Assignment 8

Fuchs defines participatory culture relying on Jenkins defiition of this phenomenon : as a special configuration of social media in which the individuals collaborate, participating, combining their skills in order to make emerging a form of collective culture « as an alternative source of media power ». He then enumerates various criterias taken from Jenkins analysis such as a low barrier of expression and engagmrent, which are on the contrary encouraged and supported thrugh informal forms of mentorship and experiences transmitted. In this sense there is a special form of social connection embedded in such a process

For instance, it can be a space for the development of a new form of participative democracy.

Here Fuchs qualify such a statement and the enthousiasm that gravitates around this perspective. Indeed participatory culture through Facebook or Google relies on private capitalists corporate with their own economic interests, which are therefore non-neutral spaces. Participating is a thing, but understanding the real issues behind participation and participative platforms is another.

Indeed, participation and involvment in social platforms can mean consuming popular culture, but not necessarly involving oneself in a political act of resistance, protest or at least involvment. The actual participation into the production of content is much more reduced than what Jenkins expected according to Fuchs, and sometimes biased toward extremism with antisemitism or fascists ideologies. Participation is limited and not always constructive.

Platforms like Youtube are analyzed as capitalists structure that eventually will experience crisis between capital and consumers/workers. Furthermore in the case of blogs, only mainstream ones tends to obtain enough popular visibility, providing a one-sided vision of information without critical approach for the one who does not take the time to check sources.

For Fuchs, we do not have to reduce the conept of « participation » to the cultural dimension, but rather refocusing this approach on the political and critical level, which are two dimensions that are not necessarly linked together.

This criticism is reminiscent of the one of Van Dijck that unveils the risk of participation as hiding economic benefits and production models. If the value of community-building carried out by the Web 2.0 is undeniable, it is also carrying out « the biggest business opportunity ever for corporations ». The risk is here the naturalization of the internet market, consumerism and business as a normal structure and an hegemonic condition.

Actually the majority of the internet user is « passive » and do not produce content : the mass is not equally creative and it is a mistake for Van Dijck to think so. Furthermore, just like Fuchs remarks, Van Dijk states that the content produced is often biased by social motivations of « top rank » rather than learningful content. Once again it respounds to a form of marketization of the content, and marketization of the self as well.

This marketization is pushed even further since the involvment in platforms such as Facebook require the user to give personal informations, that eventually will end up favorizing business compagnies and advertising models. The interst of those platform lies in the « activity » of the user, not his « creativity ». The private becomes public and commercialized.

Finally, the risk is a form of convergence of the content, since the real aim of the platforms that allows such content to be widespread is economic profit. While the participation concept conveys the idea that everybody’s opinion obtain the same weight, we can see here that it is often not the case because of economical biases : capitalistic interests remains at the end of the story the very core of the system.

Assignment 7

Assignment 7

« Spreadable media » is a term introduced by Jenkins et al, denying the biological notion of « viral media ». Indeed the dimension of human’s choice in the process of popularization of one particular media is crucial since it relies essentially on the will of individuals to spread the content.

I personally have identified one particluar Youtube video that went viral two years ago, and triggered a lot of reactions among internet users. This video is the music video for the song Hotline Bling by Drake. It was posted on the 26th of October 2015 on the DrakeVEVO channel, and now have more than 1 billion views on Youtube.

The wide popularity of this viral media was first and foremost due to the pre-existing large popularity of the artist Drake since the 2000’s and the success of his media content, counting 7 millions subscribers on YT and more than 60 videos, with almost one quarter of that total reaching more than 10 million views.

However, the reason behind the viral dimension of the Hotline Bling video relies on something more : indeed, this video is the most seen of his YT channel. The second most viewed video is the usic video for his song « Started From The Bottom » which ‘only’ represent 330 millions views, that is to say 4 times lower than the Hotline Bling one. Why such a difference ?

