Thursday, 13 May 2010


My shopping experience has lead me to the small historical city of Worcester. Famous for the cathedral gracing the back of the British twenty pound note for years, and the birthplace of the composer Edward Elgar – to which there are many memorial statues. The city remains dominated by its array of Victorian building and shops. It does have a fairly modern shopping precinct called Crowngate, which is home to a few modern shops, coffee places and travel agents. It is also occupied by nationwide department stores such as House of Fraser and Debenhams. Similar to those that were first introduced in the 19th century in France.

Marks and Spencer have two stores here in Worcester, one for women, children and their food hall, and another for men and homeware. A Next, TOPSHOP, and TKMaxx are also present down the high street, along with an array of other well known stores. Phone shops are also in plentiful supply, as well as coffee houses and cafe’s.

It is not a bad place to visit for shopping, and it’s layout is easy on the eye too, in a traditional way. The shops however are widely dispersed so sensible shoes are advisable as there is a fair amount of walking to be done if you want to see it all!

I imagine Worcester was not ahead of it’s time when it was first developed, but it is more on an average par with other similar towns and cities, don’t get me wrong it has everything you need, but if you want a wider choice of the same objects you might be best advised to travel further afield.

Photographs to follow.

Holmes and Redmond - Understanding celebrity culture

Adulation, identification and emulation are all key motifs of understanding the study celebrity culture, as explained in this reading. As well as the desire for fame, as highlighted in the case study of Leif Memphis.
Non famous people are around to form groups of fans around famous people, and circulate in the popular media.
'I' and 'me, me, me' are the narrative strand of post modern celebrity in a commodity driven nature. 'To be famous is to be famous and that is all that matters' this is descibed as everyone is psychologically damaged whether it is the anomic fan or the lonley famous person.
According to Elliot (1999) the relationship between fan/ star/ celebrity may acutally be the most intimate and far reaching forms of sociability in modern times. From the dedicated websites to in institutions and creative enterprises.
New and old media technologies have allowed celebrities to be timeless, replayed and circulated in an endless fashion which has become extremely important in todays celebrity culture - in this game of finding authenticity.
Apparently the body of the star is the key to finding their 'real' persona - as fans we are comforted when we see them stripped of their fancy clothing, jewellry and make up, exposing their flaws enables us to identify with them in their natural form rather than their representation.
Celebrities are divided into categories from A-list to Z-list, but their appeal can still be far reaching no matter where they originate. In Z-list will usually be the reality star - holding onto their 15 minutes of fame.
In relation to discourses of cultural value, two key points are made: Firstly it is impossible to discuss contemporary celebrity without addressing such judgements; as they form an integral part of how the celebrity circulates in the public sphere. Secondly issues of cultural value simultaneously structure the varying perspectives our contributors offer on celebrity; some are keen to defend whilst others are more critical.
The term celebrity in itself is ambiguous in it's meaning and the study of which contributors explore how the internet, magazine, tabloid newspaper, photograph and gallery film determine how celebrity culture travel across the media landscape.

Joshua Gamson: The name and the product, late twentieth century celebrity

It is written that celebrities have now become the powerful ones in the world of cinema. And that they are the 'propreitors of their own product' where once the job would have been left to personal management and agents, yet these are no longer the powerful players.
Advertisement and lifestyle has changed dramatically since World War II which has reflected in the celebrity world too, which has been described as becoming more of a 'scientific' formula.
Entertainment PR of the film and TV industry has adapted to cope with the change and demand of the modern audience. 'Star Quality' has a certain magical feel to it, almost like an enigma - which has turned out to be a profitable commodity to sell. Fame is a sales device with celebrities making a lot of money through endorsements since the 1950's.
The concept of 'quality' has been dismissed as irrelevant and old fashioned and has been replaced with the notion of image.
The role of the publicist has now altered into now coaching the celebrity into "how to look cool in talk show hot seats" and such which can lead to demanding the cover on a magazine.
One clear question that I feel is important is 'If celebrities are artificial creations, why should an audience remain attached and lavish attention on their fabricated lives?'
The hype and irony seems to do no damage to the stars image, and even if it did, it could be sold in a different way using alternative characteristics.
Irony plays a huge part in the maufacturing of films and programmes, but it only makes the audience more intreagued.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Consumer Culture and the Manufacturing of Desire by Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright

