Buy Nothing Day

November 21, 2009
On November 27th, citizens across the world will participate in Buy Nothing Day. Buy Nothing Day celebrates more than just a break from consumerism, as it is an acknowledgement of the media’s influence on our purchasing decisions. Throughout this discussion, I will introduce you to the purpose of Buy Nothing Day, and the discourses it represents.

Over-consumption is a primary concern facing society in general, and Buy Nothing Day is a response to this issue. This year, Buy Nothing Day means that participants will not only refrain from buying over a twenty-four hour period, but will be required to turn off all nonessential electrical appliances, cell phones, lights, and television sets. November 27th will be a complete escape from media that will help protect the environment. I believe that this is an event worth celebrating, as it is relevant to every citizen on the planet.

What makes a consumer purchase a product in the first place? For some, it is the need for an essential product to maintain their quality of life. For others, it is the desire for a product to increase their quality of life. In either case, needs and wants are the fundamental reasons for a person to be part of a consumerist culture. Buy Nothing Day opposes these causes, and encourages consumers to find alternative ways to satisfy their needs and wants that do not support the media or environmental degradation. In her essay on pranking rhetoric, Christine Harold makes suggestions on what influences a consumer to purchase a product. Harold states that, “It is likely that the Nike corporation does not much care how people interpret it as long as they keep buying Nike products. This is the viral power of the brand- its ability to provoke…” (Harold 208). From this, we can analyze the process of over-consumption from brand power. First, major corporations design a product that serves a need or want. Advertising and Public Relations professionals create a brand name for these products. The professionals then select a medium and marketing strategies to promote the product. Consumers are influenced to purchase the product based on messages from the media, the effectiveness of advertising, and their needs and wants. This leads to over-consumption and an environment in despair, making Buy Nothing Day a solution to the chain. By participating in Buy Nothing Day, we are projecting the ideology that the media is a major component of our culture that needs to be restructured.

Based on these assumptions, it is clear that our culture is beginning to break away from the media’s influence on our decisions as consumers. Our culture is attempting to become more autonomous from the media with Buy Nothing Day, and is proving that consumerism is not the key to happiness. By learning to survive one day without the pressure of the media, the idea of this event can be expanded to an entire lifestyle. After considering the rationale above, I will take part in Buy Nothing Day. Will you?

(In different areas, Buy Nothing Day takes place on alternative dates, with the majority of the events happening between November 25th-29th.)

Works Cited

“Buy Nothing Day.” Adbusters. Adbusters Media Foundation, n.d. Web. 20      Nov. 2009. <https://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/bnd&gt;.

Harold, Christine. “Pranking Rhetoric: ‘culture jamming’ as media      activism.” Critical Studies in Media Communication. 21.3 (2004): 189-     211. 17 Nov. 2009. <http://pdfserve.informaworld.com.subzero.lib.uo
     guelph.ca/308458_770885140_713696057.pdf>.

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The Work of Amnesty International

November 21, 2009
In your lifetime, you will discover a cause that you feel worthy of supporting. In my final year of high school, I took part in Amnesty International’s letter writing campaign. I believe that every human being on this Earth is equal, and I do not see a difference between race, gender, or religion. Using my blog as a platform to express my passion for human rights, I will discuss my political engagement with the Amnesty International activist project.

To begin, I will familiarize you with the work of Amnesty International. According to the Amnesty International website, its mission is to protect all humans from being a victim of a human rights violation. Amnesty International believes that every human being has the right to mental and physical integrity. For example, protecting such integrity may be displayed by opposing a government’s request for child soldiers. Amnesty International uses public activists to function, and is a very well known symbol for human rights.

