Charlotte Strethill-Smith

Digital Media Design Student

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 3 Lecture Notes — November 26, 2014

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 3 Lecture Notes

Post- Modern

collapse of distinction between real and simluated.

not necessarily made by artist.

Plays with own status.

Plays with status of Producer.

Embraces Consumer Culture.

Embraces Popular Culture

Is often a polished product.

Truth Questioned.


Period After WW2

Domination of Society by communication technology.

Consumerism central to society

Identity constructed in acts of consumption.

Community Fragmented.

Societal roles fluid.

Jean Baudrillard – The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures(1970; 1998 reprint; Sage Publications, London)

The proliferation of information technology alienates man from real lived social existence, forcing him to enter a new media induced reality known as hyper-reality: hyper-reality is characterised by the collapse of the distinction between the real and the simulated and the predominance of the simulacrum.


“The concepts of ‘environment’ and ‘ambience’ have undoubtedly become fashionable only since we have come to live in less proximity to other human beings, in their presence and discourse, and more under the silent gaze of deceptive and obedient objects which continuously repeat the same discourse, that of our stupefied power, of our potential affluence and of our absence from one another”(Baudrillard, 1970, 29)


“(O)bjects are categories of objects which quite tyrannically include categories of persons. They undertake the policing of social meanings, and the significations they engender are controlled. Their proliferation, simultaneously arbitrary and coherent, is the best vehicle for a social order, equally arbitrary and coherent, to materialize itself effectively under the sign of affluence” (Baudrillard, 1976, 413)



Processing – Week 7 – Pixels Falling — November 22, 2014

Processing – Week 7 – Pixels Falling

This week we converted an images pixels into particles which when we press any key on the keyboard, the image explodes into particles and falls down.

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We did this by creating an array list which is a store that will hold all the classes we make if we assign it to the list. By creating a separate class we can call that function multiple times without having to type it all out repeatedly. This is useful for a lot of things like particles. When the particles are added to the ArrayList they are stripped off their interface so we use the class name in parenthesis to reattach the interface to the objects data. When the mouse button is pressed we call update on the particle system to reset the image. To separate the image to pixels and draw each particle to screen by using p.draw.

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Science Museum London Visit — November 21, 2014

Science Museum London Visit


Our Course went to London on a visit to the Science Museum. There was a floor full of interactive exhibits called Who am I?. The exhibits explored every part of the human body and mind. There were a few exhibits which related to my current unit of creating an interactive feature at uni. One used a camera to map the movements of the people in front of it and project them on a screen built up as a large group of balls. These would then float down across a long strip underfoot whilst questions came up to make the user think.



The largest installation was a large table in the middle of the room which encouraged users to play short games about their Favorite food, what languages they could speak and other aspects. These would then be projected and compared on a large screen on the wall.


The pods surrounding all games which would test things such as if you were more creative thinking or logical thinking and then compare you to statistics.


In the main entrance there was a huge display with blocks of light appearing like they are being affected by gravity and the force of other light blocks. this directly relates to how we recently used processing to create different forces such as gravity and friction to affect a dot on the screen.


Another interesting exhibition, was the 3D printing space which showcased a variety of 3D printed objects as well as how the process works. I also looked at an exhibit which showed a variety of 3D shapes and patterns which gave me a good idea of the kind of result I want to produce visually for the interactive project.


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Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 2 Lecture Notes — November 19, 2014

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 2 Lecture Notes

This week we had a lecture of postmodernism and post-modernity.

Postmodernism is characterised by playful uncertainty and ambiguous meanings.

Modernism is sought to uncover new truth through questioning and self-conscious experimentation.


Expression of self

Truth of Materials

Artist Vision

Awe and Wonder of Nature

Emotion as Aesthetic Appearance

Rejection of rationalism

Elevation of Folk Art

Terror and the Sublime


Experimentation with form


Technical Advancement



Irony, sarcasm obliqueness




Collapse of Distinction between real and simulated.

Not Necessarily made by artist.

Plays with status of artwork as art.

Plays with status of artist.

Embrace Consumer Culture.

Embrace Popular Culture.

Is often a polished product.

Frederic Jameson – Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991)

Building on the work of Baudrillard, Jameson argues that the distinction between the real and the simulated becomes very blurred in postmodern society. He uses the terms parody and pastiche to explain the way people use and borrow existing cultural artefacts. Pastiche is basic mimicry, while parody is more knowing and ironic.

