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Rhetoric of Walls

For this post I am actually drawing on Francesca Bray’s Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China. This book was one of the readings for my Eng 467 class. In this book, Bray discusses how gender is constructed in Imperial China, specifically during the Song Dynasty. Bray discusses how a space can serve as the identity for gender. I was interested in that a wall around the home of a family’s home had a lot more to it then keeping unwanted persons out. In a sense, it marked the domain of the wife, not that she held dominant power within the walls, but that the affairs within the walls, even the husbands concubines, were her responsibility. Beyond the wall was the domain of the husband. The wall also served as a status marker for the family. Bray alludes to the idea that one family sees the wall from the inside, but two families see the wall from the outside (92). Ornate gates and high walls were symbolic of a prosperous family.

 

The physical design and layout of the wall can also be ritualistic. Imperial Chinese not only believed that the walls would keep out unwanted strangers, but also ghosts and spirits. The paths through the wall twisted and turned because of the belief that ghosts and spirits had to travel in a straight line.

 

Also, placement of paper or announcements above gates celebrated or mourned various occasions. A white paper above the main gate with a name on it would signal that that person had died. Remember from my Japan lecture (though another Asian culture it has strong ties to China) that white signified death or the world beyond or a red paper (signaling joy and celebration) for the new year or birth of a son.

 

There is quite a bit more that I could say on how a wall, a seemingly simple construct in our society, meant much more to this culture. But let me conclude by pointing out that by studying a wall, we are able to examine the religion, class, and social practices of families in the Song Dynasty. There is a lot of culture deliberately tied to this construct, and where there is culture, there is strong deliberate rhetoric which creates it.

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October 30, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Monopoly at McDonalds

I look forward every year to Monopoly at McDonald’s. It is a lot of fun to me that I cna buy fast food which I enjoy and have the chance to walk away rich. Of course I enter the codes on the Web site for more chances to win. But this really had me thinking about the rhetoric of the site and how the campaign was presented. Using Monopoly in itself is a rhetorical strategy in that it is a game associated with money and has a family context. Images for the game show working class people who have won money, looking like working class people. The slogan for the game too this year is something to the effect of “We know the money will not change you, just some of your stuff.” The campaign is able to interpellate it audience by presenting people that most can identify with and expose the consumerist desires of its audience to want the better material possessions, and thus buy more McDonald’s food for the chance to win it.

 

As a spectator, our relationship with the person in the ad (many different people are portrayed) might be one of envy. We see them as someone who has instantly acquired a vast amount of wealth, yet they are still working or middle class, but seem happier for it. The money is not viewed by the spectator as undeserved since we can identify with the person in the ad.

 

The music on the Web site is geared around creating a feeling of excitement. I could compare it to hip music that might be played in a convertible while going somewhere fun. Each time the dice are rolled, the potential prize is shown despite whether or not it is won. In this way, the spectator yearns more for the prize and feels excitement that their life would change if the money was won, though the odds of winning are astronomically high.

October 29, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Domain Errors and Technology and Gender

The authors of Domain Errors begin by explaining where cyberfeminism sits relative to concepts of feminism in the world. The problem they see is that some critics see no use for traditional models of feminism at all, while others try to situate cyberfeminism too deeply in the model of traditional model of feminism. As far as situating cyberfeminism goes, I liked the definition of feminism from Bell Hooks that the authors provided, “feminism is not simply a struggle to end male cheavinism or a movement to ensure that women will have equal rights with men; it is a commitment to eradicating the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels–sex, race, and class to name a few and a commitment to recognizing U.S. society so that the self-development of people cna take precedence over imperialism, economic expansion, and material desires” (26). Cyberfeminism then could be said to engage women in the technologies that they impact and that impact their lives, fashioning and critiquing their own identity on the cyberscape not in a way to overturn male cheavinism of equality as Bell Hooks says, but to establish a common identity for women on the cyberscape in an effort to overturn ideologies of domination altogether.