The answer is clear : the video and its content has become what is known as a meme. A meme is a recurring figure on the internet, that relies on humouristic aspects t make fun of something, of a situation, using particular shared signs and symbols. In our case those symbols are embodied in the curiously-looking dance of Drake in the video. The dance move on 4:04 has been parodied an incalculable amount of time. The research theme « drake hotline bling dance » give more than 700 thousands results mostly consisting in parodies, making fun of the original video. It either consists in fake tutorial explaining the weird dance, or video editing showing drake throwing Pokeballs or playing tennis, as seen below :

If we refer ourselves to the comment section of the original YT video, we can obviously see that this « meme condition » of the video is obviously the first concern of the viewers, the top comment being « Drake dances like he’s a year old white Christian dad. », which is only one among the many examples of comments dealing with this particular aspect of the video that made it viral.

Visual detournament of the videos were also widely spread among social medias, on FB, Twitter, reddit and even among theChan community for instance.

The video had became more than a media content, it had become so viral that it eventually went from a music video to a meme, hence a symbol. The interesting point in this process is that it only had a positive effect for the media producer himself : indeed when we interest ourselves to the reaction bar of the video, we can see that it is overwhelmingly positive, with almost 100 times more likes than dislike. In the situation of a video going viral for a precise element being mocked or rather parodied, it is not an obvious conclusion. See for instance the music video for the song Friday by Rebecca Black which became also a meme (in a lower dimension) but ended up becoming one of the most hated video on the platform (

Finally, Drake’s Hotline Bling video obviously embodies the idea of spreadable media rather than « viral media », since the spreading dimension of the video’s popularity relied mainly on the fact that people reapropiated themselves the media content to give it their own meaning.

There really is this idea of transformation in the communating process : the « consumers » are « shaping the circulation of media content, often expanding meaning » (see Henry Jenkins : Often what Jenkins describes as the « stickiness of the media » ,that is to say the maintaining of its original meaning, is lost during such a process. The spreadability of a media on the internet makes it hard to keep this stickiness criteria.

However and we have seen, what is billiant about Drake’s Hotline Bling is that it managed to spread widely to billions of people, who eventually found new meaning to the media, but without altering too much the essence value of it, that is to say the promotion of the artist and of the song, which as we saw earlier are both very popular, and maybe even more after this. The stickiness of the media has been preserved and its spreadability pushed to its extreme.

Assignment 6


Rhetoric is a mean of argumentation that is used to produce an effect of truth, to convince, which can also represent a way of oppressive and achieving power on over one person, one group. It is often depicted as the art of persuasion.

Simons defines « persuasion » as followed : « persuasion is human communication designed to influence the autonomous judgments and actions of others ». It is not coercitive, nor helpt by any material mean such as money.

In Sonesson’s paper, those concept are largely applied in various ways :

Sonesson divides rhetoric into 5 big categories :

  • inventio : what to talk about, how to influence
  • dispositio : the structure, putting the discourse in order
  • elocutio : stylistic elaboration
  • memoria
  • actio

He emphasizes the fact that in rhetoric and in the process of persuasion, there is most importantly a process of communication implying 2 parts : the creator of the message, and the concretisor, whch perceive the message. There is no message without someone to concretize this message, the receptor.

He then explains how the process of persuasion relies on doxa, that is to say presuppositions that are most of the time very specific to a particular socio cultural context. To illustrate this statement, the author takes for instance the example of a Turkish advertisement for cars : the cars were associated with burgers, which make no sense at all from a Westerner’s point of view. The westerner will see the car associated with food, consumerism, bad health… whereas the Turkish will directly comprehend that the message embedded in the advertisement is that the car repair is as fast and easy as a fast food.

The other example developed is the one of Sweden, a country from where is created both Ikea and Absolut Vodka. Whereas Ikea reinvendicate its Swedish roots as a strong point of the brand, Absolut does not rely on this aspect at all and on the contrary hides it. For the US campaign of Absolute, the persuasive strategy was to show Absolut as part of the « old-continent patrimony », whereas Sweden as in fact nothing to do with Anthic Greece, Naple or so…

Here we can see according to the author that rhetoric as elocutio proceeds through a symbolic reorganization of the world.

