Fuchs’s (2014) perspective on Social Media and participatory culture

Fuchs discusses Jenkins’s concept of participatory culture on the web. Or web 2.0 as it is referred to. The concept encapsulates the idea that users through interaction with online media spread opinion or ideologies. Hence it becomes spreadable media rather than sticky media (see Assignment 7 for more info).

Fuchs disagrees with this idea because he thinks Jenkins uses a ‘vulgar’ (Fuchs, 2014, p.55) definition of the word participation because Jenkins relates it to “humans meet on the net, form collectives, create and share content” (Fuchs, 2014, p.55). The problem Fuchs has with this is he believes that the term participation should be related back to the political definition of the word. One implying empowerment, freedom and fairness. This is a concept Jenkins does not take into account. Jenkins also does not take into account the economic affects of ownership in Web 2.0, and hence ignores power relations. For Fuchs this is a problem. He says that Jenkins sees an automatic connection with fandom in popular culture and political protest. To Fuchs this is a wrong assumption, which is why he goes on to analyse roles of ownership and financial benefit. (2014, p.56)

Van Dijk & Nieborg (2009)’s view on participatory culture, Web 2.0 and the economy

To this discussion the text of van Dijk & Nieborg contributes the following. It takes an economic point of view in analyzing the advantages or benefits of these new interactive platforms (for both business and individuals). They say:

‘Collaborative culture’, ‘mass creativity’ and ‘co-creation’ appear to be contagious buzzwords that are rapidly infecting economic and cultural discourse on Web 2.0. (van Dijk & Nieborg, 2009, p.855)

They argue for the contribution Web 2.0 has made to business models in terms of rhetoric, economic significance and impact on social and cultural theory.

They conclude that these new co-producing platforms that allow a certain extent of user participation will require more critical analyses as they change business models, and as yet it is not fully possible to establish what benefits can be reaped for what financial players.

My Analyses

I’ve decided to look at different online platforms in an attempt to consider who creates the content, who consumes the content, how is advertising present, and who gains financially from it. For this I made a small table to compare:


(Fig.20 Facebook logo)

who creates the content, · Private users on their profiles

· Business on business pages

who consumes the content · The public/private users
how is advertising present · On sidebars as adverts

· In the form of posts posted by businesses

and who gains financially from it · Businesses that get free advertising by posting

· Businesses that gain consumers by paid adverts on the side

· Facebook who gets paid for adverts



(Fig. 21 Instagram logo)

who creates the content, · Private users posting content

· Business posting content

who consumes the content · The public/private users
how is advertising present · Only in the form of content posted by businesses, or sponsored posts by private users or celebrities
and who gains financially from it · Any business that owns a product which is being posted about (either by themselves or individuals)

· Users that get paid to promote products



(Fig.22 Youtube logo)


who creates the content, · Private users uploading videos

· Businesses uploading videos

who consumes the content · The public/private users
how is advertising present · On the sidebars or before videos start (paid advertising)

· Or in the form of videos about products (e.g. uploaded adverts or videos by vloggers promoting products)

and who gains financially from it · Any business that owns a product which is being videod about

· Or business that get consumers by adverts paid on the side

· Youtube who gets paid for adverts

· Users that get paid to promote products



(Fig.23 Wikipedia logo)

who creates the content, · Private users uploading videos


who consumes the content · The public/private users (e.g. Students)
how is advertising present · Not at all
and who gains financially from it · No one, however all get to share information



(Fig.24 Studydrive logo)

who creates the content, · Private users uploading school material


who consumes the content · The public/private users (Students)
how is advertising present · Not at all (I think)
and who gains financially from it · No one, however all get to share information




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.

Image Sources:

Figure 20.Facebook logo [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from


Figure 21.Instagram logo [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from


Figure 22.Youtube logo [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from


Figure 23.Wikipedia logo [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from


Figure 24.Studydrive logo [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from



Rushkoff’s Viral Media (1994)

Rushkoff argues that media is like a virus. It takes over culture like a virus infects a body. Inescapable. He says

The average American home has more media-gathering technology than a  state-of-the-art newsroom did ten years ago. (Rushkoff, 1994, p.3)

He says we live in an ‘information-based society’ and ‘infomercials’, where “television and printed news cater to the corporate and political entities” (1994, p. 5)

In this approach though he leaves little room for human autonomy and decision making power (as a viral infection is passive), which earns him criticism later from Jenkins, who coins the term spreadable media.

