Sunday, 22 November 2009

100 Word Piece of Critical Writing on the theory of Understanding Media Ideology

On Popular Music
by Theodor W. Adorno, with the assistance of George Simpson
Originally published in: Studies in Philosophy and Social Science, New York: Institute of Social Research, 1941, IX, 17-48.

"The conditions for this function of glamor are entirely different from those of frontier life. They apply to the mechanization of labor and to the workaday life of the masses. Boredom has become so great that only the brightest colors have any chance of being lifted out of the general drabness. Yet, it is just those violent colors which bear witness to the omnipotence of mechanical, industrial production itself." (Theodor W. Adorno, 1941) Here he describes how through buying into the glamour of popular music do we escape from our mundane existence. This truly illusrtate our vision of pop culture that exists today and how we buy into things because of the illusion that we can slip into the existence of another. To be elite, to be more that what is considered the working class to which even to some extent could affect even the upper classes, even if you seemingly have a perfect existence the way we use popular music could be a way of slipping into someone else's existence to escape our own demons or reality. It is anti-Marxist which in effect promotes Marxism, the way we buy into a group of music with intentions that we are escaping from the mass culture yet it is mass culture.
"The most immediate implication of this component may be the following: the moment the listener recognizes the hit as the so and so — that is, as something established and known not merely to him alone — he feels safety in numbers and follows the crowd of all these who have heard the song before and who are supposed to have made its reputation. [...] The connecting reaction consists partly in the revelation to the listener that his apparently isolated, individual experience of a particular song is a collective experience." (Theodor W. Adorno, 1941)
Inspite of the fact that his writing were made over 60 years ago his desciption of what is popular music is blurred, describing how opera music could be considered elitist as oppose to jazz is completely subjective, the theory works both ways and is always about perspective. The way people would buy into popular genres of music today such as indie where new bands are constantly sought after and sound the same in maybe rhythem or lyrical is a depiction of popular music and capitalism. How buying into the brand and being recognised by that kind of music would some how make you more elite or more politically aware, is how Adorno describes being, "lifted out of the general drabness," inspite the fact there are another million people following the same indie music. A classic example of this is Madonna's Material Girl, depicting not only the female for as an object to be desired but as passive, aesthetical and as a sexual object, illustrating a role model which people can identify with and idolise. And the way Adorno describes music as being identifiable, you would listen to this and idolise that character because you were feeling that same way. This is of course theory, music is subjective through taste and it should not be ruled out that it is possible to like something because of the sound. As it is possible that although you may not like or appreciate a certain type of music, through listening of it often or through peer pressure you could in fact become accustomed to it or even come to like it.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Lecture 2: Understanding Media Ideology
Lecture Aims:
1. The critical definition of Ideology
2. The principles of Marxist Philosophy
3. Understanding Mass Media and its effects

This lecture was again really interesting but i found a bit more difficult to grasp, ideology is a system of beliefs made to disguise the reality of the situation, masking this reality help to re-enforce power relationships through a creation of false consciousness, the most abundant example of this is through politics where politicians disguise from the reality with hopeful ideas.
looking at the idea of capitalism, it aims to control the means of production in private hands, a market which uses money as a means of exchange and people become commodities by competition in the market. Marxism is a political manifesto which looks at turning this capitalist approach into a communist, through the concept of a Base/Superstructure. I believe the idea that they feed off one another, the way we are the base (the working class) whom are depended upon and driven by the upper class but it is a mutual benefit.

