautiful than you think”.

With such a powerful and meaningful message that the campaign wants to bring, it receives many positive responds, but of course not from everyone. It touches the emotions of the viewers, the many females that has been subjected to the social norms of beauty. It is also true that we often tend to describe ourselves from a more negative way by focusing on the imperfections and those that we need to fix.

The Dove Real Beauty Sketches commercial catches the emotions of people, especially female attention to the issue of beauty standard. In the comment section under the video on YouTube, it is easy to see comments that say the commercial being them to tears.

It brings a message that we can easily agree with. The response it triggered includes some negative ones that criticize the Dove commercial of still being highly focused on the physical appearance and relate it to beauty. Did Dove attempt to redefine how we see beauty? Or maybe as criticized, the beauty sits framed under the importance of physical beauty. As for some, inner beauty seems to be their concern more than physical beauty.

The commercial also spread outside the original community that it targeted for. And the usage and meaning of such advertising (describe and draw portraits) went beyond the control of the Dove US company.

A video found on YouTube can well illustrate how this viral commercial was being imitated and how it spread a sarcastic message of Asian stereotype. The Asian men in that video mimic the way the Dove commercial of asking others to describe him. The result turns out to be a very stereotyped image of an Asian. This video is of course just a joke. However, the way this video mimics the Dove commercial show its spreadability.

The Real Beauty Sketches commercial of Dove is an example of viral marketing. Although the definition of viral marketing is not clear, through Jenkins theory of “spreadable media” one can identify the patterns of production of viral commercial. Then this also relates to the notion of stickiness and spreadability.

The Dove commercial here is a “spreadable media”, “spreadability” as a term by Jenkins (2008) refers to “the potential—both technical and cultural—for audiences to share content for their own purposes, sometimes with the permission of rights holders, sometimes against their wishes” (P.3).

When looking at the popularity of the Dove Real Beauty Sketches commercial, I believe that  both Rushkoff (1994) and Jenkins (2008) theories of viral can help undercover some reasons or patterns behind the commercial.

Rushkoff (1994) term of “media virus” shows a way of understanding how the media spread to be viral. It draws on the biological “metaphor” to real viral and that media virus work just like real virus.

“Media viruses spread through the datasphere the same way biological ones spread through the body or a community. But instead of traveling along an organic circulatory system, a media virus travels through the networks of the mediaspace. Once attached, the virus injects its more hidden agendas into the datastream in the form of ideological code…”

For me such explanation gives media itself too much autonomy. Jenkins (2008) spreadable media seem better to explain the Dove commercial popularity on the internet.

Spreadability “values the activities of audience members to help generate interest in particular brands or franchises.” (p. 7). Those who shared the video, (positivity) responsed to it became what Jenkins (2008) calls “grassroots intermediaries”. They are unofficial parties that help to spread and shape the message that the Dove commercial. Although the “grassroots intermediaries” do not serve the Dove US company, the messages they spread support the Dove company.

Positive Response -Dove message is what  the viewers want to share

Racist Parody – remade (mimic) of the Dove Real Beauty Sketches


Reference List:

Dove. (2013, April 14). Dove Real Beauty Sketches | You’re more beautiful than you think (3mins). Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk&t=114s

Jenkins, H., Li, X., & Domb, A. (2008). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead. Creating Value in a Spreadable Marketplace. Retrieved from: http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2010/04/conver gence_culture_consortium.php

(2013, April 16). Dove Real Beauty Sketches – My response. Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QC1Zb-ijdo&list=PLgr5uHlQc-fopTgwXv_X8KK9mJgda5x4j&index=2

Pyrobooby. (2013, April 26). Dove Real Beauty Sketches – Asian Men (PARODY). Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Miq6irsNw0s&list=PLgr5uHlQc-fopTgwXv_X8KK9mJgda5x4j&index=4
Rushkoff, D. (1994). Introduction (pp. 3 -16). In: Media virus! Hidden agendas in popular culture (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine Books.