Jenkins’s Spreadable Media (2008)

In the near future, many companies are going to be reluctant to give up the perceived ability to lock down content and control consumer’s attention as represented in the old stickiness model. (Jenkins, 2008, p.9)

This is Jenkins’s way of introducing the divide between spreadable and sticky media. Sticky is the “old model” where the aim is to attract a homogeneous audience to a neutral location (such as one website) where they are introduced to consuming a certain product. The opposite approach is spreadable media. (A type of media easily shared in a community where people partake in similar tastes that speak to them). Spreadable media takes on a different from to sticky media as it is quite literally “spreadable” (to be shared beyond friend groups.) It requires more consumer participation than traditional sticky media.

According to Jenkins the advantages of spreadable media are:

  • Spreadability may help to expand and intensify consumer awareness of a new and emerging brand or transform their perceptions of an existing brand, re–affirming its central place in their lives.
  • Spreadability may expand the range of potential markets for a brand by introducing it, at low costs and low risks, to niches that previously were not part of it market.
  • Spreadability may intensify consumer loyalty by increasing emotional attachment to the brand or media franchise.
  • Spreadability may expand the shelf life of existing media content by creating new ways of interacting with it and it may even rebuild or reshape the market for a dormant brand. (Jenkins, 2008, p.9)

Also, Jenkins, disagrees with the idea of viral media, because although the theory explains the spread of the media (e.g. advertising) it leaves out a key factor. The human agency involved. Spreadable media (although it takes a form easy to spread thanks to modern technology and platforms), it requires people to spread it. Jenkins also mentions that a flaw in the spreadabiltiy model is that industries such as the music industry impose copyright laws inhibiting the spread of material, making it more like the original sticky model.

My example:

My example is the following video. It was taken during a BBC interview, over skype (or similar software), and during the interview a child walked in. People found it so funny that it went viral. Unlike the example requested it is not viral because of a company placing it so, but it merely happened and was then shared because it was funny. Personally I do not think you can anticipate what will go viral. Product placement can be used but there is no guarantee it will go viral just because it’s spreadable (easy to share). So this is my example, it was considered “viral” (because everybody knew it) and it was funny.

This example was then remediated and unlike sticky media, as spreadable media it was also re-worked. An example is below: (where a woman approaches the same dilemma as parody to the original)

What redefined this video as viral for me was not only that it was spreadable, and that everybody knew it but because it took advantage of the new media in a sense that it was even available as a video insert for facebook chat. This in my opinion is a clear demonstration of widget-ization mentioned by Jenkins, as the new technology is implemented in a new way to allow further spreading, far beyond the original audience (BBC news viewers), to Youtube viewers (as it was shared because it was funny), spread further to Facebook chats (which is private but even there it can be found in the video clips to share). So although, this was not a strategic attempt at making a brand appear virally, I do believe it is a good example of viral / spreadable media; as the most viral media isn’t strategically placed, yet something that goes viral because it appeals to people’s taste or culture (as mentioned in the text). hence it cannot be predictable.



Jenkins, H., Li, X., & Domb, A. (2008). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead. Creating Value in a Spreadable Marketplace. Retrieved from: gence_culture_consortium.php
Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Introduction: Why Media Spread. In Spreadable media: creating value and meaning in a networked culture (pp. 1-46). New York; London: New York University Press. Retrieved from
Rushkoff, D. (1994). Introduction (pp. 3 -16). In: Media virus! Hidden agendas in popular culture (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine Books.





Define persuasion/rhetoric, using Simons (2001)

Simons talks about rhetoric and persuasion as a technique of communicating a message. Where the grey areas begin are when it comes to deciding whether the message portrayed is the truth or a falsehood/fallacy, as persuasion can be used for both. Simons claims: “rhetoric can be used to deceive, mislead, exploit and oppress.” (2001, p.2) He is referring in that case to the persuasion of something that is not true: “fallacies, that appear reasonable on first impression but fall apart on close examination” (2001, p.2) However, not all uses of persuasion are of falsities. Simons talks about persuasion used to portray the truth as persuasion is also a way of defining the technique of choosing which facts to display as most important (although they are all true facts). However, the real grey area is when there is subjectivity or difference in opinion. Is it a truth to say that this is the tastiest hamburger ever? If it cannot be proven scientifically to be fully true or false, merely a matter of opinion.