In theory, this equality on the cyberscape can be demonstrated in ways in modern film, breaking down the barriers of class and race. Lisa Nakamura exposes the idea of the film “The Matrix” as an allegory for the oppression of multiracialism by white, middle class society. By depicting the Zion freedom fighters as multi racial, and the agents of the Matrix as white middle class, Nakamura shows a traditional power struggle. However, Nakamura might have also mentioned that the architect, who is introduced in the second movie, and holds a great deal of power even when compared to the agents, is an older white man, fulfilling the traditional role of the white man in power. Nakamura also talks about the residual selves in the matrix or avatars that change class, but do not transcend race. I wonder though if characters had changed race if they would have been suggesting that one race was superior to another as they show through their avatar clothes that a higher class is more desirable.

The section that featured biotech lectures on reproduction options when technology is introduced into traditional ideas of conception really interested me. Flyers introduce ideas such as gene splicing, producing the ideal off spring, and how to breed genetically superior children. What I think was so dynamic about the idea of eugenics was my own reaction. Several of the flyers describe children born abnormally or as “unfit” could be done away with, not through abortion, but through a proactive choice on the part of the parents. Rather than utilizing a technology to discard an unwanted child, a person can use technology to create an ideal child, but in a way that is portrayed as edgy as abortion. I think this example subverts the idea of pro-life regulations also on the last flyer when it gives the call to action that people should demand the formation of a federal eugenics agency to regulate the concept and make it a reality. So we would in effect be giving ourselves up to a government agency and basing our pairing on a technology.

Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China, Bray looks at technologies in imperial China which she terms as gynotechnics, which produces ideas about women, and thus ideologies of how gender should be viewed as well as social standing. One of the thoughts which Bray asks readers to keep in mind is that values and social goals were different from our own today, which focus in progress, and therefore the society should not necessarily be criticized so readily. For criticizing the society with our own sense of values as a filter might cause us to fail to understand the culture of the time not only for the women, but also for the men, as well as how technologies dictated their roles. In this sense, Bray depicts that technology is inherently tied to culture, to the extent that technology becomes culture.

 

Moreover, Bray, portrays the Song era in China in a way very different from what I might expect when I think of a “traditional” Chinese household. While through our own cultural ideals we could describe the subserviance to men, women were acknowledged as an important and necessary part of the household affairs of the society. Granted the technologies may have caused roles to be defined in that men were required to spend their days farming rice, while women focused on textiles, they were both viewed as essential. Indeed, Bray shows that productivity was one of the major values of the Song Dynasty, rather than a life of affluence that we experience today. The relationship between a husband and wife is even more of a partnership than one might describe the relationship between a man and a woman today, in that productivity in the home in the form of “womanly work” is viewed as a contribution to the state in the same way the farming or “manly” were seen. Although it strikes me ironic that by many of our values today, we try to move towards a society where value is not based in reproduction, but productivity, whereas by the end of the Song Dynasty, a move was being made towards reproduction as value rather than production. This is not to say that reproduction was not valued at all. Bray states that even after marriage a woman was not considered to be a part of her husbands lineage until she gave birth to a son, and was often not allowed to see her family after leaving them. Wealth in the family she joined was divided between the males, though the wife might receive a dowry and controlled all of the finances of the household.

 

It really is a complex society that Bray paints for us. The concept I found challenging throughout the reading was to not critique the society in terms of today’s values. I constantly found myself doing that, especially in the case of a maid who conceived a male son by the husband. However, it was not a book about critiquing, but understanding.

October 29, 2009 Posted by | 1 | Leave a comment

Document design

I found that document design is highly related to the C.R.A.P. principles that we discussed earlier in the semester. It seems that the field has a challenge in what they term the field. For example, a term such as information architecture might seem ambiguous to some, and might also refer more to digital documents. I would be surprised if any sort of consensus was ever reached on an appropriate term for the position, but what the author does in explaining the nuances of why certain terms are effective and ineffective is demonstrate that document design is a deeply involved process requiring a skill set that relies on understanding the principles of what makes a good design.

