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MAIC 5050:

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Nicole Cox

on 30 March 2017

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Transcript of MAIC 5050:

MAIC 5050:
Consumer Culture

- Smythe, Audience Commodity and it's Work (DL: Taylor)
- Williams, Advertising as "Magic System" (DL: Camille)
- McAllister, Commodity Fetishism and Digital Media (DL: Alexandria)
- Overarching discussion (and Cross article, if time permits)
Smythe's "Blind Spot" Debate
- Chiefly concerned with audience power and what exactly media industries produce

-Preceding scholars concerned with content, creating a "blind spot" in how we understand media's product(s)

- Audiences bought and sold and purchased and consumed as commodities (the "Commodity Audience")

- Like other ‘labor power’ it involves ‘work’ (but without pay— marketing consumer goods and services to themselves); double disadvantage

-Media content is merely the "free lunch" for audiences


- Encourages status quo and stifles change
- Rational irrationality in purchasing
- Audience's free labor (exploitative)
- Contributes to alienation

Raymond Williams, "Advertising as Magic System"
Four ways that advertising operates as a magic system:

1.) Advertising connects goods and services with social and personal values, anxieties, and expectations.

“If the consumption of individual goods leaves that whole area of human need unsatisfied, the attempt is made, by magic, to associate this consumption with human desires to which it has no real reference” (p. 189)

2.) In doing so, advertising perpetually (re)creates desires to be fulfilled, by ever more consumption; never-ending process.

3.) In order to succeed, advertising obscures our roles as consumers vs. users.

4.) Advertising relies on the illusion of choice. Namely, "your choice."
McAllister, Commodity Fetishism in the Digital Age
- Commodity fetishism and society's unhealthy relationship with consumption

- How the production of commodities is separated from the human costs of production and consumption

“…labour’s commodification and separation from the means of production are ‘mystified’” (p. 150)

- Commodities appear as natural and autonomous objects, created as it by magic and not by (exploitative) means of production

- Commercial symbols link commodities to a new set of social relations-- relations established in consumption contexts rather than production.

- Consumers are "commercially constructed"

Four trends in the digital era:

1.) Internet as a multimedia channel for commodity-sign construction
2.) Emphasis on interactivity, data mining, and target marketing
3.) the power of digital production techniques
4.) the blurring of commercial into other mediated texts.
Cross, Wondrous Innocence
- Focus is on how advertisers created the notion of children's "wondrous innocence" to re-frame child rearing as consistent with commercial culture.

- Advertising tapped into anxieties of parenting to sell goods/services; connected products with desires, anxieties, expectations of child-rearing (similar to the "magic system")

- Advertising ultimately sold the wondrous "look" of children upon first exposure to product; not the product itself

- Steeped in rhetoric that children-- by nature-- were innocent, untainted, and naturally knew what was best. They were the discerning consumers rather than spoiled brats.
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