The  real debacle begins where it becomes difficult to determine whether it is a matter of opinion, persuasive portrayal of truth, an over-exaggeration of the truth or an intentionally misleading fraud/deceit.

My opinion is that persuasion is only ethical if it is not an intentional deception. As soon as persuasion is used to convince the viewer of something that is not actually true, it becomes in my opinion unethical.

Discuss how it is applied by Sonesson

Sonesson defines rhetoric as the art of persuasion, or the use of figurative language. He claims “persuasion as [is] an attempt to get others to adhere to one’s propositions” (2013, p.8) (as replaced as is for clarity). He claims it is made up of four parts, shown in the diagram below:


(Fig. 19 Retrieved from Sonesson p.9)

He claims that “pictures” (although this could also be applied to other messages) “aim at producing adherence to the values of their producers” (2013, p.9). This is similar to Simons definition, that persuasion as communication aims to influence an opinion.

Sonesson shows that forms of rhetoric include: metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and many others. However, he claims that in pictures there is “nothing similar to words and sentences in pictures.” (2013, p.10), and hence they must employ other figurative or stylistic devices to achieve a similar affect as those in language. He clarifies this when saying that

The second tradition of “new rhetorics” is the one initiated by Groupe μ, which attempts to go beyond the traditional figures, to discover a set of general operations responsible for the functioning of these figures in verbal language […] going beyond the level of figures, and permitting a meaningful application to domains other than verbal language (2013, p.10)

He means that other types of rhetorics, new rhetorics can be featured both in verbal AND pictorial images. He then defines the difference between the sender and receiver and shows how each side plays a role in the formation of the message (e.g. portraying view of sender, or communicated by sender in a way that would attract receiver). This applies to advertising and other messages. He then applies this concept to show how vodka and ikea adverts were shaped either from the view-point of receiver or sender and how the two interact in the formation.

Since advertising’s focus is on the ways whereby a public may be brought to adhere to the propositions of the sender (Sonesson, 2013, p.14)

A recent example

My example (somewhat different to that of Ikea or Vodka) is this advert:

This advert uses the Germany imagery (the same way Sonesson refers to the use of Sweden-imagery in Ikea adverts) in a way that would promote the product. It does not show negative aspects of the country (same as Sonesson’s example) and plays on distant and not always accurate stereotypes. On top of this it is a receiver-oriented advert, as it is aimed at the UK public, who do not know Germany any better than the advert shows. It also does not take into account that by pronouncing “Continental” with a German accent is less realistic as the Germans would call them “Conti” whilst the British pronounce the full name (“Continental”).

I consider this merely a copy of other adverts that use German language or stereotypes to promote products such as cars. Now the question arises: is this misrepresentation? Or persuasion of an existing truth? Or just overexaggerating based on some fact? Well as it is a German brand, they may base their production values on some German truths or ideals. Nevertheless the advert is in my opinion an exaggeration and plays on the audiences naivety in assuming that buying German tyres really can be associated to efficiency and performance.

The persuasian lies in the use of German cultural myths (e.g. “efficiency” or automotive expertise). These cultural myths are used to persuade the viewer that because Germany is supposedly an efficient company of component engineers therefore a German brand of tyres must be efficient and well-made. However this is persuasion because it is playing on culturally stereotypes that are not necessarily true (or only in part). It is also persuading the viewer that if these cultural stereotypes are 100% true (which they are not necessarily, but if they were) the advert is still making a persuasion that these stereotypes then apply to the tyres.

In short: it persuades the viewer of A) that Germany is an efficient engineering country and B) that Germany’s motoring expertise and efficients makes Continental tyres to be efficient and well-made tyres.

