Charlotte Strethill-Smith

Digital Media Design Student

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 5 Lecture Notes — December 10, 2014

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 5 Lecture Notes

Karl Marx – The Communist Manifesto (1848: Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford) – Written with Frederic Engels.

The economy is at the base of society; everything else is determined by it. Under capitalism, the economy is exploitive: serving only the interests of the ruling class (the Bourgeoisie). This inequality will lead to revolution, which will be characterised by the workers (the Proletariat) seizing control the means of production and the end of capitalist economic exchange.

Frederic Engels – The Communist Manifesto (1848: Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford) – Written with Karl Marx.

Influenced by Hegel and Heraclitus, Engels contribution to the Communist Manifesto is that of ‘Dialectic Materialism’. Change in the economic structure of society works through the dialectic principles of conflict between thesis and antithesis. In his logic the emergence of a synthesis of the two, i.e. a new economic thesis is a characteristic of a new phase in history.

In the Twenty First Century ownership of the means of cultural production is central to political agency?

consider the way in which the accessibility of domestic creative technologies had redefined cultural agency.

consider the wider political implications of the proliferation of western consumer culture, our relationship with the developing world and the way in which abstract global concepts like ‘terror’ rely upon mass media and the internet.

Look at the work of Marx, Adorno, Baudrillard and Giddens.

Look at Communist Manifesto.

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 4 Lecture Notes — December 3, 2014

Consumer Culture, Identity and the Media – Week 4 Lecture Notes

Social Grade A

Social Status Upper Middle-class

Occupation High Managerial, administrative or professional

B, Middle Class, Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional

C1, Lower middle-class, Supervisory or clerical, managerial, administrative or professional

C2, skilled working class, skilled manual workers

D, working class, semi and unskilled manual workers

E, those at the lowest, state pensioners or widows (no other earner), casual or lowest grade workers

Pierre Bourdieu – Distinction (1979)

Social class is constructed by cultural taste; cultural taste is produced by education. Social class facilitates access to education and so cultural order replicates itself. In the process of education, the individual acquires cultural capital, which gives the individual the ability to identify culturally noble activity. Culture evolves through the nomination of new cultural activity as noble by individuals who are highly educated in the process of naming.

“The definition of cultural nobility is the stake in a struggle which has gone on unceasingly, from the seventeenth century to the present day, between groups differing in their ideas of culture and of the legitimate relation to culture and to works of art, and therefore differing in the conditions of acquisition of which these dispositions are the product. Even in the classroom, the dominant definition of the legitimate way of appropriating culture and art favors those who have had early access to legitimate culture, in a cultured household, outside of scholastic disciplines.” (Bourdieu, 1979, 2)

“Consumption is, in this case, a stage in the process of communication, that is, an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher or code”(Bourdieu, 1979,3)

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)



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)

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)