Category: Identity


Decommodified, Deinstitutionalized, Unconstrained, Globalized

As a final lecture, I thought this was a pretty good one. Well organized and the points were well made. The key terms were: alternative symbolic economy, Expanded normative debate, expanding expressive capabilities, toxic parody, indellible memories and the market censor depoliticization of context.

A statement said in class is that television and music videos have become more and more sexualized. I couldn’t agree with Mr. Strangelove and Madonna more. I was actually discussing the new Keri Hilson music video entitled “The Way you Love me” and Keri who is usually known for being very classy and decently clothed in her videos, is now gyrating and grinding in panties in front of and above the camera lens. It leads me to question when is “too sexy” for a music video. Lady Gaga was just as scandalous in her “Alejandro” video. To be honest I think that these videos are more in the soft porn genre then music videos at this point. But I do remember a decade ago maybe female artists would have the camera focused on cleavage, that progressed/transgressed to cameras focusing on their curves or their behinds and now its gone to the point where women are opening their legs with panties on infront of cameras. Like how far is too far? And do people realize the target audience for these artists, its usually young teenagers, and that this can have an effect on overall promiscuity and the perception of the role of women in society.

Another topic covered was that of individualism. The argument was made that previously or in traditional society our personality was buried, and today the modern individual is less institutionalized in terms of religion and by two trends, de-‘sacredization’ and capitalism. I argue that we are just as institutionalized as before, but this time by different things. For example we are still highly influenced by our education system. We are also highly influenced the media system and the power holders and gatekeepers who dictate what we shall see and when we see it. We are also highly influenced by consumerism and materialism, these forces are so big that they can inspire poor people to buy things they can’t afford and don’t need in order to look cool or feel equal to others in their social circle.

Who we are significantly depends on what they tell us.

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Social Engineering of Desire

The internet brings various ideas and rapid innovation. There is this mass context and mass realm of ideas where the individual identity is under stress. In popular culture there are all types of metaphors expressing the fear of self. It leaves people questioning, especially young people, “What part of us belongs to us”.

Everything that we see around us, as well as the shows we watch, the stuff we read, the things we learn in school all have an influence on who we are. The individual is colonized so the institutional values become our values.

Nowadays the individual has the potential to change things in the social order or system through new communication avenues such as the internet. The internet is not under the same control and same gatekeepers as television. Through the internet, the individual is able to amass collective action which can have institutional effects.

Chapter 5- Theory of Cultural Production and Digital Age

Capitalism treats meanings as private property. After the creation of the Gutenberg press there was a notion of the author’s rights. On the web there is a resistance to culture privatization. However when corporations try to to control meaning over the internet or the role of their product online, the general result is increased consumer activism and expanding resistance. People in general don’t like to be told what to do, so they are likely to rebel.

The social order corresponds to dominant pattern of symbols. If one controls the pattern of symbols then they have the ability to exercise control over the social order.

An example is the Barbie Doll, probably created by Mattel. It is catered to little girls, but has sexualized proportions and says consumerist things. However there is a lot of backlash and a lot of anger and violence expressed towards the barbie doll. This is shown through mutilation of Barbie in various videos and pictures found online. It is also pretty ridiculous how many women have had plastic surgery to look like the original Barbie doll.

There is a preferred meaning of the symbols, for example the Barbie Doll is suppose to be beautiful and consumerist and have the perfect life. People will either aspire to these preferred meanings and symbols or contradict them.

Another topic discussed in class was that capitalism suppresses human experiences and selects characteristics which create a disciplined worker. For example, going to school helps to discipline children and adults, thus preparing them for the workforce.

The social order tries to establish limits on expression. However the internet is an anomaly because it is uncontrolled.

Ascribed and Achieved Identity

In capitalism and the social order, people have clearly described roles. Today we are less defined by who we are and more defined with what we do. The focus now is on achieved identity.

The focus is the nature of identity in capitalism. The capitalist media system, has a way of classifying people into different identities.This is done most commonly through advertising, political or otherwise, and television consumption and the system of corporate state production.

Under capitalism today, identity is destabilized. One of the ways of creating identity is education. It creates identities of workers and citizens. Education is also a way of creating your own unique identity and deciding for yourself who you want to be.

The intensification of appropriation within popular culture destabilizes identity. It destabilizes the categories of shared information. Appropriation is shown through various forms of media, such as YouTube, television shows, commercials, which affects the way the audience perceives original meanings and identities for individuals and corporations.