These persuasions can be brought into question by examining in how far Germany truly is efficient, and in how far the country’s cultural values related to efficiency or motoring truly relate to the tyres Continental makes. In that sense these are things not being mentioned by the advert. It merely gives a superficial representation of cultural myths about Germany in an attempt to show the viewer they can have efficient German tyres by Continental. Similar to the example of Ikea used by Sonesson. A superficial compilation of cultural myths or stereotypes that may work in the brands favor whilst ignoring other, more accurate, cultural aspects.



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.

Image sources:

Figure 19.Retrieved from Sonesson p.9 [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2017, from Sonesson, G. (2013). Two strands of rhetoric in advertising discourse. International Journal of Marketing Semiotics, 1(1), 9.



After reading Tungate I had a better idea of how the advertising industry started in the EU & United States and how it gained importance.

Machin (2007) discussed more in-depth the visual aspects of gaze and perspective in visual representations such as advertising. In his own words

In this chapter we focus on depiction of people in visual communication – in photographs, adverts, cartoons, etc. Here we are concerned with the semiotic resources available for positioning the viewer as regards the participants in the image, how we are encouraged to relate to them and how we are encouraged to assess them. (2007, p.109)

His approach is similar to that of semiotics, in how he discusses visual aspects. He discusses how the viewer is positioned in regard to the image. He divides this into three-subcategories: gaze, angle of interaction and distance. Gaze discusses whether there is eye-contact (“interaction”) between viewer and image characters. Angle of interaction refers to how you look up or look down at someone in the image. And distance refers to how the closeness of the human in the image could pose a threat or represent familiarity. He then distinguishes between offer and demand, meaning whether an image offers information/a product or service; or whether it demands a response or interaction.

After this he discusses representation and action/agency. Under representation he distinguishes categories again, this time: individuals and groups, categorization and non representation. Individuals and groups discusses the different affect it has on a viewer to see a group vs. an individual depicted. Categorization differentiates between generic and specific depiction, so whether someone is portrayed as an individual or as part of a larger group, e.g. ‘women’ or ‘muslims’ or any other group. He then mentions agency regarding the active poses that carry meaning held by the characters in images.

In the last text, Marling (1996) discusses the Betty Crocker enterprise and analyses it

His method was to consider historical context (1950’s, gender roles, post-war). He looked at what the trends and norms were of that time (e.g. convenience food, lack of mother role caused by war). He compared it to similar branding techniques of the time (visual ads, TV dinners, Photo-cookbooks). He looked at how it was represented (what medium, e.g. radio or visual). He looked at symbolic (semiotic) reason behind things (e.g colours of adverts or cakes). He then discussed what they symbolized (semiotic-approach) and would link this back again to cultural-history.

Choose a 1950s-60s advert and apply Machin’s method to the chosen TV ad

For my advert analyses I have chosen this advert of Coca-Cola:
(min 0:00-1:00)

With regard to the medium or form of the avert:

It is a repetitive advert both in visual and audio forms. What strikes me about this advert is the annoying yet “informative” jingle/song running in the background. Not only is it repetitive in words of lyrics to the song but the visual of the filling coke glass is also repeated.

When it comes to how the camera angle is directed and how the content is framed, there is the use of close-ups of feet/hands and faces. The faces exemplify happy expressions (supposedly indexed to drinking cola). The close-up of hands are similar to that of the Betty-Crocker format discussed earlier.

The use of repetition and experimental close-ups (as I shall call them) resemble early techniques of Television footage and advertising at that time. Hence I would say the format/style of the advert exemplifies its time and the technologies available.

With regard to the content of the advert:

The content of the ad hints at a refreshing, cold, cheerful drink (represented by ice cubes, a smiling bar tender, energetic fast-paced jingle.) The people in the advert tend to be young couples (the target audience demographic for the product advertised). The fact that all or most people shown in the advert are young couple, implies the emphasis on courtship at that time. The young couples displayed are attending either bowling alleys or soda fountains (all typical 1950’s venues). The drumming hands and feet are an allusion to the rock & roll music culture of those days. All-in-all I would say the advert is typical for its time in how it uses technology to display the product but also in how it appeals to a young demographic and the interests thereof at that time. Watching the advert now I may find the jingle annoying as that is not commonplace nowadays, but otherwise I can fully appreciate the advert and importance thereof in the time and context it took place. I can also appreciate the cultural values of 1950’s America it incorporates, hence if I had lived at that time I too would have probably felt encouraged to drink a Cola the next time I attend a soda-fountain 😉