I was not persuaded by the media to support this cause, but I do use the media as a mode of transportation when expressing my opinion on the issues Amnesty International acknowledges. I am engaged with Amnesty International because I am always willing to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. When I wrote my letter for Amnesty International’s campaign, I addressed the president of Afghanistan on the issue of gender inequality. I discussed the ways in which women play a vital role in society, and should not be treated as property in any country. Although religion is the primary cause of the gender issues in Afghanistan, could the media be considered the Canadian equivalent to Afghan religion? I derive this question from the work of John Berger. Berger relays the numerous ways in which women are objectified in paintings and media images. Amnesty International supports the physical and mental integrity of all humans, and as we have already established, the media can be harmful to our mentalities. The way our culture perceives women is controlled by the media, similar to the way government or religion control perception in other countries. A government may also treat child soldiers as though they lack emotion and are inadequate. I think this could be compared to David Gauntlett’s suggestion that the media does not treat children as individuals with thoughts that matter. Perhaps a letter writing campaign should be initiated to oppose the media and its treatment of women. To whom would such a letter be addressed? Unlike with the structure of government, one individual does not oversee the media. Letters would have to be written to all of the media conglomerates, who control what we see and do as consumers. This is obviously more difficult than assembling a group to write letters to one person. It is also more challenging to be zealous about a project when humans are not immediately or physically harmed. I have actively taken part in Amnesty International, and I believe the concept of this project can be applied to other areas of human interest.

In the same way that I respect the goals of Amnesty International, there are other individuals who are just as passionate about their cause. In relation to an individual who is politically engaged in media activism, Lawrence Lessig states, “A growing field of academics and activists sees this form of literacy as crucial to the next generation of culture” (Lessig 36). I believe that this idea can be considered with any form of activism. Whatever progress a certain cause makes in the present will only help future activists to further the goals of their project. Activists are a signifier of change and improvement in society, and work to make our culture a better space for citizens to live.

I implore you to take a stand for whatever issue you feel passionate about. Whether it is net neutrality or humanitarianism, there is a cause that needs to be represented in our culture. Representing a cause means that you support democracy, and are willing to break free of what has become culturally acceptable to recognize what is morally right. The effectiveness of Amnesty International proves that humans helping their fellow man is entirely possible. Do not hesitate to be active in society, because bringing about a positive change can only benefit our culture.

Works Cited

“Amnesty International.” n.d. Amnesty International Canada. 21 Nov.      2009.      <http://www.amnesty.ca/about/amnestys_mission/closer_look/&gt;.

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation      and Penguin Books, 2008.

Gauntlett, David. “Ten Things Wrong with the ‘Media Effects’ Model.”
     David Gauntlett Theory. 1998. Web. 23 Oct. 2009.      <http://theory.org.uk/david/effects.htm&gt;.

Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 2004.


Culture Jamming and Whirl-Mart

November 18, 2009
What is culture jamming, and what role does it play in our society? Culture jamming is a political movement designed to oppose the influence of the media by interfering with its transmissions and messages. Ad parodies, pranks, spoofs, and other forms of sabotage are used to negotiate this interference and bring about media literacy (Harold 192). Throughout this post, I will analyze the effectiveness of culture jamming, while using the Whirl-Mart project as an example.

The Whirl-Mart Virtual Resistance was founded by the Breathing Planet Troupe in 2001. According to the Breathing Planet Troupe’s website, the project is a participatory experiment that raises consciousness about the media and buying power. With this activity, participants enter a major shopping centre and silently push empty carts up and down the aisles. In doing this, participants generate awareness about over-consumption, and show media conglomerates that citizens want to take back the space currently occupied by consumerist ideology. This culture jamming activity is very effective in demonstrating the negative impacts of consumerism, because it is easily and efficiently displayed to customers who shop in the stores where demonstrations take place. What does this say about our culture? This method of culture jamming shows us that we want to see changes in a media saturated society. We want to see fewer citizens being manipulated by brand names while shopping for the newest product. Citizens want to become self-sufficient without relying on the media as a source of information and contentment.

In her essay “Pranking Rhetoric: ‘culture jamming’ as media activism,” Christine Harold discusses the idea of using pranks to interfere with the transmission of the media. Harold describes culture jamming as an “artful proliferation of messages, a rhetorical process of intervention and invention, which challenges the ability of corporate discourses to make meaning in predictable ways” (Harold 192). I agree with this statement, as I think clever ways to bring about change in the media are required to increase knowledge about its overbearing nature. Harold clearly articulates her point of view by using specific examples of culture jamming and pranking. In regards to Whirl-Mart, the activity is successful because it displays an intervention through a unique mode of peaceful protest. Whirl-Mart challenges the ability of corporate discourses to alter and influence our buying habits, and according to Harold, this is a valuable display of culture jamming.