In a similar sense to the structure of the base/superstructure this image illustrates (below) the capitalist social hierarchy. This system of things can be viewed in modern day life such as religion, where it is pressured that doing work, charity and general acts of goodness will get you into heaven but is ultimately fueled by a church greed. This is reenforced by the threatening force of armies which also acts to stop domestic extremism where by the teaching and realisation of the subjects could provoke an outbreak of anti-capitalist behaviour, but because of this threat we , like in panopticism, regulate our behaviour in the idea that we are better safe in the system of things.
So ideology offers false but seemingly true resolutions to social ambience. through the media these ideas can be seen and again in the similar way of panopticism dictate our behaviour and how we interact with media itself. These systems also create specific behaviour in terms of gender roles, by dictating almost very subtly how women and men should behave, this can be seen through advertising where the role of the woman is the caretaker, the cook, the cleaner and should do these things. the role of the men is the opposite, the businessman whom bring in the money and expect the home to be taken care of by the wife, he is the dominant in the household. Advertisements strengthen capitalism through these roles by dicating women as being the objects of purchase and desirable e.g. Calvin Klein and Men being the dominent and whom should care about the figures and money.
Through the mass media capitalism and the roles of people in society have strengthened, but mass media like people changes where the punk phenomenon in the late seventies through to the eighties revolted against capitalism, in becoming like a 'fad' or becoming popular it became capitalist by buying into the punk such as t-shirts and music. Media back then suggested that was punk was wrong and has yet turned this in the twentieth century into yet again a 'fad' demonstrated in fashion and music magazines which people buy into, to conform to that look and support capitalism. Turning authentic culture into mass media, were it becomes standardised, and which alter the behaviour of people to regulate and produce docile bodies.
the lecture also looked at commodity fetishism and how through mass cultureand this idea of capitalism do we see value on something hidden in the commodity is an illusion of something that we own. These meaningless commodities are predicatable and homonogenic the way for instance popular television shows Big Brother and the X-Factor are churned out in the same format, not for talent but for the money. The way that the talent is so similar each year would lead us to think how they dictate role models and the perception of the sexes. Justin Gignacchallenged the perception of seling something as an illusion of a commodity in his Garbage of NYC collection where though the idea of owning something he creates value even though the product is something that is useless and meaningless.

[Useful External References]:
Socialist Appeal -

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

100 Word piece of analytical writing on the Panoptic Theory

The theory of Panopticism can be seen in modern day life in most places from bars to the bus station. How Foucault describes "... then the plague gave rise to disciplinary projects," (Foucault, 1975) one particular example which is thought of as being beneficial but may subconsciously create a mental discipline, is the Hospital. In comparison to the Panopticon designed to regulate behavior through segmented space and constant observation, the Hospital environment could be viewed as very similar. Where Michel Foucault describes the Panopticon to the dungeon space he describes it as ," Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap." (Foucault, 1975) The open plan environment illustrates this perfectly allowing every action to be viewed even though it may be not, even cubicles create an alienation and categorization of people the way wards are ordered and with notations on the bottom of every patient's bed, much like the cells of the Panopticon. Most hospitals now also have cameras in corridors and rooms such as the reception, not only this but there are instructions everywhere dictating where to go, what to see and what to do. " which all events are recorded, in which and uninterrupted work of writing links the centre and periphery, in which power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, in which each individual is constantly located, examined and distributed among the living beings, the sick and the dead - all this constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism." (Foucault, 1975) dictates how through this discipline from chaos creates an order of things, a sterile environment which is designed to help people, but also disciplines their behavior. Creating all in all what Foucault describes as a ,"Utopia of the perfectly governed city." (Foucault, 1975)

Foucault, M (1975) 'Panopticism'

Image Via []

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Lecture 1: Panopticism
The first lecture aimed to look at the idea of :
1. The principles of panopticism
2. Michel Foucault's concepts
3. Contemporary society and surveillance

Overall I found the lecture really interesting as it was something I had never thought about before. The lecture first looked at the madness of society and and how systems of correction were formed through the 'Houses of Correction'. Much like an asylum of sorts when good behaviour was rewarded and bad was chastised. But it was through the Panopticon and the idea of surveillance and monitoring of behavior did most success come, the idea of constantly being watched creates a mental discipline and the subject would learn to regulate their behavior so that the individual subsumes to that power of being watched automatically. There were downsides however, being constantly watched can lead to paranoia and insanity.
In modern day this theory can be seen in everyday life not just in prisons. The open-plan office or even cafes and bars allows for no hideaways or places to hide, this in effect creates a mental discipline for the inhabitants where fear of being surveyed creating a mechanism of disciplinary power and regulates behavior, sometimes subconsciously.
In terms of Graphic Design images of power were used in Soviet Russia, Stalin's propaganda images during the 1930'S created an illusion of being constantly watched which in turn creates that disciplinary power and self-regulated behavior. These types of images could surely then be seen today, for example Obama's presidential campaign, would it merely just stand for hope or subconsciously create regulated behavior throughout the country?
Home Grown exhibit @ Manchester Urbis