I will mention that one issue I had with the reading was regarding the difference between document design, termed more as ethical and geared towards helping the reader to find what they want, and advertising, which focuses on driving the reader towards a certain end goal such as consumption. Though it is acknowledges that advertising requires well thought out design choices to be made, I feel that terming document design as ethical and advertising as not is an unfair assumption.

We see the same sort of assumption with rhetorical discourse, where rhetoric is sometimes defined as the ethical use of persuasion. However, we know that persuasion that is not ethical is still persuasion none-the-less. Perhaps the author would like to steer document design towards an ethical practice, but some of the same principles that makes document design an effective way to allow the reader to find information are utilized in a similar fashion.

I also appreciated the reading on socially responsible document design. I know that this is something that University Marketing and Communications takes seriously. Standardized on each of our publications is an accommodation statement. Documents are also printed on recycled paper. There are other ways to be socially responsible too. Using fonts that consume less ink can be environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible. Also, using local printers can support the community, rather than farming out the job to a distant vendor. In the reading, making sure that the job is even warranted is a way to conserve costs and the environment. Of course, the author notes that most firms will not want to turn away jobs that can provide much needed income. However, this can be solved by suggesting a different size for the publication or even changing the medium. Rather than a billboard for the Bone Student Center, we have a changing electronic marquee. Although this may be expensive, it cuts down on wasted materials and can feature multiple ads at a time. Materials can also be placed on the Web, where unlimited space is available. Or perhaps rather than inviting guests to an event with a formal invitation and envelope, a postcard or e-mail relay are better options. In these ways, designers do not necessarily have to turn away work, and the designer can be socially responsible at the same time.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Louise Eldrich

Louise Eldrich spoke on a book that she had written describing a loves story, but also the generational relationships between people in her family. One thing that she brought up concerning technology (albeit not intentionally) is the power of it to bring people together. We have been discussing in class how a lack of technology or a failure to understand differences in what we conceive as technology can separate us. However, Louise showed how it brought her mother and a man named Herman together. Louise describes her mother working the electronic checker line at a large food warehouse store. The way she described it was that her mother, who was Chippewa if my memory serves me correctly, worked the line skillfully and purposefully. Her description made me think of one operating a loom, precisely, tirelessly, and monotonously. It was while working this machine that her mother met this man.

When her mother finally went on a date with this man, it was entertainment technology, a carnival ride, that brought them together. Their shared experience with this technology was not altogether pleasant, as the machine malfunctioned, but afterward, the technology did entertaining her mother in a different way than any had intended. We once again find that different people can can experience technology in different ways that the creator of the technology might not have intended. Perhaps if the ride had functioned normally then her mother would not have had the chance to bond by sharing this common experience.

I also want to comment on how the mother used a very simple repurposing of technology to fight (further) colonialization of her culture. On her worker name tag, she wrote her name as it would appear in her tribe’s language. Her rationale is that if she had to learn English, then customers could learn some of her language. It’s a pretty simple repurposing, but if you think about it, its kind of neat the way it comes together. One name tag: two names: two languages: all representing one person. It kind of says a lot.

October 23, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

Branding

I find myself disagreeing slightly with the “Captive Audience: Advertising invades the classroom” video. The video shows that brand advertising has penetrated schools. Several people in the video say that brand advertising being allowed simply so the school can make an extra buck is deplorable and should not be allowed. Let’s be realistic here. How many profitable public schools do we know of. Sure there are some schools that have more than others, but I think it’s far-fetched to assume that the teachers and principal are sipping cappuchinos while they sit in their leather recliners watching the plasma TV in theteachers lounge. Rather, I think that brand companies take advantage of the fact that most schools are underfunded and will allow a logo on their scoreboard in exchange for some much needed funding. Posters with the Nike swoosh serve as good wall art for schools that can’t even afford paper for handouts. I think the problem here is systemic. Should educators be held accountable for insufficient resources