We can very well illustrate this last point with the example of the beer Desperados. It is a Tequila flavoured beer, which name and imagery rely on Western-centric vision of Mexico. The Mint flavoured Desperados is called « Verde », the logo features the spanish ytraduction of beer « Cerveza » , a sunrise, grass, a lizard… to convey the idea of exotism in the western’s imagination of what Mexico and Mexican culture is. The packaging relies on red, green and white colors, the colours of the mexican flag. In an ad we can see a special type of Desperados which because of its spicy flavour is called « Fuego »




Since the beer is by no way mexican but produced in France by a French compagny, we can here get the persuasive idea of reorganization of the world through steretypical and visual doxas. It relies on preconceptions of what is Mexican’s culture, that only Westerner are sharing, to produce a convincing marketing argument through a various set of symbols. The advertisement campaogn and the imagery of Desperados relies then paradoxically on its own consumers paradigm of thoughts and imaginations, showing once again the double-sided dimension of persuasion : when it comes to rhetoric and persuasion, the concretisor is as important as the creator of the message.

Assignment 5

For the « Television commercials in the 1950’s and 1960’s assignment », I have chosen to interest myself to an ad from 1953. The brand Ketchup Del Monte made popular this image to promote his Ketchup product :


We will apply to this very specific case an analysis method inspired by Machin : we will analyze the gaze of the image, that is to say to what extent the receptor is encouraged to buy and by what means. The angle will be studied as well in order to provide us with further information regarding the communication strategy embedded in this advertisement. The distance of the representation, its nature and its agency dimension will be studied, as well as what is not represented, to try and decode the message behind this advertising campaign.

First we can see that the woman who is the main character of the picture is directly looking at ourselves with both her eyes and her mouth wide open. We are the direct destination of the message that is carried out, that is to say the feeling of surprise. The consumer’s attention is captivated : one has to ask himself why this woman looks so astonished.

The explanation lies behind the picture in bold black letters : « You mean a woman can open it ? »

The consumer understand here, and thanks to the underlined word « woman » that the woman pictured is surprised that the Ketchup bottle be that easy to open, even for her, that is to say a woman. The connotation here is clear : a woman is weak, therefore if even a weak person can open this bottle of Ketchup, everyone can. This is the association of femininity and strenght, traditionnally stereotyped as a male value, that is indeed surprising and used in this ad.

Since it is a widespread stereotype, and since the woman is directly looking at the consumer, the goal is clearly to trigger surprise for the consumer. The focus only shows the woman astonished, the top of the bottle that is so easy to open, and the woman’s hand delicately positionned as if it the action of opening the bottle only required such a stereotypically feminine and delicate investment : that is to say no effort at all. Her agency is very ambiguous, since she seems barely moving, once again to express how easy it should be to open this bottle of Ketchup.

The woman is shown alone in the picture, and the background is fully yellow in order to focus the attention to this very point and nothing else. The woman is also very typical of the US standards during the 50’s 60’s, perfectly hairdressed, white with red lips and nails, in order to the women watching the ad to easily associate themselves with her. She is at the same time individualized as the only object of the picture, and collectivized and categorized as every american woman.

During those years, the rôle of the woman relied in majority on a very tradition vision of the conition of women, that is to say homecare and cooking. Since cooking is woman’s business, this advertisement target the very core of the consumer that are interested in food, cooking… in Ketchup. The true proximity of the woman in the focus of the image is of course crafted to ensure the way women could associate and recognize themselves with the ad.

Finally we can see that the product is almost secondary in the picture : only one dimension of it is used and exploited through social creations and stereotypes, that were commonly conveyed through ads from this time.