A topic mentioned in class was the destruction of the Black man in America which corresponds to the destruction of the black family unit, which is contrary to what is shown as the ideal family situation in mainstream media. When it comes to this situation I believe there are a variety of corresponding negative factors involved in the dissolution of the Black family unit, and the struggles of the black man. For example: poverty, education, and parental guidance/supervision are all intertwined. If a family is suffering from a lack of all three of these factors there are bound to be a lot of social problems to follow. If you fix the situation of these problems you will fix the “plight of the Black man”. As well as out of curiosity, why wasn’t the “Black women” mentioned? For example if a Black American single mom has children, some male and some female, what is the role of the daughter(s) in this situation? Are they more likely to succeed in the realm of education because of the differentiation of the socialization of education towards gender?

In terms of media identity, in my opinion and from my personal experiences, when young Black children and teens are home alone and unsupervised the common programming of the day to watch is BET. Which I believe doesn’t do much to help in the positive formation of “Black identity”. Especially when it seems to promote mostly gangster culture, which definitely isn’t going to help get these already marginalized youth out of their current situation. Maybe if more programming focused  on a more positive black identity and the pursuing of higher education and in much more numbers, maybe it could have a positive effect on the behaviour of young and disadvantaged black men. But this is just a thought.

Capitalism and the Limits of Thought

“Capitalism depends on the ability to define things in our world”.

For capitalist system to work people (consumers) need to believe that they need to purchase certain things in order to look or behave a certain way, or in order to be a certain type of person.

Gone are the days of the pre-industrial society when we had the freedom to simply exist. Due to modernity, we live in a highly disciplined society, the discipline of the mind.

In capitalism we institutionalized basic events in an economy. For example, marriage, which is simply a union between a male and a female is now a commodified and socially constructed act.

Meanings of products are highly pre-determined. They are continually enforced by the meaning-making system.

Dominant symbols are established to thought and these dominant symbols reinforce the social order. The example given is the Barbie doll. If a Barbie doll is given to black kids, most likely they will choose to be the white doll. On my own reflection, I believe there could be two possible reasons, one being that the white Barbie doll may perhaps be the standard of beauty, or more realistically the black kids associate the white Barbie Doll with privilege. For example: The girl who has everything.

Different ethnic groups consume media differently. Teenagers use symbols differently.

Capitalism is starting to be equated and marketed with democracy and freedom. For example a corporation will create a product where the consumer can customize the product and then create the illusion of freedom or freedom of choice.

The internet is eroding definitional control on people with capital.

Amateur Videographic Representation of Politics, Religion, and Warfare

There is a war for people’s minds. There is a massive fragmentation of the audience, which is a problem for ideology, or a public that all thinks or knows the same information. In the mid-20th century the audience had unity and saw the same content and message consumption.

The internet fragements us and capitalism and the state must find a way to continue to influence public opinion.

The media portrays the interests of private companies, as if they are our interests. For example profit driven initiatives such as oil, are being marketed as being good for the public, despite the dangers that are caused.

Youtube also shows wars between different ideologies, for examples Christians vs. Atheists. There are also race wars. As well as political wars. On YouTube the audience tends to say really crude and offensive things, because they are hiding behind their computer screens, so their anonymity protects them.

Control of Representation

Whomever controls the media system controls the representation of the message.You get your message of who you are through the media and how they portray how a particular type of person should behave. For example the mafia or homosexuals, or black male youth (ganster hiphop culture), or blonde haired youthful girls (preppy Paris Hilton). As mentioned in class it tells gay people how to act stereotypically gay. For example, the change in voice or the bending of the wrist when walking, or the linguistics which should be used. It is also totally branded. For example assumptions are made about a person based on what they wear. For example the sterotypical Paris Hilton type, will wear seemingly high fashion clothing, with sunglasses and possibly carry a small dog in their purse.

Society gives us the myth of freedom, by offering so many different options. However there is a lot of freedom you don’t have. For example you can wear whatever you want in certain places, but you will have consequences or repercussions or won’t be treated as well. Therefore you don’t have true freedom.

If you arn’t represented in the media, than you don’t exist.

There is a representation of the media and power. Control of the representation is control over the social order.

There are categories in the social order and society classifies them. In the social order there are always things that don’t fit and are seen as dangerous. The anomaly is the place where things can happen. The internet is an anomaly, and represents things that usually don’t fit. The internet has the potential of destructing or disrupting the social order, by normalizing things that weren’t seen as normal.

At the same time in my opinion the normalization process is natural with the evolution of human society, with or without the internet. For example in the past women didn’t work, now it is normal for women to work, and that occured without the help of the internet.

