Sunday, March 29, 2015
If we break down the word "post-structuralism", we can deduce that it is merely an extension and rejection of structuralism itself, which was primarily concerned with form and the way language works within a system. From what we have learned, post-structuralists have an alternate view of binary oppositions and the inherent meaning (or lack thereof) of language.
As for the future of Critical Theory and the Digital Humanities, I think it is impossible to say for sure where they will end up and what their course will be. It is arguable that DH has no future because it is running its course as we are using it each day. Although it sounds cliche and silly, we are immersed in the future of it now.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
For centuries, and for many people today, the word angel connotes innocence, spirituality, and purity. In fact, in biblical times angels were masculine--images of strength, power, and holiness. They are a connection between the divine and the mortal. So what happens when an angel, to be specific, a female angel, meets the world of men, lingerie, and sex?
Victoria's Secret has successfully transformed their "angels" into symbols of eroticism. The are perfectly sculpted, bronzed, tall, thin models wearing the scantiest undergarments and largest of wings. The labeling of their models as "angels" works for the company in two ways. First, it takes advantage of the long upheld notion that angels are sweet, innocent, and pure. The company has their models blow kisses on the runway, as they strut in their corsets and high heels. And because they are angels, they avoid being labeled with derogatory terms such as "sluts". Secondly, as angels, the models uphold the notion that this image is fantastical, unattainable. Just as biblical angels bridge the gap between the mortal and the divine; Victoria's Secret lingerie bridges the gap between an "average" female body, and the divine, sexy, Victoria's Secret Angel.
Antiperspirant tycoons and savvy advertisers put their heads together to reach a market of product hungry male consumers. Although It's safe to say men subscribe to the merits of smelling good for the sake of smelling good, underlying sexual self worth and masculine deprecation play a role. Advertisements advocating for the importance of deodorant fuel their argument with an onslaught of promiscuous imagery, manly prowess, and anything else to get the nestled dollar sign sardines to slip out of the wallet can. What better way to indoctrinate a rabble sprouting self conscious stress then by driving a marketable stake through the heart of preteens internationally. Scanning both the axe ad and the old spice, one serves as a stepping stone to the other. To maximize profits and effectively persuade, the money grubbing businessman has to start milking the cow early on.
Muddled colors give way for an angst ridden erotic message in the axe ad. Center left reads "Axe dark temptation, as irresistible as chocolate." The message conveyed paints a erotically jarring portrait, where a silky haired youth stands wide eyed and ecstatic, seemingly satisfied with a body carved and composed of chocolate. both "dark" and irresistible" in the text are considerably heavier than the remainder of the body as the two pungent points of exclamation embody desired qualities of the user after applying the product. Dark, in the instance, is synonymous with a void of light bad boy image whereas "irresistible" falls in par with the products excellence in execution. Deliberately geared towards middle school/ high school puberty pods, the delectable splendor of chocolate hops aboard the toiletry train to spread its desirable goodness in a different medium. The preconceived assumption is "Universally, chocolate is swell. Therefore, you're swell." The transitive properties influence consolidated with enticing a budding audience hits hard in increasing demand and triggering a receptive response in the reader.
The old spice ad represents an evolutionary no nonsense attitude. Slipping away from the juvenile antics of sugar coating bodily sanitation, old spice caters to being delightfully debonaire in odor and temperament. The text is stark and straightforward. No absurd elaborations are implemented. "Smell like a man, man" is curt, concise, but powerful in content. Masculinity is not only expected, but demanded by the old spice ad, and using their products guarantees acceptance into the gates of manhood. Environmentally, the watery landscape and naturalistic hype give the ad a robust and hearty feel, reinforcing cleanliness with the spacious body of water. The man depicted is rugged, mustached, and muscular. He is the epitome of burly refinement. A regally rigid individual. Holding up a bundle of just used products, his wavering finger illuminates the focal message. Straight to the point textual evidence collides head on with the quaint aftertaste of being an old spice kind of guy.