Harold also discusses the limitations of Adbusters, which is a major contributor to culture jamming. She states that because Adbusters relies on parody, marketers accept the project and turn it into a more corporate activity than independent organization. Based on this, Whirl-Mart is more useful because it does not seek to prank, humiliate, or spoof a company. Instead, it non-violently demonstrates the role of consumerism in our culture. This makes the activity completely untainted by corporate desire, and worthy of a citizen’s attention.

It is clear that culture jamming plays a crucial role in a fight to limit the influence of the media in our culture. Specifically, the work of the Whirl-Mart project has helped to raise awareness about consumerism, and encourages consumers to participate by taking up space within store aisles and replacing it with conscious citizens. Considering this, it is obvious that if we initiate more culture jamming projects, we can begin to demolish the power the media exhibits on our everyday lives.

Works Cited

Harold, Christine. “Pranking Rhetoric: ‘culture jamming’ as media      activism.” Critical Studies in Media Communication. 21.3 (2004): 189-     211. 17 Nov. 2009.      <http://pdfserve.informaworld.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/308458_770885140_713696057.pdf&gt;.

“Whirl-Mart Virtual Resistance.” n.d. Breathing Planet Troupe. 17 Nov.      2009. <http://www.breathingplanet.net/whirl/&gt;.


Net Neutrality

November 17, 2009
The issue I will discuss in the following dialogue will affect every person on the planet who has access to the Internet. Even more, this issue affects every person who appreciates his or her right to acquire information. Net neutrality will change the structure of the Internet, and offset the freedom to browse that it has formally established. The concept of net neutrality lies within the battle between private and public interests, and a major media corporation’s desire to express their supremacy over the Internet. Citizens want to be free to obtain information, but major corporations wish to put locks on available data and charge users to view content. What are the central implications of the war between public and private interests, and how do these issues effect the way in which the Internet functions?

The idea of net neutrality began in 2005 when phone companies and Internet Service Providers decided they wanted to control what their customers could see and do on the Internet. This creates so many restrictions in a society that should be free and independent from corporate control. A divide between economic classes is the first issue of net neutrality. If ISPs decide to charge users each time they visit a site, segregation between the rich and the poor is created. Is it fair that only the wealthy members of society have the chance to view all of the information available to people on the Internet? The answer is no, because all citizens should have the right to obtain knowledge in order to make informed decisions about their environment. When one cannot afford the content that should be readily available to them, society suffers a whole. When the majority of citizens cannot pay for content, a significant portion of society will make uniformed decisions about vital issues.

With net neutrality, the Internet becomes a closed, locked down, read-only culture that has a select audience of affluent citizens. According to Tim Wu in an article in Slate, the main aspect of this debate is determining whether or not ISPs should have the power to restrict which websites a viewer can access, allowing certain websites to be discriminated against. The Internet is being controlled by media conglomerates, who seek to synergize corporate interests with the Internet. When users have to pay for access or when their usage is restricted, the Internet becomes another means for major media corporations to converge. This is the essential cause of the net neutrality dilemma.

This leads me to question society’s right to freedom. Net neutrality eliminates the democratization of technology, because individuals will no longer be able to afford the information being disseminated over the Internet. Major media corporations become the leaders of our society, without considering the needs and wants of the citizens. Democracy is neglected in exchange for commerce and financial status. Hegemony is demonstrated accurately, as wealthy corporate giants and ISPs express their leadership by controlling the Internet.

In relation to net neutrality, Lawrence Lessig provides the example of photography in his book Free Culture. Lessig states that “But though we could imagine this system of permission, it would be very hard to see how photography could have flourished as it did if the requirement for permission had been built into the rules that govern it” (Lessig 25). This means that if restrictions had been set on what a photographer could take pictures of, photography would not have evolved to play such a substantial role in our culture. I see the relevance between this and the Internet. If we place limits on what can be viewed by those who use the Internet, it is impossible to determine how much both the Internet and society will be negatively impacted. The Internet will not be able to expand and advance if people cannot access it efficiently. Society will suffer when the Internet is not providing it with the information it needs. Using the success of photography is an effective example to show ISPs that the freedom a medium provides is more valuable than the money a corporation can obtain. Lessig also states, “The concentration of power produced by concentrations in ownership… if because less visibly, on the concentration of power produced by a radical change in the effective scope of the law” (Lessig XV). If the structure of the Internet is altered and certain information is not available, varying perspectives are not presented to the public which will result in the reduced diversity of our culture.