Corporate Control

In the political economy, there is a corporate attempt to control amateur cultural production. For example when you put a video on Youtube that may contain some lyrics or images from a corporate entity, your video may be removed because it is considered to go against copyright law. However what about the rights of fair use?

Media has the biggest influence on cultural production. Thus there is a control by the power elites of society, and the power holders decide what people will believe and how they should act. As Karl Marx said, “the people who own the means of production, also control the production of ideas”.

Social media has challenged corporate media, and there is now two competing systems for the attention of the masses.

Our values and actions correspond to the needs of the political system. They perpetuation of the status quo and inequality is maintained in the social structure.

When I heard this lecture I thought about black people and black identity, most specifically in North America, or the United States of America. For example the Power holders such as Viacom which now own B.E.T. which stands for Black Entertainment Television; Continuously plays videos on repeat which show the “thug life” or “gangster culture”, and are constantly “pimping out” black women. For example if your a child and you grow up watching that stuff on a daily basis and you come from a poor background, there is a high likelihood that you are going to strive to live like how the people on t.v. live, especially the ones who you feel you can relate to. These people are seen as rolemodels because viewers feel that they went through similar struggles. Overall the message that the media sends black youth, in my opinion promotes their oppression within modern society. If they showed a lot more black people on t.v. who were successful and overcame their oppression through education, I think you would start to see more black people raising their socio-economic status, and then the dominating perceptions and stereotypes of non-blacks towards blacks would also change.

New Media and Publicity vs. Privacy

We like to be watched for publicity and we like to watch others, even if that means invading their privacy. 91% of children have a presence online by the time of two. When watching the videos of Miley while we were in class, and watching the video of the woman giving birth on YouTube, I was quite disturbed. It is difficult for me to comprehend why a woman would feel it was necessary to film herself giving birth and post that to the whole world. What happened to the wanting of one’s privacy. I do understand that giving birth is a natural process, however I think it can be agreed that filming and posting it online is unnatural. I am also very concerned for Miley and for this new trend of parents posting everything about their children online. In my opinion they are making it much easier for someone to abduct their children. As well as giving a million suspects the ability to have enough knowledge to lure their children away.

Miley and her parents are creating videos that can be used in the future by sociologists, historians and researchers about child rearing practices of our time, and the sociolization practices of our time. Through the videos of Miley growing up, the acquisition of skills are showed. This could be a general reflection of our society, of how parents try to keep their children competitive. It also reflects different social classes and their child rearing practices. More talking and conversations with children will lead to better vocabulary development and thus smarter children.

In terms of privacy, new social media programs reduce our privacy. For example Facebook gives you the option of posting your job history, your city (past and current), date of birth, the highschools and universities you attended, your relatives on Facebook, who you are in a relationship with, your sexual orientation,  and what you look like. It makes things like identity fraud much easier, and it makes it much easier for people to find out any kind of information about you. As you post your photos, people are able to see what you look like, where you shop, where you vacation, who your friends are and the group you hang out with.  It makes it quite simple for anyone to find things out about you. Or even where to turn if they require more information. Another thing is that I remember when the Elliot Spitzer scandal broke a few years back. Newspapers went on the Facebook page of the call girl, stole her photos and published them on the front page of newspapers. If the girl didn’t have a Facebook page, the media wouldn’t have had access to photos to identify her, or would have needed the help of paparazzi’s. As well as should there be something in place that makes the stealing of photos off facebook, especially for malicious purposes or for profit illegal?

Diaries-Video Diaries and Self Presentation

Confession used to occur mostly in an institutional context such as the law or church. Previously it was done towards authority. Confession is important as a normalizing process where one repents what you did because it doesn’t fit in with societies expectations. The internet is deinstitutionalizing confession by removing the authority factor from it. It is releasing the abnormal.

As the internet releases the abnormal, the way that we construct what is real in society is changing.  The more real vs. the more constructed. The unitary self vs. authentic pluralism.

When we create new contexts we create new opportunities for the self to emerge.

John Bodrillard: The death of meaning, losing touch with the real and the hyperreal.

Fictionality of theory and the factuality of everyday life. We often mistake our ideas for reality itself. What we think is true might actually not be, a perfect example are generalizations and stereotypes of others. We are also concerned with the individual structures which influence our lives. The internet is possibly changing peoples perception on reality because if we change the medium, the message is changed.

It is bad that 39% of kids think information online is always correct. Because anyone can publish anything online. And it is possible that there are going to be further implications in the future, with the new generation of children online.