5. 1960s Television Commerical – Kodak All America is Cameraland

Machin (2007) concerns with the semiotics in visual images that depict people. He focuses on the semiotics recourses that available to let the viewers relate and access the visual image. The Images we see are very often being carefully structured, chosen and edited. During such process, the end images intend to present some ideas of the people it depicts. Besides looking at what the people in a picture are doing, Machin (2007) suggests more aspects that one can look at in relation to the representation of social actors.

Regard to the positioning, there are 3 aspects: the gaze, angle of interaction, and distance. Depends on the degree of engagement of the image to the viewers, an image offers or demand information/ respond. It also relates to power. With the angel of interaction, different angel creates different degrees of involvement or detachment as well as power relationship with the viewer.

Machin (2007) also shows how can we look at the semiotic resources of the kinds of participants. He looks at the individuals and groups, categorization, and the non representation in the images. It as well look at the agency in the image and the actions that it affects. This framework of semiotics is to apply on a 60s television commercials as a case to analysis how the semiotics resources in the commercial are utilized.

Case study: The classic Kodak television commercial 1961 –  All America is Cameraland

The commercial starts with a man on a stage as “we” are the audience, introducing the other woman to “tell you about the wonderful world of Cameraland”. However, the men seem not looking at “us” but the audience under the stage.

Next shot moves to a woman looking at “us”, informing us “offer information” about the camera, the gaze here draw a relationship between the viewer and the woman, creating a particular kind of demand to the viewer. The viewer is acknowledged. It is also her smile that creates a mood of enjoyment.

Angle of interaction. For the man and woman, we view them in a front, horizontal angle. The next few scenes showing how the camera can be used for “all American” changes it style showing daily scenes that the camera will come in handy.

Those scenes use various kinds of angles. All the people is looking off the frame, we became an observer of the way they use their Kodak camera to record moments of their life. The woman did the narration alongside. Those characters in the commercial now no longer connect themselves and the Kodak product to using gaze. By presenting the daily scenes that the audience of the commercial will encounter, the audience relates to the commercial by feelings. The audience is not demanded of response yet it offers the possibility to relate certain thoughts, like “capturing the wonderful moments of family and friends”

The angle the audience look at the audience is usually from an upper angle, which “we” look down on the charterers. Which according to Machin (2007), this indicates a sense of power. This can also relate to the power of the audience to exercise the use of the camera. However, I would argue that the viewing positions in the Kodak “All America is Cameraland” are not so much about making the audience powerful or the characters vulnerable. The viewing angles are used to provide a good and close views for the audience, sometimes as if the audience is part of what the people I the commercial are doing.

This can be explained in relation to the distance the commercial attempt to have with their audience. The distance between the camera and the actors in the commercial is very close most of the time. The closer shots suggest intimacy, a more personal relation to the viewers.  The shot of the boat the camera shot the actors holding the Kodak camera behind it. So the viewing angle puts the viewer as part of the boat trip in the commercial. Several shots the viewer stand by the side of the one using the Kodak camera shooting the family or friends.

In the middle part of the commercial, there is something more special that put great emphasis on America. Under an America map shape frame, showing the views of American lands and building.

There are two kinds of participants in the commercial, both individuals and groups. The individuals are the two hosts in the beginning that introduce the Kodak cameraland.

“Visually, collectivization is realized by images that show groups or crowds” (Machine, p.118). Those groups in the commercial realized collectivization and “homogenized” as a group of American. From the way the people dress and the activities they do in the commercial, they are probably well living middle class or above. This shows the targeted customers as those who can afford a camera must be to an extent financially sufficient.

The societal effects that it can raise is the increasing record of family and leisure video. It gives the agency to it and propose a more memorable and better ways of remembering by capturing life with the Kodak camera.

Reference List:

Marchand, R. (1985). Advertising the American Dream. Making Way for Modernity, 1920 –1940. Berkeley etc.: University of California Press.

Tungate, M. (2007). Adland: a global history of advertising. London and Philadelphia: Kogan Page Publishers.

Marling, K.A. (1996). As Seen on TV. The Visual Culture of Every-day Life in the 1950s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 202–241.

Machin, D. (2007). Introduction to multimodal analysis. London: Hodder Arnold. (chapter 6: “Representation of social actors in the image”)

4. Discourse analysis II

Discourse analysis II is the second method derive from the Foucauldian method, it focusses on the institutions and their practices and the production of subjects. Discourse analysis according to Rose (2001) use a similar method as discourse analysis II but focus on the discourse production through institutional apparatus and technologies.