Though maybe not the best example I could of utilized in the name of semiotics, I chose the deodorant ads to shed light on the evolutionary stages of advertizing towards an aging audience. Although they're seemingly innocent in the way they solidify the success of their products, entrenched underlying meaning can be found in both with enough digging. Axe pays homage to the aspiring man by using a childish quality to fortify smelling good. As time goes by, the immature antics are dropped to place a man under a "speak softly, but carry a big stick" lens. To efficiently draw out intent and strategy within a dreary dog eats dog world, "researchers need objectivity and distance when researching culture and cultural events" to read between the lines and further understand the human condition in product promotion.
Fire Dancing and Flow Art has been an amusing source of entertainment for many people at parties and social gatherings over the ages. Although commonly associated with the negligent hippie mentality, and therefore commonly ridiculed, these arts have a deeper significance. Sure they are fun to watch and the concept of being in control of fire may seem appealing; but what is it about the performances that make the experience so meaningful not only to the audience but to the performers as well?
To start, I will give a brief history of their creation and early implementation into society. In the beginning it is theorized that fire dancing originated in Polynesia by the Maori tribe habiting what is now New Zealand. To tone their muscles and wits for battle the tribesman would often practice with Poi, a performance element constructed of a ball at the end of a string. They would swing the Poi around, one in each hand, and strengthen their muscles as well as tone their reflexes to objects moving around them at rapid speeds.
From there Fire Dancing was elaborated upon by multiple influential people who had seen a performance and added their own adjustments and creativity. This added elements like the staff, sword, knife, whip, and fan into the mix; though over a span of several decades. Its most commonly speculated arrival in the United States is in Hawaii where tourists would be entertained on sandy beaches. From there inspiration spread to large music festivals like Burning Man and with the help of the 60’s, spread farther still.
All of this is well and good but what is the point? My analysis is aiming to explain what it is about Fire Dancing that has caused it to grow into what it is today. Looking at its progression in different societies in the past, the main question that I keep landing on is: Why is an ancient training regiment for physical combat so interesting throughout the ages, even after we have progressed past relying on those fighting methods?
To answer this, I look to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who has become an icon for the Flow Art community. In short, he spent his life researching a phenomenon he called Flow. This is a mental state of being where the person is totally focused on pushing themselves and their limits in a natural and totally comfortable setting. His examples include such things as the runners high, a mental state of calm and relaxation for runners on a long journey. He believed that by achieving Flow you can actually become happier as a person.
What this means is Fire Dancing and Flow Art are not just ways of entertainment, but of self expression and growth. They help people find peace in their daily lives through simple goal setting and relaxation that can be difficult or expensive to find elsewhere. When the performance begins you are not just watching someone perform cool stunts, you are being relaxed and stimulated both mentally and physically.
This snowman, however is not approved. Some people go all out and will put up giant snowmen on display, will have snowman ornaments for Christmas, maybe a sweater with a snowman on it that they wear on Christmas day and have gifts with snowman wrapping paper. But Snowmen really have nothing to do with Christmas. Talking to people about this subject gave me various results. Some people love snowmen around Christmas time, some people hate them, some would say that they only like snowmen if there is actually snow on the ground and it is a white Christmas, but being in new England, you would think that every Christmas would be a white Christmas but lately that has not been the case and it is a rarity that it will actually snow on Christmas. Some people don't mind snowmen regardless and one person told me that they understand that snowmen are more of a winter thing than a Christmas thing but if they have a Christmas feeling to them then its okay. like if they were wearing a Christmas scarf or had a thing of holly on their hat, which is fine, but talking to people who live down south or out west don't particularly care for it because if they get no snow at all, they could care less about snowmen and a lot of people would say that they wouldn't mind a snowman only if it was Frosty because that is considered a Christmas classic. It cannot be Jack Frost or Olaf from Frozen or an abominable snowman.
Santa Claus represents Christmas and decorations and figurines of Santa imply Christmas, whereas snowman, even if they are dressed for Christmas, can be up on display all winter, even after Christmas is over. So in my family, my mother will wait until after Christmas is over and after all the santa claus and other Christmas decorations are put away in storage before she brings out the winter snowman.
Another related topic is the so called "Christmas" songs, like jingle bells and let it snow, also have nothing to do with Christmas and don't mention or imply it, yet they are sung every year as a tradition. Not that there is anything wrong with that but it is something to think about.
In 2015 Michael Stevens (YouTube's Vsauce) made a video called "Did The Past Really Happen?"