I want to mention one other thing about this article. In the video, a university professor said that children are targeted from the time they wake up until they go to sleep with advertising. True. But it is important to note that people of ALL ages are targeted in this same way. Adults are not immune to these hailing via advertisement. I would imagine that the professor who made the comment is guilty of falling to the tradition that brand can start. What would be interesting is to see how the people who globally make the product feel about the brand. Have they been introduced to the brand’s culture in the same way that we have? The globalization video suggested that multiple countries could have a hand in making a pair of shoes. How does each country interpret the brand and culture surrounding the shoes? Do the people who make the shoes feel like they could be a part of the crowd that would wear the shoes? Or rather than a sense of inclusion, do companies try to evoke a sense of disclusion to third world workers?

I was intrigued by Naomi Klein’s article describing how the creation of brands can be likened to religious ceremonies. I think that this soul search for a brand is well reflected in consumption habits. Successful brands will have consumers full heartedly brand themselves with the brand of the company. I have said on numerous occassions that I am a Weber man. I like cooking on a charcoal grill and I think that Weber makes a high quality grill. It really becomes a part of the family culture. My father started us on Weber grills, and myself as well as my brothers swear by them. Nothing compares to a Weber. Now ask me how many other grills I have tried. Zero. That is successful branding.

When Klein first mentioned how companies like Starbucks tried to market themselves as an experience, I just rolled my eyes. I knew it was true, and thought they were stupid for it. But here I have fallen in the same trap. It makes me wonder how many other things have become of my family tradition and personal culture that are a result of branding.

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Presentation links and chaser

Thanks for working with me through tonight’s presentation, just to clarify since I realize that I was thrown off a little bit, I hope we can see through the videos that the goals of indigenous peoples are much different from what the countries that voted against the declaration claim them to be. Line by line contradictions and inconsistencies can be found in the response made by the U.S. The same is true for Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The argument is essentially the same as well, it is the fault of the DECLARATION, rather than the indigenous peoples that these countries are not acknowledging the indigenous peoples’ basic rights to exist as a people. Even though the declaration does not hold any legally binding power, it is a pledge of sorts that indigenous people would be free to call on. In the case of the United States, perhaps politicians are happy with the current arrangements and balance of power between themselves and indigenous peoples. This document would not level the playing field by any means, but would allow even the smallest amount of ground to be gained in negotiating certain basic rights.

Since the United States and the other three dissenters stressed that a major problem was a lack of definition of who qualified as indigenous peoples, I hoped to muse on the effects of creating such a definition in this situation. I would guess that the result would be that another “flaw” in the document would be focused on if dissenters did not simply place blame on the definition being assembled poorly. Unfortunately, the result of this is that rather than the indigenous peoples gaining this small acknowledgment, they instead were met with insult at this purposeful lack of recognition. Essentially, these countries that voted against the is declaration implied that the nations were seeking soverignty, veto power rivaling that of the president, and reparations foot hills they had suffered. Claims were even made that the declaration would allow land disputes hat had been settled to be reopened. Specifically in a response by the Maori affairs leader to the vote against the bill, there was outrage and an expressed deepened sense of hurt and insult towards New Zealand’s government.

So why focus at all on indigenous media? Indigenous media affords an additional way to express themselves on their own terms to the main stream media. However, there are problems with indigenous media. Will people take it as seriously? In the conclusion of the first article in section 1, Salazar and Cordova distinguishes indigenous film making in terms of a “lack of infrastructure and equipment, limited training (usually compressed in short workshops), and the community obligations of Indigenous producers” (55). This othering of indigenous media causes audience to focus on what these forms are not, rather than what they are. What they are are ways that the public can learn about a people and more importantly, how the people can communicate with and learn from one another.