Within the institutions, as a main focus of Foucault, is the power/ knowledge.

By studying an institution with discourse analysis II can explore how power is saturated in the intuition, how objects and subject positions are produced in particular ways, all through the institution apparatus and technologies.

One must first understand the core notions of institutional apparatus and technologies.

Institution apparatus is “the forms of power/ knowledge which constitute the institutions: for example, architecture, regulations, scientific treatises, philosophical statements, laws, morals, and so on, and the discourse articulated through all these.” (Rose, 2001, p.166)

Institutional technologies are the practice to manifest the Institution apparatus. The two notions are so highly related that sometimes it is hard to distinguish the two. An example will help to provide a more concrete explanation. Institution apparatus can be the “do not touch” policy in a museum and the Intuitional technologies are the practice to impose such rules.

The sources for discourse analysis are diverse and it is usual to use a wide range of sources. Those sources can be, for instance, written texts on the institution in the past and the current discussion of it. Interviews with people that work with the institution. Photographs and images are sources that can show the architecture of the institution. Visits and observe the way people work with the institution is often the important source to conduct the analysis.


Case study: Belvedere museum in Vienna


In Rose (2001) discussion of Bennett (1995) studies on museums and galleries, she points out the Bennett’s way of seeing modern museums as institutions that exercise discipline and surveillance similar to the Foucaultian discussion of prisons. There are specific discourses on science and culture that constitute to the power of museums. Through the discursive apparatuses, several subjections are produced. The technologies in an institution, and as relate to the case study here, the museum, focus on the display and layout. Rose (2001) listed the technologies in museums like display techniques, the textual and visual displays and the layout the display rooms that can analyze in a museum.

The Belvedere museum exhibits paintings and sculptures. Displays of paintings are mounted on walls and no protective cover on them. The sculptures are also mostly open display that are not protected by glass cases. The visual and spatial organization of the museum is consistence and organized. Different individual rooms have similar size and style of hanging paintings on the wall.

The effect of the hanging practice as suggested in Rose (2001) is to encourage a contemplative way of viewing and to produce an individualized way of viewing.

Labels and captions are placed next to each painting, including the title of the painting, the name of the artist and the year when it was painted. Captions are displayed outside the room to provide information on the period/ style of the paintings. This information contained in the labels and captions as suggested by Rose (2001) prioritize certain aspects or information about the paintings

Most of the paintings are hung on wall wall to provide a clear view of the painting. The display room of the famous painting “Kiss” by Gustav Klimt and his collection show a spatial organization that contrast the famous “Kiss” to other collections with its design.  Paintings are hung on the white walls on the two sides and the “Kiss” painting hangs on a black wall in the middle. Seats are placed in the middle of the room. The displace of painting on white wall again suggest that those paintings are to be contemplated without distractions. The black wall, in this case, the black show the importance of the “Kiss” as it is placed differently from the other paintings.

The museum is also an institution that discipline and educate the visitors. This demonstrates the power of the museum. The Belvedere Museum is one that impose strict rules to the victors. No photo, backpack or umbrella is allowed in the museum. The non touch rule is imposed of course. The rules are enforced with the warders in the museum. There are many guards watching the exhibits that enable the power and discipline of visitors’ behavior.  However, as Rose (2001) concern with the effectiveness of the disciplining, from the observation, it sometimes fails. There is where surveillance by other visitors, which force one to self-discipline.

The museum that is open to the public still as an institution creates certain kinds of visitor. The The Belvedere museum is an art museum; those paintings require prior knowledge of the paintings. It is more about contemplating as a “higher” form of viewing. And as well serve an educational purpose.

Through the case study one can understand how museum as an institution exercise power. The institutional apparatus are the rules and ideologies of the museum. The institutional technologies to practice those apparatus can range from the displays of artworks, the layout of the display room to the  surveillance and self-disciplining.

