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Cultural Studies & Semiotics

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Jordan Boyd

on 1 November 2014

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Transcript of Cultural Studies & Semiotics

The general goal of Cultural Studies is to look beyond the face of what is presented so that one without as much power may resist and possibly even change the status quo.

Be a skeptic. Question. Doubt the commonly accepted opinions.
Blood Diamond - During the Sierra Leone Civil War (a country in West Africa), a Rhodesian smuggler/mercenary (Danny Archer), a Mende fisherman (Solomon Vandy), and an American journalist (Maddy Bowen) come together in the search for a rare pink diamond hidden in Kono by Solo himself. For Danny, the diamond will pay the way for his freedom from Africa and the mercenaries he once ran with; for Solo, the journey allows him to get closer to the R.U.F. rebels subverting his son in the hope of rescuing him, making his family whole once more; and for Maddy, it is the chance at writing the story of a lifetime, exposing the real story of the diamond trade and conflict diamonds.
Cultural Studies - Examining the methods of mass communication by which those in power maintain the balance, the status quo: a answer to how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It looks at how the larger consensus is reached by a body that previously could not agree less, one that had been split so broadly on view and intended course of action.

We do not call it media studies because to look at communications without regard to the culture it is born from rips away the meanings behind the very discipline we claim to study
The goal is to uncover the structure of the established ideology and analyzing power relationships so that the people may rise, resist, and possibly even change the status quo. The aim here is to change the world, not just interpret it.

By ideology, we refer to “the mental frameworks—the languages, the concepts, categories, imagery of thought, and the representation—
which different classes and social groups deploy in order to make sense of,
define, figure out and render intelligible the way society works.”
Hegemony - Mass media, rather than exhibiting unity of a body, instead creates that unity by convincing the audience they have much in common with currently prevailing rulers. It may present a variety of views, but slightly uplifts a select few the conform with the ruling ideology.

The audience accepts the various reports as truth and in turn report that same data to others around them spreading the now-established thought/idea. The ideology spreads and soon nobody can say why it is, only that they were told it was so and so did those before them.
Control is sustained when the bulk of communications are controlled/owned by one single entity. But what does that matter to society as long as their everyday life is not inconvenienced.

The media is the source from which we create our standing ideologies, the myths by which we live our lives. Reality TV and shows depict to the audience how life could be, how life should be. As the audience becomes entranced, the "reality" presented comes to life as society begins to agree and expect it to be so.
Presentation Outline

-Tearyne discusses what a diamond is worth to the audience (lead with a light question)

Blood Diamond Synopsis

Movie clip
-"Bar scene #2" (39:40-41:15) 1:35 long


-Semiotics Definition

-Evolution of the Diamond myth

-Semiotics of Mass Media
-"I'd Like to be Like Mike" How the media can control/manipulate public perception

Movie Clip
-"Gonna get mine" (1:18:20-1:19:05) 0:45 long

Cultural Studies:

-What is Ideology? Definition

-Democratic Pluralism: Quotes

Movie Clips
-"Commander Poison & Dia" (36:50-37:40) 0:50 long
-"RUF Field March" (1:37:32-1:37:49) 0:17 long


Movie Clips
-"Commander Zero" (11:10-12:30) 1:20 long
-"Diamond Market Control" (1:02:05-1:03:32) 1:27 long

-Discursive Formation

Movie Clips
-"Utopia" (2:45-3:15) 0:30 long
-“Shed their blood” (35:05-36:30) 1:25 long
-"Traitor" (1:45:10-1:45:50) 0:40 long

Movie Clip
-"CNN Sports & Weather" (54:20-54:45) 0:25 long

-Corporate Control of Mass Communications


Movie Time Total = 9:14
BUT... messages are open to interpretation, and media communications are not always received as intended. It is possible for the society to:

1) by happenstance, completely agree
2) accept the intention, but not for all situations
3) see past the facade, and seek the "truth"
The Dream - 2:45 to 3:15
Commander Zero - 11:10 to 12:30
Media - 24:35 to 27:30
Secure - 35:10 to
Commander Poison & Dia (Ideology) - 36:50 to 37:40
Bar Scene 2 - 39:40 to 41:15
Acceptance - 47:05 to 48:20
Media - 59:35 to 1:00:45
Secure - 1:07:27 to 1:08:45
Sustain - 1:37:32 to 1:37:49
How do we know what we know?
The meanings of all these signs and symbols around us are acquired from the daily communications we receive and the culture we live in
The world turned upside down...
If those in power so wish it, everything you thought you thought you knew could change in the blink of an eye...
A new framework is laid, and eventually it will feel as if the world had never been any other way