This chapter explores the role of visual images, and the different ways in which the audience consumes them. it is stated that advertising is a central component of consumer studies and capitalism, where our society is dependent on society consuming goods beyond our needs.

They also discuss commodity culture and commodity fetishism, which, in short means we 'construct' our identities through what we consume, and what we surround ourselves with. There are differences between exchange value and use value, the example used to explain the variation is rice would be an exchange value because it's worth is equal to it's use value, with regards to price. Whereas perfume does not really have a value in society as we could function without it - so therefore has a very high exchange value.

Images are always designed with the consumer in mind, with implications that the product being sold will make us unique and special, and different to others, even if more than one person buys the same product. The Frankfurt School call this concept 'pseudoindividuality' (a false idea of individuality!).

Text aswell as image is designed to have a powerful effect and meaning - some advertisement campaigns are known simply by the text used, and in some cases remain more memorable.

In the envy and desire section, it claims all adverts speak the language of transformation, which actively speaks to the consumer about their identity. Furthermore, products that are sold to us, with all their shiny promises, can never fully deliver their fulfillment offer, even though all consumers have the potential to reconfigure the meanings of the commodities that they purchase and own.

Anti-ads also subject themselves into our advertisment service, an example used is the smoking advert where the text protests 'I'm really sick, I only smoke facts'. Which allows us to get the idea of an anti-ad.

The chapter concludes that in late capitalism, the boundary between the mainstream and the margins is always in the process of being renegotiated.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Matt Hills: Fan Culture

The Focus on this reading is the ethnographies of fandom, the difference between knowledge and justification boom in fan studies.

Fan Ethnography: emphasising the knowledgeable fan
The ethnographic process of ‘asking the audience’ – although useful can also be a ‘reductive’ approach. Analysing fandom in terms of language and discourse to produce discursive justification. Fans knowledge is relied upon heavily, and their own media consumption. Further problems are that fan communities use narrative conventions from popular fiction.

Autoethnogrpahy: Narratives of the fan, narratives of the self
After reading an insightful quote from Gramsci in this section, if fan ethnography has been limited by its view of ‘the real’ or its one sided accounts of fandom either as a social coping mechanism. Autoethnography does not simply indicate that the personal is political, instead the personal indemnity as one performs is always borrowed or alien.
Narcissistic is a word freely used in this section, which he implies that my wiritng validate my own past.

Self-imaginings: Autoethnogrpahy as an escape from singular fan culture

All of which sets up the ground which my own autoethnography must traverse. Through the preceding discussions I have established four key principles for
1 Autoethnography must constantly seek to unsettle the moral dualisms which are thrown up by the narcissism of ‘common sense’ and its narrative closures. This
requires the constant use of self-reflexive questioning.
2 Autoethnography must constantly seek to unsettle the use of theory as a disguise for personal attachments and investments; good autoethnography does not simply
validate the self and its fandoms by twisting theory to fit the preferences of the self. Again, this requires the constant use of self-reflexive questioning.
3 Self-reflexivity cannot legitimate autoethnography as an exercise. The concepts of ‘intellectual rigour’ and heroic reflexivity act as another form of academic ‘common
sense’ which sustains the critical ‘us’ versus the duped ‘them’. When self-reflexivity is subjected to ‘self-reflexive’ critique then it becomes apparent that this term
supports a fantasy of academic power and a fantasy of the idealist transformation of society. At this point, self-reflexivity acts as part of academia’s ‘critical
4 Autoethnography should treat self and other identically, using the same theoretical terms and attributions of agency to describe both.