Reference List:

Rose, G. (2001). Visual methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual materials. London: Sage. (Chapter 7: Discourse Analysis II: Institutions and Ways of Seeing)

3. Discourse Analysis I

The notion of discourse is central to Foucault’s methodology. Discourse “refers to groups of statements which structure the way a thing is thought, and the way we act on the basis of that thinking” (rose,2001, p.136). It is a language of its own rules which creates our ideas and shapes how the worlds and things are understood. It produces subjects and subject positions. There are two other terms that stressed in Rose (2001) relating to the concept of discourse. One is intertextuality, meaning the way that the meanings of any one discursive image or text depend not only on that one text or image, but also on the meanings carried by other images and texts” (p.136). The other term is discursive formation. “A discursive formation is the way meanings are connected together in a particular discourse.”

For Foucault, discourse was a form of discipline relates to power relations. Discourse is powerful because it is productive, disciplines subjects to think and act in certain ways and create human subjects through it.

Discourse are enunciated through an enormous scope of pictures, text and practices. It focuses on “various kinds of visual images and verbal texts than it does to the practices entailed by specific discourses” (Rose, 2001, p.140). Through drawing on sources that have been utilized or unused materials that one discovers, discourse analysis unites materials that have been viewed as inconsequential.

In discourse analysis I, there are two aspects that can be analyzed through this method. It can be used to study how world views or accounts on social issue. It can focus on the discursive power (p.141)

Rose’s (2001) quote points the endeavors to make discourse analysis more explicit “First, there is the analysis of the structure of the discursive statements. Second, there is a concern for the social context of those statements” (p.149).

On the rhetorical organization of discourse, is to look at how a discourse is structured, like how a discourse describe things, construct responsibility and categorize things. There are seven strategies that Rose (2001) summarized in interpreting the rhetorical organization of discourse. The sevens are

“1) looking at your sources with fresh eyes.

2) immersing yourself in your sources.

3) identifying key themes in your sources.

4) examining their effects of truth.

5) paying attention to their complexity and contradictions.

6) looking for the invisible as well as the visible.

7) paying attention to details.” (p.158)


The other aspect of discourse analysis I look at the social production of discourse. It takes account into the institutional location of a discourse, the social position of the speaker of statement in effect of authority, the audience of the image and text. Location and authority are important consideration in the social production of discourse because it affects the power of certain statements in the discursive formation. The assumed audience also matter because an explanation of the same event can be different for different audiences.

In Elliott (2001) analysis of the discourse of Starbucks, she using concepts of discourse to reflect on the Starbucks’ strategy and discursive formation. She analyzed Starbucks’ effort to market and brand their coffee into a symbolic new way of consuming. Elliott (2001) also reveals Starbucks’ stereotyped representation of foreignness of coffee beans.

The text Elliott gathered as materials are what called the cultural “text”. As texts in discourse analysis does not only mean written texts. In Elliott (2001) he used both discourse analysis I & II as classify by Rose (2001).

Elliott uses discourse analysis I in her study through analyzing the material in the Starbucks stores. That includes the image in Starbucks stores, the packing of Starbucks coffee beans, the phrases that Starbucks uses to describe their coffee and coffee beans on the Starbucks menu to show that how Starbucks analysis how Starbucks change the meanings of consuming coffee. These discourses are the Starbucks break with the standard way of consuming coffee, close to nature. And also show how the misleading geographical deception of coffee beans from Third Worlds space and racialized rhetoric of it shows the orientalist discourse of Starbucks.

Elliott (2001) also includes some elements that do not fit in the method discourse analysis I. It also involves aspects like discussion on hoe Starbucks as an institutional entrepreneur engages in discursive strategies producing new concepts, objects and subject positions/institutions of coffee drinking. The aspect of institution is the focus of discourse analysis II that will be discussed in the next assignment.

Reference List:

Rose, G. (2001). Visual methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual materials. London: Sage. (Chapter 6: Discourse Analysis I)
Case Study and Methodological Application

Elliott, C. (2001). “Consuming caffeine: The discourse of Starbucks and coffee” In: Consumption, Markets and Culture, 4(4), pp. 369-382.