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”)


The main characteristics of discourse analysis II

Like discourse analysis I, discourse analysis II is occupied with how power or knowledge is articulated (Rose, 2001, p.164). Discourse analysis two works with similar materials but is more concerned with production and reiteration of institutions or places rather than individual images or texts. ( Rose, 2001, p.164)

On example addressed are archives, they are a type of institution. they are “not neutral, they embody the power inherent in accumulation” (Rose, 2001, p.165) One example discussed later by Rose were museums and galleries. She looks at how power/knowledge is embodied to encourage self-discipline or certain behaviour of visitors.

What is meant by ‘institutional apparatus’ and ‘institutional technologies’

According to Rose,

An institutional 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 (Hall, 1997b: 47). […] The institutional technologies (sometimes difficult to differentiate from the apparatus) are the practical techniques used to practice that power/knowledge. (Rose, 2001, p.166)

In short, the apparatus is the discourse, the hierarchy, the knowledge displayed. Whereas the technologies involved are used to exemplify or display these values/apparatuses.

What kind of sources can be analysed with this

This method can be used to analyse any type of institution or facility. According to Rose it can be used for

Images and objects […] by institutional apparatuses and technologies (as ‘art’, for example) and how various subjectivities are also produced, (2001, p.169)

Also important to Rose is that prisons and museums were “born” in the same era, and she emphasizes that museums were established as places open to the public (hence needing regulation).

My case-study:

For my analysis I chose to look at the library. Like a museum it is an institution open to the public (or at least University students) and hence contains layers of norms and regulations. It is an archive not of art but books.

Visit this institution, physically or if possible virtually

The Uni-library can be visited both in person and online. At the library you arrive at the rotating door (see Fig. 14) that ushers you into the foyer, after which you pass through some gates to the stairwell from there you are directed either upstairs (Fig.15) to an area of books or computers or downstairs to a similar area of books & computers (Fig.18). It is straightaway obvious which are the obvious main events here (the books/study areas) as the printer room, toilets, separate computer rooms and cafeteria are all side issues. This structure is determined by the architecture.

It is obvious the building was designed for this purpose rather than being merely a re-purposed existing architecture like other UM buildings. The libraries architecture says a lot about the institute’s priorities (e.g. study rooms are main focus, not the information desk, cafeteria etc.)

(Fig. 14 Library entrance)

(Fig.15 Library layout, own drawing)

This layout drawing illustrates how the visitor is directed past the “unimportant” issues straight to the main study area (either on that floor or upstairs), the foyer becomes a channel towards the stairwell, bypassing the security office, passed the gates.

(Fig.16 Library online site, interface)

When visiting the library in person there is a computer portal to the online library helping students to find books at the physical library. This same portal can be accepted from home to find online books.

Reflect on the ‘institutional technologies’ and how these may influence related individuals.

The technologies involved in regulating the library are signs that designate areas e.g. quiet area, no smoking in courtyard etc. On top of this there is a security guard, presumably so people do not steal books or do not enter the library unauthorized during exam season (when only Uni students with passes are allowed in, no outsiders). By passing the security office, through the gates on the way in (see image). Even though the electric gates are not in use it directs “traffic” and gives the visitor a sense of now entering into a regulated area.

(Fig.17 Library entrance through gates, past security desk)

From there visitors are directed into study areas like the one below:

(Fig.18 Ground floor, study area)

The architecture and layout is a way of determining where people go, and the signs and security guards re-inforce the discourse of the library practices (e.g. be quiet or don’t smoke in the courtyard).


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

Image sources:

Figure 14.Library entrance [Digital image]. (n.d.). own image

Figure 15.Library layout, own drawing [Digital image]. (n.d.). own image

Figure 16.Library online site, interface [Digital image]. (n.d.). own image

Figure 17.Library entrance through gates, past security desk [Digital image]. (n.d.). own image

Figure 18.Ground floor, study area [Digital image]. (n.d.). own image


Discourse and ‘discourse analysis I’ according to Rose (2001)

According to Rose (2001) “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.” (p.136) He refers to it as “a particular form of language with its own rules and conventions and the institutions within which the discourse is produced and circulated” (p.136) Rose claims,

Discourses are articulated through all sorts visual and verbal images and texts, specialized or not, and also through the practices that those languages permit. (2001, p.136)

So in short: like in other assignments sofar the use of the word “text” in relation to this is not only referring to literary texts but to objects, signs, visual aspects, cultural activities etc., which embody discourse. This entails intertextuality as well, discourse is not collecting meaning from a, so-called, “text” but collective meanings based on multiple “texts”. Rose also says that discourse produces subjects. Presumably he is referring to how the application or dispersal of discourses shapes norms of behaviour in ca ertain situation, like how to order a coffee at Starbucks (which will be elaborated on later).