Thank you for your time. If anyone has any comments, feel free to post them. I’ll look forward to seeing any responses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-Z-FzCJ6-Y&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl8Tz_n-w8w

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

The rhetoric of Reggie Redbird

As a part of University Marketing Communications within University Advancement, we deal with the branding of the University. We have a formal style guide that explains how everything from the University seal to the Illinois State wordmark should be used. The rules might seem nit picky, but after all, Illinois State is our brand, it is a valuable brand, so it is important to be careful in how we use the brand. It will come as no surprise that Illinois State’s mascot, Reggie Redbird is similarly protected. As a vehicle for school spirit, the persona of Reggie is important. Reggie Redbird does not have a specific major, so one college over another is not favored in this manner. A person who is wearing the Reggie costume is not supposed to remove the head in public, to avoid disrupting the image of Reggie. Furthermore, you usually don’t hear Reggie referred to as a he or she. Reggie can be a gender neutered name, although I will admit this was not probably always intended this way. After all, the University motto taken from Chaucer “gladly would they learn and teach” was orignially “gladly would HE learn and teach.” However the Reggie name serves as a neutral identity today.

But what of the visual aesthetics of Reggie? When shown as a logo, Reggie faces a direction resolutely, teeth bared, eyes narrowed, fist clenched, and with a muscular posture. All of this shows defiance towards opponents, a resolute and stalwart attitude towards goals, and strength.

A cardinal, the state bird of Illinois, is synonymous with Illinois (at least to residents in Illinois). Reggie as a cardinal is able to associate himself with Illinois as well.

Consider that red as a color works well on Reggie in terms of the meaning of red. Agression, passion (especially in the context of state your passion), and can increase a person’s blood pressure just by looking at it.

By being able to call on so much context, Reggie Redbird is able to serve as a method through which to increase school spirit. Reggie is an important icon to the University and will likely continue to be well into the future.

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment

Global Indigenous Media edited by Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart

In reading Global Indigenous Media, I was confounded by not only the very differing conceptions of who is found to be “indigenous,” but also at the reluctance of the global community to attempt to define the term. Webster.com, the official Meriam-Webster dictionary Web site list the definition of indigenous as “having originated in and being produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment.” The key word in this definition is “naturally” but even this raises questions of how we define naturally. Given that most cultures migrated (through one means or another, be it peaceful or hostile) or have migrated at one time or another, the classification could be one that is obscure, only warranting awarding to very few cultures.

However, if for the sake of argument we are to use this definition, then how do we as the “empires” spoken of in the text contextualize indigenous peoples? The author referred to indigenous peoples as “fourth world” which surprised me showing a seemingly colonial point of view on these peoples. If the context of third world is a negative one, than certainly the concept of fourth world peoples must be treated with more disdain. It would seem that if the author’s goal through examples of indigenous media in film, animation, and emerging technology use is to demonstrate that these indigenous peoples are long overdue to the access and recognition that the world has largely failed to provide then terming indigenous peoples as fourth world would be counterproductive.

I should note at this point that I specifically make reference to indigenous peoples rather than indigenous people. This might not seem like such an important point to make, but after reading the statement defining international indigenism, “like indigeneity, is used in various ways to fit diverse agendas—may at times appear to be strategically essentialist in its international appeals, identifying Indigenism as a philosophical and cultural attitude toward the world that is shared by all indigenous peoples, a model for global conduct in its resistance to colonialism, imperialism, environmental destruction, and now globalization” (Wilson and Stewart 8).  The definition seems to imply that indigenous can be likened to the term non-white in that all people who fall under the non-white umbrella can be expected to have a singular set of struggles, issues, and goals, or in this case, resistance.

I think my favorite example of how indigenous media was promoted was through Maori filmmaker Barclay. Barclay was not able to combat films that were intended to depict the indigenous culture of the Maori, such as Whale Rider, which not only was not created by a Maori filmmaker who would be likely to understand the culture, but failed to accurately depict Maori culture in several aspects. What was most impressive and an important point in the context of indigenous media is to recognize that the culture of viewing the media will not be the same as it is in empire culture. Barclay explained that culturally the Maori customs of giving would be confounded by producing a film and asking everyone to see it and pay for it. Rather Barclay suggested that fourth cinema should travel to the villages and offer a free showing of films, possibly with a meal. This cultural difference in the act of viewing calls into questions of whether merely offering access to media for indigenous cultures will be enough.