There are many obvious signs within the video that Michael is alluding to a theory. The music in the background is eerie and reminiscent of old monster movies, like Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1956).
"Last Thursdayism" is the belief that the universe was created...last Thursday. Around 4:53 a clip appears showing a surgeon with a futuristic medical tool that looks kind of like a weird phone. This is an interesting juxtaposition with 4:32 when Michael says "the past" and a clip of him walking by ancient Greek ruins is shown. These two signifiers work to contrast the past and present and leave the present in a state of "rock and hard place" where it is undefinable outside of its foundational neighbors. The present is just...not the past or future.
So now I will do a semiotic analysis of America's drink of choice: Coca-Cola.
Elastic Heart VEVO
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
What different emotions do these images evoke?
It is a strange concept; to think that we paint on our faces differently than our natural selves. Whether it is elaborate or not, the makeup on a woman's face, or the lack thereof, says a lot about her and what she is aiming to achieve with the presentation of her appearance. It also makes a difference in the entirety of her day. If a woman is more confident in her appearance, it will reflect in her actions.
Why is it that we react differently to a woman wearing red lipstick than to a woman wearing none? We assume things about her and see her in a different way than if she was wearing a more neutral shade or no lipstick at all.
Lipstick in particular, especially bright and dark shades, draws a lot of attention to the mouth and in turn gives the woman's overall appearance a sense of heightened sexuality and "promiscuity". Bright red lipstick is often associated with sexuality, but also with strength, which together can be very intimidating, to men and other women. A woman that is comfortable with her sexuality, but also confident that she is intelligent and strong, can be emotionally threatening to both genders.
Customarily, the color red is used to evoke sexual and erotic feelings simply because it goes back to our rudimentary physiological elements. We, as animals, see red as a symbol of health, blood, life, fertility, procreation, etc. The color demands attention. It is very active and stimulating to the eye. In literature and film, we know that it is the indicative color of things both negative and positive. Perhaps anger, sin, danger, violence, and murder, or differently love, bravery, passion, sacrifice etc.
Men often see a woman who chooses not to wear makeup as "lazy" or "not feminine", but if she wears too much or wears it in the wrong way, she is unattractive or "trashy". Many feminists believe that make-up is a powerful, helpful luxury, but there are some that believe it to be a governing product of the patriarchal society that we live in.
A woman wearing no make-up may feel differently than when she puts a little bit on, but why?
Do we identify ourselves differently when we wear it?
When we present ourselves as "made up" what does that do to other females perceptions of us as women? Does it increase or decrease our chances of becoming acquainted with them? At what point does jealousy take hold?
What is the effect on a man's gaze when he sees a woman wearing red lipstick?
These two magazine ads are from the same company. You can tell that the one to the left is geared towards men and to the right is geared towards women. Right off the bat, you can see that they're going for a completely different outcome. The article used three ways to analyze; "textual, ideational and interpersonal" Most Nike ads such as the one on the left are men playing sports but when it's designed for women, sports aren't usually the main focus. The ads that are for women usually contain women with little to less clothing and the moral is about getting in shape. It focuses on the body (aka, her butt) because women should be staying in shape instead of playing sports. I'm not saying that Nike doesn't believe women should be playing extra curricular activities but their ads pin point women's physical looks. The men ads are usually famous sports players when the women's ads, you hardly recognize who the model is. That's where ideational and interpersonal came into play as well
These two ads from Nike almost explain themselves. The ad on the right says "One More Thing For Men to Rule" which means exactly what it says. Men are considered the superior sex and when it comes to Nike, they used that traditional stereotype to advertise.
A few quotes I want to point out from Belle and Freeman's article;
- "Some things do not change. The discourse was almost always about perfection. The magazines' text informed readers each year that preparation and hard work were the key to perfection."
- Although this is about a Christmas meal, I compared it to the Nike ads. Nike aims for perfection but using their products can help you prepare and participate in hard work.
- "Each year, the magazines also presented one or more alternative Christmas day menus, sometimes called the 'Australian' or the 'budget' or even 'cheats' version which was shown with much less food and virtually no Christmas symbolism"
- I compared this example to Nike and how they're perceived as the best of the best. If you purchase products that Nike sells but it's from a different brand, it's considered to be the "cheaper" brand and the easy way out. How come it's considered less value worth if it's the same product such as running shoes but a different company?