Discourse Analysis

Rose discerns two types of Discourse analysis. This blog post will deal with Discourse Analysis I (not II) as it is closely linked to the material related to branding, and as it contains more visual aspects. According to Rose,

This form of discourse analysis tends to pay rather more attention to the notion of discourse as articulated through various kinds of visual images and verbal texts than it does to the practices entailed by specific discourses. […] It is most concerned with discourse, discursive formations and their productivity. (2001, p.140)

Rose goes on to show that discourse analysis is about framing or viewing discourses in practice to find out their meanings and how these originated or are related to intertextuality. He wants to find out how thsese “texts” carry meaning. He says,

First, there is the analysis of the structure of the discursive statements. Second, there is a concern for the social context of those statements: who is saying them, in what circumstances. (2001, p.149)

For Rose it is not only about what is said, but how, why and by whom. The importance of context comes into play here. A concept described by one person may have a different discursive value from a person of another culture or background. Like symbols in semiotics, texts of discourse too, are culture-based. He goes further to investigate how a discourse is structured (what elements or texts it is composed of), and to see how it creates knowledge or common practice. (2001, p.150) He does this by looking at key themes and discerning who said/structured what.


(Fig.8 Starbucks’s logo)

How does this concept and method relate to Elliott’s analysis of Starbucks

Elliott (2001) regards Starbucks’s image and branding with a critical look at its authenticity, its meaning, the origin of its values or values appears to have. Elliott finds it ironic how Starbucks aims to be involved with sustainability and organic coffees, and feign a relation to third world coffee farmers whilst at the same time remaining as Western as possible. He remarks how their Chinese venues used imported coffee whilst the region itself has its own large coffee plantations. He disapproves of their pretence of sharing in local identity whilst monopolising local customers. He notes that the emphasis is very much on Starbucks as author rather than the actual origins of the coffee. He shows that they use origins of coffee beans as a means of making exotic claims whilst at the same time trying to keep up an appearance of an All-American brand by not disclosing the origins of the beans in their “house-blend”. He shows that although they have imported many European customs into their coffees (e.g. espresso-based style coffee), they still try to maintain an American Identity.

His analysis is similar to that of Discourse Analysis in that he decodes the texts, e.g. menus, cup-sizes, names of drinks, decoration of interiors to showcase their formation of brand identification. Yet his method differs from discourse analysis in that he does not try to determine where the meaning comes from or what it is linked to. He does reference how Italian names of cups come from Italy for example but I think he could further link it to American culture of cupsizes or drinking habits (multiple sizes of large but expressed in Italian names). Perhaps this discourse analysis contains less intertextuality than expected, yet it does showcase the use of the method and how it can be used to decode Starbucks’s hidden ideology and use of brands and naming. In relation to Starbucks’s identity formation whilst maintaining a global presence, Elliott draws upon Harvey who says:

globalism can be a powerful unifying discourse, sensitizing people to “what the world’s spaces contain” (Harvey, 1992, p. 294 as cited in Elliott, 2001, p.379).


(Fig.8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13 Starbucks)


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.

Image sources:

Figure 8.Starbucks’s logo [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from


Figure 9.Starbucks [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from


Figure 10.Starbucks [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from


Figure 11.Starbucks [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from


Figure 12.Starbucks [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from


Figure 13.Starbucks [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from


What are the strategies and economic motives of ‘cultural branding’, using Holt’s (2004) phrase?

Cultural branding is Holt’s way of expressing a new (fourth) type of branding different to mind-share, emotional or viral. It goes further than the other three by creating a “myth” the buyer believes. It becomes part of the culture. Brands that achieve this are called cultural icons.