Assignment 4


Discourse analysis II is the second type of discourse analysis provided by Rose. This very type of discourse analysis relies more than ever on the precise study of the institutions and the social practices that are carried out in a particular form of discourse. It can consists in visual, concretized or rather symbolic norms and conventions that ensure a situation of power and a form of domination. At least a particular organization and order. It relies according to Foucault on two dimensions :

  • an institutional apparatus : it can consists in architecture, laws, moral values, expert reflections…
  • the institutional technologies : it refers to the concrete and practical techniques used to pracise that power/that knowledge, and to ensure its prosperity

I personally interested myself to the concert halls. I went to a concert on friday (April 28th) in Lyon, France, and had the occasion to analyze the discourse developped throughout this institution, and how power and dominance is exercise there.

Apparatus :

The first implicite rule/convention to be followed was the queue to be followed in order to enter the place. The fact that you’re not expected to have a bottle of whatever liquid in your bag is also another apparatus. Then the visitor has to proceed as followed : make his ticket validated, pass by the merch store, the bar and then the actual concert hall.This is the final destination of the individual which show the symbolic importance of the place. Here, a music is played in background for the people to wait the band to play.

However, at the moment when the music stops and the lights start to go down, everyone start to behave on a very different manner from before. They start to group themselves in front of the stage, sometimes encouraging the band, shouting and so on… The symbol conveyed by this apparatus is that the moment has come for the behaviour to change and to start acting as a concert’s spectator, that is to say to be the receptor of a symbolic musical and visual stimulations.

The condition of the spectator is underlined by his position in the crowd, facing the stage where the musicians are, having to deal with the complementary role and expectation to play music. Hence the fact that the spectator is expected to watch the show, and will be criticized if he does not, since it breaks the tacit conventions of this cultural event.

At the end of the show, spectators are expected to leave the hall, and either going to the merch stand, or to the bar.

Technologies :

Many technologies are developped to achieve the discourse of the concert hall’s discourse. At the gates of the concert hall, a security guard is checking the spectator’s tickets, their bags and searching for eventual weapons or dangerous items. The meaning carried out is that this is a place of surveillance and order, even beyond the cultural dimension of the event. Guards are also placed in the concert hall controlling the good behaviour of the spectators.

They also guarantee that the spectator won’t get on stage (or at least not for too long) to ensure that they keep their condition of spectator and fit the expectations required. The separation between artists and the crowd is symbolized by many ways, notably by hidding and forbidding the access of the artists’s boxes. Their position is idolized through various process such as smoke, lights, strobes and other effects to give a spectacular dimension. The goal is to construct the artist as something beyond-human, which would then be worth watching for one hour and a half from the spectator’s point of view.



Assignment 3

The notion of discourse is a crucial concept in social science, communication studies and in various other fields. Originally made famous by Foucault, the notion of discourse is both a concept and a method, a paradigm of reasoning in order to study in depth social facts, artifacts, situation, codes or conventions…

Rose gives a definition of discourse:

“It refers to groups of statements which structure the way a thing is thought, and the way we act on the basis of that thinking. In other words, discourse is a particular knowledge about the world which shapes how the world is understood and how things are done in it.”

In fact, what we call a discourse is a system of symbols, meaning, thoughts, conventions and codes structured in a very particular way in order to get a meaning a form of coherent grid of comprehension out of the world, be it social or material. I that sense, it is necessary to take into account the various element that make this system coherent (or appearing to be coherent). It is the inter-relation between those constituating elements, the signs and symbols that are part of the discourse, that build the “egime of truth” of this discourse, that is to say the impression that such a discourse is true by essence, whereas it is in fact nothing more than a social construct based on conventions.


According to Rose, there is 2 discourse analysis in a Foucaultdian paradigm:

  • Discourse analysis 1 which focuses itself on the specific articulation of images and texts as a major object of study, rather than actual social practices of discourses
  • Discourse analysis 2 which focuses on the contrary on the practices carried out by a discourse, without much concern to the images and the texts of the discourse

In chapter 6, Rose focuses himself on the first type of discourse analysis

Then, to provide with a “discourse analysis” is not an easy task, since as we have seen, all discourse tends to appear as natural. In order to analyse it, there is somehow a need for a critical approach, which imply getting rid of any form of preconceptions, and always reflecting on the own analysis provided and its credibility.