“The older kinds of folk and genuinely ‘popular’ culture which flourished when the older social classes of a peasantry and an urban artisanant still existed and which, from the mid-nineteenth century on, have gradually been colonized and extinguished by commodification and the market system.” (Jameson, 1988, 112)

“Pastiche is, like parody the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language. But it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without any of parody’s ulterior motives, amputated of the satiric impulse, devoid of laughter and of any conviction that alongside the abnormal tongue you have momentarily borrowed, some healthy linguistic normality still exits Pastiche is thus blank parody, a statue with blind eyeballs”(Jameson, 1991, 17)

“In contemporary terminology, then, we might say that ‘use value’ is the realm of difference and differentiation as such whereas ‘exchange value’ will as we shall see, come to be described as the realm of identities”(Jameson, 1991, 221)

Processing – Week 6 – Velocity Ball — November 15, 2014

Processing – Week 6 – Velocity Ball

This Week we started off by learning about vectors. We did this by seeing how to manually insert vectors and seeing the individual aspects of it rather than just calling the PVector function.

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We then moved on to producing a visual representation using what we learnt about vectors from the first half of the workshop. We created three forces of physics: gravity, friction and a force pushing the ball depending on the mouse position to the centre.

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This resulted in the user being able to do this.


Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 1 Notes — November 12, 2014

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 1 Notes

For our introduction to this Unit we were first asked to identify what consumerism is. In a nutshell consumerism is the belief that purchase of material goods and professional services will result in psychological happiness, personal fulfillment and social regard.

An early critique of this perspective came from the Norwegian-American sociologist Thorstein Veblan. In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) Veblan argues that it is man’s instinct to emulate and impress through the conspicuous consumption of material goods.

For him it is the animal impulse that underpins the success of the capitalist system. This is an idea that Vance Packard draws upon in the Hidden Persuaders(1957) In this book, Packard expounds the sociology of capitalism for a popular audience. He brings concepts like ‘built in obsolescence’ into public conscience.

In Parents as Consumer Citizens, Philip Woods looks at the way taste foregrounds education in the many ways in which parents consume their children’s education.

Competitive Market Model – Schools offer a competitive market model of customer choice because information contained in league tables enables parents to asses schools on past performance.

Personal Control Model – Parents can also do things to influence the quality of their child’s education, from help with homework to involvement with the PTA.

Quality Assurance Model – Parents are also empowered by outlining the standards and specifications about the ‘goods and services’ they can expect in both the National Curriculum and school policy documentation.

Participative Model – Parents can engage in dialogue with providers of their children’s education in the form of parents meetings and other meetings with staff.

Competitive Market Model

Personal Control Model

Quality Assurance Model

Participative Model

We then moved on to analyzing Subculture and the Meaning of Style.

Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979; London ; Routledge) – Central to Hebdige’s view of Consumer Culture is the notion that the individual is active in the ascription of meaning to consumer goods.Focusing on the punk movement of the mid 1970’s he looks at the way in which youth culture borrow and re-work the symbols or preceding youth groups. In particular his semiotic analysis as a symbol of cultural rebellion has been particularly influential in framing and shaping the way in which proceeding moments of cultural resistance have been understood.

Hebdige sees the purchase of material goods as an active process in which the self is reflexively constructed in dialogue with the meaning of objects. He reframes this process, however, and focuses instead upon the way audiences imbue objects with ideological meaning. Using the example of the punk safety pin he suggests that when appropriated by the minority groups or ‘subcultures’ such objects take on a new semantic meaning.

“Objects borrowed from the most sordid of contexts found a place in the punk’s ensembles: lavatory chains were draped in graceful arcs across chests encased in plastic bin liners. Safety pins were taken out of their domestic ‘utility’ context and worn as gruesome ornaments through cheek, ear or lip.” (Hebdige, 1979, 1067) 

symbolic resistance of items that include PVC, bin liners, fake blood, paraphernalia of bondage.

the dominant ideological structure of mainstream culture. Symbolises chaos and disorder. tightly controlled system of meaning.

social values, connected to working class, negotiates a semantic space for modes of expression outside of dominant culture forms.

“We could go one further and say that even if the poverty was being parodied, the wit was undeniably barbed; that beneath the clownish make-up there lurked the unaccepted and disfigured face of capitalism; that beyond the horror circus antics a divided and unequal society was being eloquently condemned.” (Hebdige,1979,1073)

Stuart Ewen – All Consuming Image: The Politics of Style in Contemporary Media (1988: Basic Books: New York) – style is political: visual signifiers encode systems of belief. Visual codes are often long and complex with complex histories. Their appopriation of consumer culture often dilutes their ideological potency. The ideological significance of the punk safety pin, example, is diminished when adopted by mass-producing lines; Which is left in Ewens terms ‘cultural waste matter’.

subcultures change in terms of their meaning because of the media.

shadow of marx hangs over his work in the explanation of the way in which mass-media exploits sub-cultural forms.