The transition made and accepted
... and by discursive formation...
a new ideology takes hold
This, once backward, and unknown ideology is passed on, perpetuated for generations through further discourse, much like the ideology that came before
Different classes and social groups use language, concepts, and ways of thinking to make sense of the way society works
Democratic Pluralism
the idea that society is held together by common norms.
Pretenses may include:
- equal opportunity
- respect for diversity
- individual rights
- the rule of law
Movie Clips display:
+ How the powerful try and shape the minds of the weak, through manipulative nurturing and care.
+ How culture is instilled through rituals and institutions.
The subtle sway of society's haves over its have-nots.
Usually displayed as one nation's dominance over another nation.
Media plays a huge role in modern hegemony.
Movie Clips display:
+ The power of Western Culture over derelict nations.
+ How corporations and media work together to to secure and sustain domination over a nation and its resources.
Commander Zero
Supply and Demand
Poisoning Dia
March of the RUF
Test Your Engagement IQ
What are the four C's of diamonds?

Q: Where do those facts and figures come from? Why do you accept any of that as true?

Whose best interest do those guidelines serve? Who came up with them?

Hint: they don't stem from tradition.

A: Generally, at least three months' salary
Love Diamonds, Blood Diamonds:
Semiotics and how the diamond became the international symbol of love
In semiotics, we study how a sign and signifier evolve over time

The symbol of the diamond as inseparable from love did not grow from culture or tradition, but an interest-driven crafting of meaning
Corporate Control
Q: How much should a person spend on an engagement ring?
21st Century Fox/News Corp
-TV: Fox Broadcasting Company , Fox
News Channel, Fox Business Network
-Film: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
-Print: New York Post, Wall Street Journal
-Book Publishing: Harper Collins
-Internet: MySpace, IGN , AskMen.com, Scout.com, RottenTomatoes, Photobucket

...and leading all these entities is one man:

Rupert Murdoch
During the Sierra Leone Civil War in West Africa, a Rhodesian smuggler/mercenary (Danny Archer), a Mende fisherman (Solomon Vandy), and an American journalist (Maddy Bowen) come together in the search for a rare pink diamond hidden in Kono by Solo after his imprisonment by R.U.F. rebels. For Danny, the diamond will pay the way for his freedom from Africa and the mercenaries he once ran with. For Solo, the journey is about making his family whole again and his attempts to get closer to finding his son who has been captured by the rebels. For Maddy, it is the chance to write the story of a lifetime, exposing the reality of the diamond trade and conflict diamonds.
Diamonds were a rarity until mid 1800s, with engagement rings only seen on the hands of nobles.

US - Popularity of diamond engagement rings declined after WWI and more after the Great Depression

Younger generation felt that engagement rings were out of style - felt they were “cheap”, “flashy”, “old-fashioned”

Market Saturation
In the 1860s, the discovery of diamonds in South Africa paired a lack of demand with a glut of supply

In order to control the supply, Cecil Rhodes bought up other diamond plots and formed De Beers Mining Company

This solved the supply problem, but De Beers now needed to create a demand for their product

Solution: an ad campaign that turned diamonds from an object for possession into an enduring, emotional symbol

Marketing campaign created by Debeers in 1938 at the influence of Oppenheimer

Educate the users about the four Cs of diamonds
Images of the idea of diamonds as desirable reinforced by media imagery (movies, advertisements)
In 1947, Debeers releases ad and their eventual slogan: “A diamond is forever”
Reinforced the idea that an engagement ring is indispensable and a diamond is the only truly acceptable stone for an engagement ring to signify one's love

“A Diamond is Forever”
Sign + Signifier
A Brief History of Diamond Engagement Rings

: 10% of engagement rings had diamonds
: 80%

As a result of DeBeer's carefully crafted marketing campaign, diamond engagement rings have changed from being the exception for the elite to the rule, creating a symbol to reinforce a falsified demand
The Result: The Myth of Forever
Full Throttle
presenting Blood Diamond
Contributing parties:
Tearyne Glover
David Tran
Jordan Boyd
In Conclusion:
Remember: The goal of cultural studies, in general, is to:

- see beyond what is presented in the forefront so that those without as much power may rise, resist, and possibly even change the status quo. And,...

- reform the world, not just interpret it. It may not be pretty, but that's what the RUF has done in Blood Diamond.

We shouldn't simply accept things just because they are cultural norms. Be a skeptic. Question. Doubt commonly accepted opinions. Look into who wrote an article, directed a film, or aired a commercial. The narrative is likely biased and agenda driven.
Movie Clip: Unfulfilled Desire
Even outside of the context of love and marriage, for those who collect diamonds for the corporate conglomerates, diamonds are a symbol, but in their context, it is one of hope for a better life.

Clip: "I'm gonna get mine."
Full transcript