One has to keep in mind as well that any form of discourse is located in many ways: it is historically located, institutionally located, spacially located as well. Therefore, to study a discourse, one has to take into account every detail of a particular context to perceive the particular connection that ties those elements together. That constituted the fact that in a certain moment, in a certain place and in a certain context, people gave meaning to the world in a certain manner, and according to certain codes and conventions. Indeed one thing that is finally crucial to get about to discourse is that it is productive: productive of norms, codes of truth, conventions of behaviour and of understanding of the world surrounding the individuals that experience it.

In that sense the Eliott’s study of Starbuck’s discoursal strategy is very relevant. Starbucks refer to terms and symbols that are carrying out the idea of exotism, the idea that coffee come from mysterious lands such as Latin America, Arabia…

Eliott shows us here that those notions are only relevant for the brand in their discoursal value, that is to say expressing the idea that Starbucks bring exotic sensations at home: a form of foreign product but still American, still at home. This Orientalist use of foreign signs is of course part of the symbolic strategy of Starbucks, crafting its identity on those very concepts. However, as Rose explained us, a discourse is ambiguous since it conveys an illusion of truth. Consumers do not necessarily realize this work of construction when consuming Starbucks products. They are just consuming a cultural artifact artificially built on demand, internalizing the concept of exotism at home, the idea of the world as a big city, without realizing its superficial essence, the fact that those lands are “conceptually deterritorialized” and westernized for a commercial purpose.

Where Elliott’s analysis take a step away from Rose’s recommandations and statements on discourse is dealing with coffee and Starbucks in general, without taking the time to situating it historically and institutionnally enough. Indeed the social and historical context of the uprising of Starbucks could have been interesting in order to understand its discursive strategy. On the same perspective, we sometimes have the impression that Starbucks’s discourse is analyzed from only one angle: that of the Orientalist approach of the Starbucks product. Following Rose’s logic, one could have expected a more diverse and in depth attention toward other details of the brand’s discourse, its imagery, its style in general, which finally goes hand to hand with the remark we’ve just made: the Starbucks analysis proposed by Eliott is much more restrictive than the systematic approach proposed by Rose.


Assignment 2

To become a cultural icon can be seen as the ultimate condition of brand. As Holt explains,

« Iconic brands provide extraordinary identity value because they address the collective anxieties and desires of a nation. »

They provide consumers with identity values, shared by ritual actions in the populist world, relying on actual performances from the individual themselves. This type of branding goes far beyond mind-share brandig, emotional branding and viral branding, according to Holt, since the condition of myth for a brand seems to be a cause of viral spreading or emotional attachment for instance, not a consequence.

A brand that has become a “cultural icon” communicates with metaphors, symbols and imagination, in a very psychologic value, rather than material. They embody a much stronger durability than in the case of simple fashions or trends… they become part of a cultural paradigm.

The signs implied in such a paradigm can be backed up by many means: logo, packaging, merchandising associated, celebrities, but also music industry, TV shows, websites that can promote wider contents to shape with more accuracy the image of a brand. Ads in the cityscape are also an effective way of crafting a cultural image for a brand. To communicate a lifestyle, a compagny have somehow to penetrate the everyday life of the consumer. Of course then, advertisement is a crucial mean, but also sponsorships for instance. This new need for promoting brand came from mass production before becoming part of the whole branding system as an economic necessity, hence its importance in the budget of a compagny.

One interesting example of it is the one of Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden is a well known Heavy Metal band, but the name Iron Maiden and its visual codes has become through the year a cultural icon, a brand that is so iconic that tends now to be disconnected from its root, that is to say the band itself.



Wearing an Iron Maiden shirt carries out cultural symbol and codes. It can be interpreted as a subversive way of dressing, and more and more celebrities tend to wear those shirts. However, the brand has become so cultural that it has been somehow disconnected from the initial source of this icon: indeed wearing an Iron Maiden shirt does not mean necessarily listening to Iron Maiden, but including its iconic value in the making of one own individual identity.