How do brands become (cultural) icons?

Not all brands become cultural icons.

Names, logos, and designs are the material markers of the brand. Because the product does not yet have a history, however, these markers are empty. They are devoid of meaning. Now, think of famous brands. They have markers, also: a name (McDonald’s, IBM), a logo (the Nike swoosh, the Travelers umbrella), a distinctive product design feature (Harley’s engine sound), or any other design element that is uniquely associated with the product. (Holt, 2004, p.3)

As this shows, not all brands become iconic, and not all things we consider iconic are “brands”. Cultural icons can be human (fictitious or not), place, object, brand etc.

People identify strongly with cultural icons and often rely on these symbols in their everyday lives. Icons serve as society’s foundational compass points-anchors of meaning continually referenced in entertainment, journalism, politics, and advertising. (Holt, 2004, p.1)

According to Holt the concept of icons are as old as civilization, yet how we create these icons has changed. Nowadays they are produced by the help of the media and economic market. With financial gains in mind, the advertising agencies try turn from outdated advertising models to the cultural branding technique in an attempt to create a brand so iconic the people will not stop buying it.

What are the ‘principles’ behind this kind of branding?

The principles behind the cultural branding concept is that the brand should become an icon of culture which represents a story, identity or myth that consumers relate to. To accomplish this advertising agencies require socio-cultural analysis to identify why parts of a culture’s ideologies or trends they can speak too. The context is key, in the text by Holt an example was given of a mean African-american football player sharing a cola with a child in the tunnel that leads to the changing-rooms. This was not merely demonstrative of coke’s ability to build friendship between young and old but it was addressing racial tensions (between black and white) in America at the time. Hence this ad was more than emotional branding, it was cultural.

A point Holt makes is that if tensions or ideologies change within a nation, the cultural myth of the product looses steam and sales go down, hence it is very much context based. Some adverts would only work in that culture at that time, not necessarily on other parts of the globe or in another era.
Holt claims that cultural branding draws upon identity, as it is applicable to brands that “help them express who they want to be” (2004, p.4). He claims:

Identity brands create customer value differently than do other types of brands, so they must be managed differently as well. (2004, p.4)

Holt claims it is all related to self-expression and that cultural branding hence works best on products such as clothing or house-decoration or hairstyles as these say more about someone’s personality than for example their favourite holiday destination. Nevertheless as Holt mentions for example, Paris, even holiday destinations can become culturally branded.

This brings me to my example. I found this advert most interesting.

It addresses many of the cliches or myths about California in a sarcastic way as if they aren’t true when they are showing images that suggest they are in fact true. Hence creating the idea that a holiday to California would make all the dreams come true that people have about California.

Explain how this relates to certain concerns raised by Klein (1999)

Klein’s (1999) main concern is that by allowing brands to sponsor cultural objects it allows them to have a say in the content of these cultural objects, chainging them.

Another concern of hers is the “Idea […]that successful corporations
must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products. (Klein, 1999, p.25)”

She seems to think we have become so focused on the value of a brand image that the product is undermined, hence consumers no longer purchase a product for what it is but what brand label it has. An example of this is on page 26 where she elucidates that

These pioneers made the bold claim that producing goods was only an incidental part of their operations […]What these companies produced primarily were not things, they said, but images of their brands (Klein, 1999, p.26)

She uses this to show that the role of advertising has changed over the years from its original use which was the distribution of news bulletins regarding a new product or invention, to nowadays, merely communicating an idea, (a myth as Holt calls it), regarding the product causing consumers to buy into the idea, not the product

This creates two main problems for Klein, one is that it means the brand becomes more important than the product, two it enables brands to buy parts of culture and change it or become one with it.