When Henry Jenkins writes, “Today, media convergence is sparking a range of social, political, economic, and legal disputes because of the conflicting goals of consumers, producers and gatekeepers” (Jenkins 93), it is obvious that the combat between public and private interests is more harmful than productive. We must not allow media conglomerates to restrict what information is available in order for major corporations to drain us of our money and intelligence.

Overall, the most significant feature of the net neutrality conflict is the threat to democracy and free culture over corporate financial gain. Based on the above expressions, this is a cause for which I will take a stand, because information should be shared freely without the interference of a corporation and a culture which requires permission.

Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. “Convergence? I Diverge.” June 2001. Technology Review.      10 Nov. 2009. <http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/converge.pdf&gt;.

Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture. New York: Penguin Books Ltd., 2004.

Wu, Tim. “Why You Should Care About Network Neutrality.” 1 May 2006.      Slate. 7 Nov. 2009. <http://www.slate.com/id/2140850/&gt;.


Media Hegemonies

November 17, 2009
Within the global sphere, a select number of major corporations own a significant portion of the material presented to the public. Such major media corporations are leaders in our society, and control what information is revealed and how. The following analysis will examine the implications of hegemony and cross media ownership through an investigation of the Walt Disney Corporation and what it owns.

The Walt Disney Corporation owns hundreds of other companies ranging from film, cable television, music, radio magazines, theme parks, and publishing houses. Such companies include Touchstone Pictures, The History Channel, ESPN Radio, Hollywood Records, Hyperion, Institutional Investor, and Tokyo Disney Resort. It is fascinating to think that a company known for producing cartoons controls so many unrelated companies. What does this say about the structure of the media, and what are the effects of cross media ownership?

The implications of cross media ownership are as vast as the number of secondary companies the Walt Disney Corporation owns. First, the larger corporations purchase the smaller companies and begin a system of hierarchy. The subordinate companies cannot compete with the corporate strength of a media conglomerate, and often lose their potential as a media outlet. What would happen if Touchstone Pictures decided to go against the beliefs of the Walt Disney Corporation? It can be predicted that a major controversy would ensue, where the corporate dominancy of Disney would prevail. The Walt Disney Corporation is the more affluent company, meaning that it is more likely to coerce the public and the companies it owns with violence or threats to express its leadership. The smaller companies are obligated to agree with the perspectives of the parent company. Therefore, biased, inaccurate information is disseminated to the public, leading individuals to make uninformed decisions about their environment. If Walt Disney is responsible for the information we view, our culture is on the receiving end of misleading facts. In this analysis, the Walt Disney Corporation can be considered a synecdoche for the issue of media hegemony, as it represents how one company can control many others, and in turn, society.

Moreover, these large corporations are so financially conscious that they do not consider the consequences of their company on the public. Robert W. McChesney states that, “Consumerism, class inequality and individualism tend to be taken as natural and benevolent, whereas political activity, civic values and anti-market activities are marginalized” (McChesney 3). I agree with McChesney, as a company such as the Walt Disney Corporation projects its opinions on the impressionable public, removing any autonomy the public had from the media. Because this company owns so many other businesses, it is nearly impossible for an individual to be uninfluenced by the intrusion of Disney. With cross media ownership, issues on the corporate mindset supersede issues that should take precedence in society.

McChesney also states that as media conglomerates expand their reign of control, they encourage homogeny amongst our culture (McChesney 3). The characteristics that make our culture unique will be forgotten, because the same major media corporations are continuously displaying their perspectives. This encourages society to lose its eccentricities and conform to a corporate design, where all thoughts and beliefs will be identical. If major media corporations are controlling what is revealed to the public, than society will begin to form its reality based upon what is presented. In a media sense, cross ownership also detracts from democracy. If a select group of corporations control what we see and do, they are expressing a type of tyranny that removes democracy and freedom from the public.