<-------- this chair and
this chair -------->
I found these two images online using Google. The photograph on the left features an antique armchair and the photograph on the right features a contemporary folding chair. I decided to choose these two chairs as my topic for analysis because the juxtaposition between them is interesting.
These chairs share a simple and straightforward purpose: to provide a place for people to sit. However, the metonyms—substitution of one word for another—associated with each chair are very different. The chair on the left—which I will call the "ornate chair"—has words like antique, wealth, high class, and excess associated with it. The chair on the right—which I will call the "folding chair"—has words like simple, basic, cheap, and portable associated with it. The ornate chair is associated with power, whereas the folding chair is not. The ornate chair symbolizes permanency, whereas the folding chair represents flexibility and change.
The ornate chair has been around for awhile, which has given it's meaning time to ripen. A fancy chair, such as the one posted above, was presumably made hundreds of years ago, but it still looks "new". In order for it to stay "new", the chair needs to be cleaned and maintained. Who has the time to clean a chair for hundreds of years? Probably a person who has "old money" and who has lived in the same house for generations. These are assumptions but, nonetheless, this sign emanates power, money, and prestige. At one point, the ornate chair was probably considered less important than it is today. It's meaning has slowly developed and adopted new metonyms.
The folding chair, on the other hand, has not been around for as long as the ornate chair. The folding chair is a contemporary invention that provides people with an easily accessible, compact seat. It's not concerned with power, money, or glitz. The folding chair is strictly utilitarian. The folding chair, as we know it today, was invented in 1947, but the concept of a "folding chair" dates all the way to the vikings. At that time, it was probably a fantastic invention, a first-class seat, a comfortable place to pop-a-squat, but now we view it as the most basic man-made chair available.
Here's a scenario for you to imagine: let's say you go to an interview for a job. You walk into the office where the interview will be conducted and you see the interviewer sitting comfortably in the ornate chair. You nervously glance around and notice that your seat is a folding chair. Does this make you more or less nervous for your interview? Furthermore, the interviewer is relaxed, spread out, and he's tucked away into a corner of the room. The folding chair is in the middle of the room and it's positioned so your back will be to the door. How nervous are you?
Chairs, in general, are full of symbols and hidden meaning. People in power generally have larger, more expensive, and more comfortable chairs than people who have less power. For example, consider a dining room table: the chairs at each end of the table normally have armrests and the the chairs around the rest of the table do not.
Chairs, synchronically, represent a place to sit, but chairs, diachronically, have evolved to send a wide variety of social meaning.
Purple! Pink! These two colors are explicitly feminine and have an overwhelming presence in this collection. White also has a significant presence in the current color scheme. Is there a color more angelic than white? But where are the golden halos that truly seal the deal on my innocence and saintly-ness? Look to the caps of almost half of the bottles. The little blue lip balm appears an outlier, being the most masculine color here yet. While the color is hopeful, shape cannot be neglected. It stands out against the many phallic bottles, resembling most closely an egg. A morbid message becomes clear: the woman shall produce masculinity only in the form of her egg.
When my body does not produce the desired masculine egg, my pink shiny box of tampons promises the protection I need to help my radiant body survive the bloody attack. My assortment of healing lotions, moisturizers, and penetrating oils reminds me of two things: 1. I am inherently broken and I must make sure to tend to my most important and exterior organ, and 2. penetration and moisturization are key. With this in mind, it might be beneficial to notice the average 1.5 to 2 inch girth of the many bottles that are my “solution.”
My lipsticks loudly preach passivity with names like “just bitten kissable” and “color whisper.” It is implied that to be bitten, or in other words physically harmed, is kissable (sexually acceptable). The color on my lips should whisper, rather than speak loudly and clearly about my sexual readiness (it might be worth noting that the color itself is named “berry ready”).
When semiotically analyzed together, these products imply far more than the utility women might believe themselves to purchase them for. Even so, I must remember that I display them on my bureau not for accessibility (do I really need 4 different lotions and 4 perfumes out at the same time for utility?), but as trophies of my womanhood. This analysis makes clear that my material “pride” embodies and provokes more shame, self-correction, and oppression than self-love. Thus womanly pride is shown to be acceptable so long as it takes the form of self-hate and correction by phallus.