“(A)s style becomes a rendition of social history, it silently and ineluctably transforms that history from a process of human conflict and motivations, an engagement with social interests and forces into a market mechanism, a fashion show.”(Ewan, 1987,1082)

until 1960s this rendition of social history was fairly singular, depicting only the ideal cultural representation of the white middle class.

he suggests later periods are characterised by more plural construction of social history cohered around what is nominally referred to as the ‘alterative’. Which in this sense embraces oppositional concerns including issues of class and sexual oppression, political activism and global inequality.

material of counter-culture has exploited by capitalist institutions. He suggests end product is waste matter.

“Whatever the significance or value the expression may have had in the context of its earlier development, the value was now outweighed by its exchange value, its ability to make something marketable hip. When its marketability had been consumed, the phrase – like so much else – achieved the status of cultural waste matter.”(Ewan, 1987, 1087)

Processing Experiment 2 — November 10, 2014
Processing Experiment 1 —

Processing Experiment 1

Using the book ‘Generative Art – a practical guide using processing’ by Matt Pearson \i have started experimenting with creating more visual pieces using processing to incorporate into this unit

This simple code iterates through a grid using two loops; then, a function call on line 14 draws a circle at each grid point and displaces it in 3D space using a mathematical variance. This creates a different visual result every time the code is run.

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Processing – Week 5 – Agents — November 8, 2014

Processing – Week 5 – Agents

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Last week we started looking at agents, we did this in three parts.

In the first part we made a simple rectangle agent and used two lines of code to make the rectangle agent move. Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 17.25.57

For the second part I added methods so I could just call the agent function again and again rather than write out the entire repeatedly.

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Finally, in the third part I added multiple agents and arrays. The finished result is a screen the user can click to bring up multiple square agents that vibrate and slowly change colour over time.


This was the first week looking more in depth into processing and its uses. It was slightly hardly to get my head around at first but I can see the benefits and use of the processes which will help with our upcoming projects.

Design Fictions and Other Worlds : Idea and Sketches — November 1, 2014

Design Fictions and Other Worlds : Idea and Sketches

My Idea that I have decided to go with, started off by looking into communication devices for disabilities. I wanted to look into this as most futuristic devices are presented in a utopian world where there seems to be no health problems and everyone who uses the product are young, healthy and wealthy. After looking into this subject I found there were a very small number of products for adults that were in an affordable price range. As well as mainly being marketed for children or young teenagers. A lot of the technology sold that I could find were for a sensory room or entertainment purposes.

I decided to design a device that would help with sensory disabilities. I didn’t want to stop at just a hearing device and thought about ways it could help with vision. I found a design concept called Lumigrids ( ) which portrays an “LED projector for bicycles that hopes to improve safety during night riding. It projects square grids onto the ground and by observing changes in the grids, the rider can easily comprehend the landforms ahead.”


This gave me inspiration for my device to project a grid system into the users mind so they can comprehend the environment around them and any objects are shown as blocky low poly objects in the space. This would also be able to connect to nearby devices so the users could use their phone or see the signs on shop doors and prices. I also started looking into the possible helpful benefits of this device in relation to Autism, in particular Aspergers. I took advice from a lecturer and looked into the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I liked how this book wasn’t written exclusively about Aspergers, but a book about a boy who sees the world in a surprising and different way, as well as his experience feeling like an outsider. I was also old about some people who regained a sense back from not having it at all, couldn’t handle the shock of it all. For instance being completely deaf, to having to combat the noise of everyday life in a busy city can be really distressing and invokes anxiety.

In the end I went quite dark with the concept of my design. I created a design that would aid disabilities and would effectively seem like a Utopian future. However, I wanted to address how there can never truly be a utopian future as there is always conflict. There can also never be a ‘ fix all/end all product as my progression of this device would result in the human body unable to handle the stress and anxiety of a dramatic change such as gaining full sight/full hearing and ultimately the user having locked in syndrome. With the device having programmed the users daily life routine it will just play through the usual routine and force what has ultimately become a shell, through a routine programmed by the repetitive nature of humankind. I also toyed around with the idea of the device living off it’s host and when one user dies it must find another one and will attach itself to them. This is why I designed my device with a parasite in mind and yet still wanted it to appeal as looking cute. I think this design may have created a Heterotopian world due to the user ending up in a place they neither want to be, nor can really escape from. The outside world looking at the user will assume this is the best thing for the user as it reduces any involvement for real people and has been marketed as something for an idealist future.