• Fan-ethnographies have been limited by a number of recurring problems such as the narrative structures that they have used, and the moral dualisms

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

So, What is Hypermodernity?

Hypermodernity (Academic Definition)
There can be a profound lack of integration between the past and the present since:
1. What happened necessarily took place under "lesser" circumstances than now, which generates a fundamentally separate context.
2. Artefacts from the past superabundantly clutter the cultural landscape and are seamlessly reused to generate an even greater superabundance from which individuals are unable to discern original intent or meaning.
Hypermodernity (also called "Super modernity") differs from Modernity in that it has even more commitment to reason and to an ability to improve individual choice and freedom. Modernity merely held out the hope of reasonable change while continuing to deal with a historical set of issues and concerns; hypermodernity posits that things are changing so quickly that history is not a reliable guide. The positive changes of hypermodernity are supposedly witnessed through rapidly expanding wealth, better living standards, medical advances, and so forth. Individuals and cultures that benefit directly from these things can feel that they are pulling away from natural limits that have always constrained life on Earth. But the negative effects also can be seen as leading to a soulless homogeneity as well as to accelerated discrepancies between different classes and groups.
Post modernity differs here in that it rejects the idea of "reasonable change" while at the same time accepting that the past and its artefacts have as much value as the present. The value is primarily expressed through provisional constructs that have no lasting meaning; we cannot discern truth but we can play with the nonsense. Post modernity is meant to describe a condition of total emergence from Modernity and its faith in progress and improvement in empowering the individual.
Key Features:
Key features include the belief that every aspect of the human experience, can be controlled and manipulated by humanity’s ability to understand through science, knowledge, technology and biology.
It is the step beyond post - post modernism.
Key Theorists:
Gilles Lipovestsky and Sebastian Charles appear to be the main theorists developing the idea.
How could you use these in ideas?
It could easily be used in analysis of texts from a scholarly approach. As post modernism is such a broad subject, exploring other categories could be of valuable insight.
Reading list:
Works by Gilles Lipovestsky and Sebastian Charles

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

‘The Mistakes of the Past’? Visual Narratives of Urban Decline and Regeneration By David Parker and Paul Long

The reading uses historiography to discuss the changes in Birmingham’s architecture. Analysing in detail the alterations made in post war Britain, the piece reflects on buildings as ways of symbolisations and planned developments.

Not knowing Birmingham that well, I found the reading really insightful, because as an outsider when I think of Birmingham city centre, I visualise concrete jungle style office blocks, bypasses and flyovers – spaghetti junction – and the bubbly Selfridges building! (How uncultured of me?!)

A main focus is the discussion of the Rotunda building as an iconic image of Birmingham’s skyline.

The architecture of England’s second city is criticised rather than praised, and there is an underlying bitter impression of the lost bid for the ‘Capital of Culture’ title.

The future of the city is that of a personal preference – you love it or hate it by either ‘promoting it – or resisting the change’ even for its inhabitants. The city centre is bustling with modern buildings, Brindley Place and the developments around the canal side featuring popular shops and restaurants that accommodate the hoard of yuppies and tourists whom frequent the area.

Advert campaigns have been designed specifically for its target audience­­ - The Bull Ring endorsements are described as follows – “By way of contrast, the officially endorsed imagery of the coming, reinvigorated Bull Ring is presented in a gloriously vibrant colour. One series of images – readily available on the websites, around the city and on printed promotional literature – features a stylishly dressed and choreographed model. A key banner presents an extreme close-up of the model’s mini-skirted thighs as she purposefully strides past the photographer’s lens (see Figure 4).She is, no doubt, on her way to shop. The emphasis here is upon youth and beauty and – as befits the stereotypical associations of retail and consumption– on femininity”.

A useful piece of writing which provides insightful information, which could also be adapted to talk about the architecture of every city.