Klein understood very well the importance of the symbolic, or “spiritual” value for a brand to become a myth. In the example of Iron Maiden, we can get as Klein states that brand is about branding a culture, not just a product. The visual codification is therefore crucially important in that sense, with logos as symbols more and more shown through the years. The help of celebrity as well to promote a brand and to raise it at the level of a myth is another illustration of the Iron Maiden example that has been highlighted by Klein.

It proves very well that corporations has to put on an emphasis on symbol and symbolic value for a brand to grow bigger and eventually become a cultural symbol. It has to be even so cultural that the consumers would be able to re-appropriate themselves the brand to make them part of their own identity. Branding and advertising brands is not about material issues but symbolic and semiologics signs.




Assignment 1

Semiotics refers to the study of sign. Umberto Eco, stating that semiotics is concerned with everything that can be used to stand for something else, refers to it as the “theory of the lie”. It draws  the distinction between the signifier (the word “dog”) and the signified the actual animal) to try and understand the relation between both, that are often based on social and cultural conventions, that eventually shape our perception of the world, or according to Branston “an imaginative access to the world”. A world made of constructed signs.

Then what exactly is a sign?

According to Berger, a sign is “something that stands for something else, as a spoken or written workd, a drawn figure, or a material object unified in the mind with a particular cultural concept. In that sense the language is a system of signs. Language is not speech, it is a social institution that uses signs to communicate denotion and connotation, that is to say “primary meaning”, and more “evocative” meaning. Indeed sociocultural are not only material but can have sometimes complex meanings. Signs embody all of that.

3 types of signs are defined:

  • Icon: “an icon is a sign that partake of the character of the object” (Berger), that is linked to it. For instance, a logo or a drawing of a particular objectAn icon is recognizable since it tends to fit the material embodiment of the object, to correspond to it. It has been for parodied for instance by Magritte in his famous painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” meaning “this is not a pipe”, insisting on the fact that even though signs and especially icons may look like the actual material object, we must keep in mind that it is only a representation of the reality. Icon usually embody a very graphic character.


  • Index: this kind of sign is linked with the material object with a causal relation: we can for instance think of a smoke picture:
    The very meaning that was constructed to fit the sign is the direct cause of its representation, in that case visual. We guess here that there is a fire or a cigarette at the very left of the image, as the source of the smoke we see. This type of sign is in a sense very indirect, since it refers to the imaginary of the individual who has to interpret it a certain way


  • Symbol: A symbol, is a constructed sign, often with a high level of cultural and social history that explains its making and its acceptation in the common codes. As opposed to the two others, It may not have any visual link with the concrete meaning of the object of the signThe thumb up symbol refers to a sentiment of approval, but the connection between both is socially and historically constructed, without real concrete connection between the two of them.

What we can understand from semiotic study is that meaning is a much more complex artifact than it seems. We only rarely have a direct access to the world, and have to refer to symbols, codes, conventions… a system of sign that provides us with an interpretation of the world through a grid of multidimensional meanings. This approach is crucial in media study since media is only a representation of the reality, hence the recurrent use of many signs in this field, that has to be decoded in order to draw a complete and accurate analysis of medias, communication and production meaning in general.

Hello world!


My name is Romain Poncet, I am 21, and I am an exchange student from Lyon, France studying « Logo & Imago Identity Formation and Cultural Branding  in Modern Media Culture » at the FaSoS in Maastricht . I am a guitar player as well, playing in a french metal band called Dawn Harbor. This position allowed me to aknowledge the crucial importance of brands and products in our contemporary societies. Indeed, when I first started to play in a band, I thought that music was basically all a band was about. I could not be more wrong. Today, for a band to be successful, it has to embody certain values that are traditionally associated with brands and production: the dimensions of communication, merchandising, logos, advertising on social media… those elements are part of what a band need to take into consideration in order for it to be successful enough. For me it makes clear the importance of brands and products in a capitalist society where consommation of products and services take a major part both in the economic and social fields.


Hence I am really looking forward to learn more about those topics in the meetings « Logo & Imago Identity Formation and Cultural Branding  in Modern Media Culture »