On the other hand, I do agree with some aspects of Henry Jenkins theories on how the media will never converge into one controlling system. In “Convergence? I Diverge,” Jenkins argues that it is not a company who will take over our culture, but the media in itself. I do think that the media will become extraordinarily ubiquitous, in that we will not be able to decipher between what comes from the media and what comes from fact. However, I disagree with Jenkins because I believe the financial superiority of major corporations will allow them to purchase other companies until one corporation owns them all. The convergence of media is a process, but it is possible that all major corporations will merge into one.

As major media corporations overtake smaller companies, society will be robbed of its right to make informed decisions and be independent. It is the leadership of companies such as the Walt Disney Corporation who create this hierarchy with their financial power, preventing multiple perspectives from being presented to the public. Based on these suppositions, one can conclude that cross media ownership has an abundance of negative impacts on society.

Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. “Convergence? I Diverge.” June 2001.
     Technology Review. 17 Nov. 2009.      <http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/converge.pdf&gt;.

McChesney, Robert W. “The New Global Media: It’s a Small World of Big      Conglomerates.” 11 Nov. 1999. The Nation. 3 Nov. 2009.      <http://www.thenation.com/doc/19991129/mcchesney/3&gt;.


The Implications of Corporately-Funded News

November 17, 2009
Corporately-funded news and propaganda are an increasing global phenomenon. The following discussion will analyze the implications of corporately-funded news and address the beneficiaries of such news.

Currently, there are more individuals working in the public relations industry than in journalism, making it much easier for a PR professional to promote their company (Stauber and Rampton 183). Journalists are facing a shortage of resources and finances, forcing them to rely on corporately-funded news as a replacement. Journalism should be a tool that allows citizens to obtain accurate information, but the influence of a corporation sways this system to present news with a motive.

In Toxic Sludge is Good for You, Stauber and Rampton reveal the various ways in which the PR industry attempts to manipulate the public with a video news release. They state that, “The use of radio and video news releases is a little-known practice… PR firms discovered that they could film, edit and produce their own news segments… and that broadcasters would play the segments as ‘news’…” (Stauber and Rampton 184). What does this say about our culture? A video news release presents news that serves as an advertisement instead of hard facts, showing society that buying power is more important than accurate knowledge. The public is naïve to the purpose of a VNR, and is not perturbed by the fact that it is being fed corporately-funded news. Audiences also learn to rely on a logo to trust a source, assuming that the news they are receiving from a VNR is correct. The VNR shows us that we are unaware of what is real and fake, which leads to a very fictitious culture. When we see such fiction so often, certain myths and stereotypes begin to make sense and become culturally acceptable with the VNR.

What are the societal implications of corporately-funded news in this fictitious culture? When the straight facts are not reported to the public, there is a shortage of real knowledge. If consumerism takes over journalism, there will be a severe lack of accurate data and information in the global sphere. Without correct knowledge, how can the public make informed decisions about important issues such as health care, education, and politics? With corporate news, the public simply cannot differentiate between what is true and what is false, resulting in poorly made choices about crucial topics. Citizens will be blinded by the imperceptible devices that PR specialists use to manipulate viewers. Furthermore, the VNR detracts from the news that is not corporately sponsored, which means more attention will be paid to manufactured news. The hard news broadcasters will be left with a very small audience, and will close if they cannot compete with those who transmit the VNR. With this, there will be no outlet for real news to be disseminated to the public, and no way for people to obtain true facts.

The news that we receive is manufactured and prevents us from making informed decisions about important issues. Corporate news is a popular trend because it benefits countless corporations, the economy, and the PR industry. Consequently, the public will spend more time deciding on what products to buy, rather than on the critical issues challenging society. As members of a culture that receives corporate news, we need to become more aware and conscious of such news, and learn to recognize the signs of a VNR. If we do not express ourselves, the corporation will always win because we have consented to hegemony. Voicing an opinion on corporately-funded news will enable us to better perceive our culture and make educated decisions about our future.

Works Cited

Stauber, John, and Sheldon Rampton. Toxic Sludge is Good for You.      Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.