In offering access, we not only essentially ask that these peoples conform to empire media capture techniques, but to offer viewing access to some indigenous peoples, they will be required to change their viewing culture.

If in Barclay’s commentary on how the New Zealand Maori have responded to indigenous media is an indication of issues raised in how we conceptualize indigenous peoples, then the section on Latin American indigenous media also offered a similar window for viewing this conception. The chapter though containing many examples of how indigenous people have been utilizing filmmaking to portray their culture in film festivals, small showings, etc. still conceptualize indigenous filmmaking as a contrast or “other” to commercial media. “A general lack of infrastructure and equipment, limited training (usually compressed into short workshops), and the community obligations of Indigenous producers generally distinguish Indigenous media production from commercial production” (Salazar and Cordova 55). The authors speak of these “deficiencies” as strengths. However, they also cause Indigenous media to become other media.

We will be examining the United State’s response to the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and issues concerning why Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States did not vote in support of the document. I will print this document and have copies for the class as well as some questions that will serve as talking points for our discussion.

Discussion questions

How do we see the idea of “indigenous” portrayed in empire culture and within indigenous media? What implications of colonialism can we see in each of these ways in which “indigenous” is conceptualized?

Do we need a way of defining indigenous peoples?

In what ways has indigenous media problematized the ways in which empire culture has defined indigenous peoples and media? Provide examples from your own experiences or the reading.

What ways have we seen empire culture further the long-standing concept on how “indigenous” is seen?

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | 1 Comment

Chapter 7 Advertising, consumer culture, and desire

This chapter examined the ways that we as a consumer culture engage advertisements and consumerism, as well as how these ads are targeted to their respective audiences. I was most interested in the concept of branding and not only how vast sums of money can be invested to establish a brand, but when campaigns go well how vast sums of money might be established to keep a brand from becoming a generic term and transcending the bounds on intellectual property. The book mentioned brands such as Xerox and Kleenex and their struggle to keep their brand from becoming a generic industry term. I immediately thought of a few more: Band Aid, Google, and iPod. Band Aid is probably safe, since they have been around for a long time, but I wonder if Google and iPod will remain free from the dangers of genericide? Already Google’s definition if in Webster’s dictionary referring to using the Google search engine to conduct a search on the Web. However, in common use, asking a friend to Google something is the same as asking for a Band Aid or a Kleenex. You just want them to do a Web search in the same way you only want a bandage or a tissue. It doesn’t really matter what search engine they are using. Similarly, though iPod is not a verb, it is generally used to refer to an MP3 player in general rather than the specific brand. While working retail, I would encounter many people asking for iPods at Christmas. I would tell them that we were sold out, which would prompt them to correct me, pointing to the walls of Sansas and other MP3 players.

I think that the branding is inherently tied to what Sturken and Cartwright were mentioning earlier about how advertising can tie users to brands rather than products. “Advertising functions largely to create consumer relationships and to establish brands as familiar, essential, even lovable. Many ads address consumers, then, about their relationship to a particular brand rather than to a particular product” (276). Each of the brands above establishes this relationship. Band Aid tries to establish itself as a lovable brand, through commercials where a child hurts themselves and their mother is ready with a Band Aid featuring their favorite cartoon character and a kiss which instantly makes everything better. iPod portrays itself as essential, it is a minimum piece of equipment required to fit into mainstream culture. The black silhouette may suggest that anyone could be using one, but can simultaneously imply that everyone should have one. In these ways, buying one of these products does not allow us as consumers to purchase a single item, but rather they allow us to purchase love for our children or coolness and fitting in for ourselves, something a generic bandage and MP3 player could not provide.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Eng 350 | Leave a comment