2. Cultural Branding

Cultural branding creates identity values by making a brand’s myth, a story that told by the brand which consumer can experience the story by buying the product. The myth is of the most important in cultural branding, it is the prerequisite of making a brand iconic. Cultural branding aims to guide the building of brand into an icon. Holt 2004) argues that the mode of cultural branding is the model to explain the success of some brands that became iconic brands while others branding models fails to explain so. There are axioms of cultural branding model. Some of the important axioms are, a brand tells myths that address acute contradictions in society, perform identity myths that address these desires and anxieties. Identity myths reside in the brands, which consumers experience and share via ritual action and these myths changes in time due to changes in the social environment.

We are in a society where cultural icons are increasingly central to economic activities. In a populist world, a brand identity is to resolve the tensions and anxieties “what you should be like” and “what you really are”. The example of the brand “Red Bull” will illustrate how they successfully use cultural branding to become an icon in the energy drink industry as well as in different realms of the society.

Red Bull launches its product in 1987n with the creation of a completely new product category as energy drink. The next year, in 1988 Red Bull introduces “The Red Bull Dolomitenmann”, an extreme sport that combines various sports. From the very beginning the brand already relates itself to extreme sport. From time the drink involves in more and more sports like cliff diving, Formula 1. It creates its own sports like the “Red Bull Flugtag”.

Red Bull as an energy drink tell the myth of an energetic and adventurous lifestyle. The drink holds events that challenge people to do something that they normally don’t. It broke records and limits This lifestyle is often lacked in today social with people intensely stressed with their everyday working life. Their slogan “red bull gives you wings” and the cartoon style advertising show how Red Bull can vitalize the mind as well as the body. A drink that “gives you wings”. It represents an idea that one can go beyond his limit with drinking the red bull. It then becomes the drink that people need to vitalize themselves from the tiring reality they are facing everyday.

Holt (2004) also mentions that an iconic brand’s myth changes in time and it shift to have it best fit in the historical context. Red bull, although still focus on the idea of being a sport drink, it’s increasing relate itself to the culture part by holding events on art, design, and music. The Red Bull music academy founded in 1998 with its many music events in different places around the world creates a new culture of music. With 15 years of history of the Red bull music academy, it adds the brand myth of drinking Red Bull to be a b-boy. The Red bull music academy is not only about music, but fostering the creation of music. It claims itself as a platform that make a difference in today’s musical landscape.

A brand become cultural icons when they told a brand myth that resolve social contradictions. Red Bull also addresses people’s desire and anxieties like desire for energy and playfulness, sporty, healthy, etc. The market gravitates to produce what people value most. Today, the culture industries are bent on cultivating and monetizing these icons. (Holt, 2004, p.2) So cultural icons exercise a huge economic power, with economic activities surrounding them. Red bull does not only sell their drink, they sell their drink with sporty and cultural ideas. Creating identities myth that consumers can tie themselves to the identities.

Therefore, Red bull successfulness in being an iconic brand can be understood in Holt’s cultural branding as it performs identities myths, either being a sport lovers or cultural pioneer.

However, branding concept as Klein (1999) criticize, turns into a virus and sending it out into the culture via a variety of channels: cultural sponsorship, political controversy, the consumer experience and brand extensions. Cultural branding had deviated the focus on production from the factory and production of the production to the selling of a brand ideologies. The problem of cultural branding is that companies are no longer selling products, they put efforts in selling ideas. Marketing took the importance more than the manufacturing of the products. In Red bull case, the manufacturing process or the ingredients of the Red Bull drink are seldom addressed. What addressed in its advertisements is that “Red Bull gives you wings.” A metaphor, an idea that drinking Red Bull can give one’s power.   “The original notion of the brand was quality, but now brand is a stylistic badge of courage.” (Klein, 1999, p.??) No wonder good or bad, what Klein address is true and we as consumers had already so used to such a strategy of cultural branding. As its success in many iconic brands so as in the case of Red Bull.

Reference List:

Holt, D. B. (2004). How Brands become Icons. The Principles of Cultural Branding. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard Business School Press. (Chapters 1 and 2)
Klein, N. (1999). No Logo: no space, no choice, no jobs: taking aim at the brand bullies. New York: Picador. (Chapter 1 and 2) (SB HF 5415.152/ SB HF 5415.152, see also https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/k/klein-logo.html)


1. Semiotics

Semiotics is a qualitative method in studying the use of sign and how meanings are created through signs. There are many definitions of semiotics. One way Branston and Stafford (2003) defines semiotics as the study of “the social production of meaning and pleasures by sign system” (p.12).