Holt, D. B. (2004). How Brands become Icons. The Principles of Cultural Branding. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard Business School Press. (Chapters 1 and 2) (SB HF 5415.153/ SW HF 5415.153)
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



Semiotics, also known as Semiology is the study of signs. There are two well-known scholars that founded this: Pierce and Saussure. They’re views on the definition of the word sign do vary slightly but complete or complement each other. In the text by Berger (2010) a sign is defined as something that stands for something else. A sign could be spoken/written word, an image, an object, a gesture or anything else associated to a cultural concept. He explains that for Saussure a sign has two significant parts. The first part is the signifier (the sign) which can be a sound or image, the second part is the signified (the concept it embodies) (Berger, 2010). Pierce takes a different approach, according to Berger (2010), he breaks down the word the sign into three subcategories: icon, index, and symbol. (All of these can be considered signifiers). Pierce’s icon refers to a sign that has a resemblance to what it signifies. An index as something which has a causal connection to what it signifies, and the symbol signifies a convention (which would have to be learned).

(Fig. 1 McDonald’s logo as icon, embodying chips/fries)

As an example of an icon I would refer to the McDonald’s logo, a little-known fact is that it bears an aesthetic resemblance (hence an icon) to French Fries which it signifies.

(Fig.2 Nosebleed as index)

As an example of an index I chose the example of a nose-bleed, an odd choice, yet like smoke for fire, it indexes that there is something wrong, for example an injury sustained.

(Fig.3 Dinner etiquette symbol)

As an example of a symbol I would like to choose the position of cutlery when finished eating, which is a conventional way of communicating. A convention that must be learnt.

In the text by Berger (2010) and that of Branston & Stafford (2010) there is the idea of an underlying code behind signs. An idea that to understand a sign one must be part of a certain group or culture to have learned what the sign signifies, this is referred to as a code.
An example of this are traffic signs. Once you take a driver’s licence course you enter into the group of people that are aware of their pre-discussed meaning, before that they appear merely as colours and shapes.

(Fig. 4 Traffic signs, pre-discussed meaning behind them)

This idea is closely linked to the idea that the meaning of signs is socially constructed. If someone decides that a certain signifier has a meaning and they share the meaning with others, those others would in future associate the sign to a pre-agreed-upon meaning.

Along with the signifier and signified addressed by Saussure, Pierce mentions a third term: “the referent”. In the Branston text it is said that “The referent is what both the signifier and the signified refer to: real roses, in all their different colours and shapes, which inevitably differ from the single, rough and ready concept any one of us conjures up when we see or hear the word.” (2010, p.13)

In short: the signifier is a sign as means of portraying or communicating the signified which is a concept to be understood which refers to the referent: the real life thing embodied by the concept.

For this my first example is a donkey. The word “donkey”is the signifier, it signifies the concept of donkeys in general, which could make me think of a specific donkey.

(Fig 5. Donkey, the word as “signifier”)

(Fig. 6 the concept of donkeys in general as “signified”)

(Fig. 7 the real life embodiment known as the “referent”)

Semiotics as  a research method

For Branston & Stafford (2010) media can be considered a conveyor of meanings or truths regarding the real world, portrayed for the masses to understand or comprehend. They put it that “it has often been assumed that the task of such communication is simply to tell ‘the truth’ about what it reports. Semiotics, however, does not assume that the media work as simple channels of communication, as ‘windows on the world’. Instead they are seen as actually structuring the very realities which they seem to ‘describe’ or ‘stand in for’. This disturbs powerful notions of ‘a truth’ to the complex worlds we inhabit which can be straightforwardly accessed and ‘brought back’. (2010, p.11-12) Hence to them semiotics is a means of questioning the true meaning behind media and where it comes from.

For Berger (2010) semiotics can be used to analyse media which can be considered to be composed of coded meanings formulated into representations (p.27). The science which is semiotics can then be used to untangle and trace origins of words or signs in media to discover the meaning they are signifying and bringing to the masses. An example he draws upon is the naming of the Acure automobile. He claims many of the processes when thinking about the meaning behind signs in media operate on an unconscious level. (p.28)


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)

Image sources:

Figure 1.McDonald’s logo as icon, embodying chips/fries [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from


Figure 2.Nosebleed as index [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from


Figure 3.Dinner etiquette symbol [Digital image]. (n.d.) Retrieved April 13, 2017, from


Figure 4.Traffic signs, pre-discussed meaning behind them [Digital image]. (n.d.) Retrieved April 13, 2017, from


Figure 5.Donkey, the word as “signifier” [Digital image]. (n.d.). own image


Figure 6.the concept of donkeys in general as “signified” [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from, edited.


Figure 7.the real life embodiment known as the “referent” [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from