The development of semiotics theories is mainly contributed by 2 theorists, Ferdinande de Saussure and Charles S. Peirce. The two developed the two main approaches in modern semiotics. Saussure’s approach is called “semiology” and Peirce’s approach called “semiotics” (Berger,2010, p.4). Saussure focus on the signs in language. His approach defines signs in 2 parts, the signifier and the signified. The signifier is a physical sign while the signified is an immaterial concept. The two have an arbitrary relationship and are subjected to change in time.

Peirce’s theory of signs differs from Saussure’s one as he classified into 3 kinds, symbol, icon and index. The 3 kinds of signs distinguish between the signs and what it stands for (Branston & Stafford, 2010, p. 13).

Symbols are signs that have an arbitrary relationship with what its represent. This means that the symbol has no direct (necessary) relationship between what it represents, the symbol can be changed/ used differently and still stand for the same concept. Language and flags are the examples of it. This arbitrary relationship has to learn in order to relate the sign to what it stands for. Icons are signs that resemble the meaning they stand for. It is by partaking the characteristics of the represented objects (meanings) that it become iconic. It is a universal sign that symbol as icons, like photos and the toilet signs reassemble what real object, not by learning to relate. And indexes are the signs that have causal connections between the signs and the meanings. The sign is the indication of what its representation. For example, the thermometer

An example of a symbol – Lufthansa airline logo

Lufthansa Airlines brand logo consists of an encircled crane in flight. The logo is usually blue or yellow. In is from some research on the design of the logo that one realized that the logo is a crane. It is more generally recognized as a bird.

This brand logo is a sign of a symbol. The relationship between the crane in the logo and the Lufthansa airline it represents is arbitrary because the flying crane does not have an intrinsic relation to the airline. The brand logo has to be learned as one first see it would have no idea how what does this logo stands for. After learning that this is a logo for the Lufthansa company, one then continuous to relate this logo to the company.

There is no causal connection or direct link between the crane and a plane. However, one can see a metaphor here, which the flying crane and the plane are alike on the logo. When one sees the crane on the logo after he learned that it is the Lufthansa brand logo, it is easy to relate the crane as a metaphor to a plane. Thus, the crane can be indexical.


Example – index

For the index, the hazard symbol is an example of it. This sign consists of a skull and crossbones. It Is commonly used for the indication of poison and lethal danger. The skull and crossbones can usually be an indexical sign of danger. The causal link between the two can be understood that the poison or danger results in the death of a human.


Example – icon

Another example is from this beer advertisement shows icon and indexes. The beer pictured in the middle of the advertisement ironically resemble a beer. The drawing surrounding the beer like the (bird), feather, people that were drawn in mainly green color can be indexes of a tropical feeling when drinking the beer.

Semiotics is useful as a research method can study how signs as a part of the language system as well as many functions in society have given meanings to society. Berger’s example is on understanding semiotics codes in consumer culture. It can as well fit as a method for marketing purpose.

In Branston & Stafford (2003), semiotics can be used to analysis the truthfulness of a photo as in today’s digital media it became harder to tell what is real. It is to understand how signs are constructed.

Media is telling the meanings to its audiences. Semiotics in media study sees the communication media as a construction of the reality. Then it is important to understand how it works in conveying such meanings.

Codes and signs play their important in media as well as society. Meanings are constructed through and conceal behind the signs that we encounter so often. Those messages that are often invisible can be uncovered by semiotics. With different approaches and categories in semiotics, the important end is that we do not fit a certain sign into one category. One should use semiotics as a research method to see through signs and to discover how signs create complex, entangled meanings.


Reference List:

Berger, A. A. (2010). The objects of affection: semiotics and consumer culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan. (chapter 1: “The Science of Signs, pp. 3-31)

Branston, G., & Stafford, R. (2003). The media student’s book. London/New York: Psychology Press. (chapter: “Semiotic Approaches”, pp. 11-17)