Friday, September 26, 2008

I've got the urge...for advertising

Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need.” – Will Rogers

Advertisements need to pop up on you when you have no choice but to pay attention. Their message can’t be obvious. When someone’s obviously trying to sell me something, I will ignore them. However, I find myself buying things I don’t need, and don’t even desperately want even though I often am monetarily challenged. When I see an ad and think that’s cool, or that’s funny, I forget that they’re trying to sell me something. Sometimes ads seem to have nothing to do with the products they’re selling. The add above is a perfect example.

This ad can be flipped past in any magazine without a second thought. But when I look at it I think, what is it really trying to sell me? The first thought that comes to mind is it’s trying to sell perfection. The woman’s face is flawless. She is perfectly made up, and her hair is lustrous and shiny. This is unlikely natural; I recently discovered how easy it is to create perfection on photoshop. I also notice the woman’s expression. She looks she is experiencing pure bliss. Isn’t that a little much for shampoo?

The line “Until now you’ve only fantasized about it being this intense” also struck me as strange for a shampoo add. I don’t generally dream about shampoo, nor do I consider it particularly intense. What it seems to be trying to sell is a lifestyle. They seem to be saying that if you buy herbal essences they will be flawlessly beautiful, happy, and have your fantasies come true. Normally I wouldn’t think about all of this when seeing such an ad. I would just see it and say, of course this is a good way to advertise Herbal Essences.

This is because ads are meant to be hegemonic or dominant readings. “the reader fully shares the text's code and accepts and reproduces the preferred reading (a reading which may not have been the result of any conscious intention on the part of the author(s)) - in such a stance the code seems 'natural' and 'transparent'” (Chandler)

Most of the time we don’t think about ads. We just accept them for the way we are, and often buy what they are selling. I usually buy things when I have seen them in some form of media. I don’t think that this or any other advertisement will be a preferred reading for everybody, though this is I believe an advertiser’s goal. There are many possible interpretations for advertisements, but they are not meant be advertisers to be analyzed that way. I usually just ignore advertisments, or I don’t take them seriously. That may just mean I am brainwashed into equating extreme flawless beauty with a shampoo.

So do I fell an urge to buy a truckload of herbal essences now? It does smell good and all, but I don’t think I have an urge for herbal.

Until next time,


Works Cited

Chandler, Daniel. "Semiotics for Beginners : Encoding/Decoding." 19 Feb 2001 26 Sep 2008 .

"Advertising quotes." 26 Sep 2008 .

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Part of the masses

For the third required blog post, we were told to explain our understanding of the term mass media. I pondered over this question for nearly over a week, ever since I made my second post, and of the many ideas I came up with, none were totally satisfying. So after going through this thought process, I will try to grasp what I do or don't understand about this complex topic.

Firstly, I consulted; always a great starting point. It said:
–noun, plural mass media.
any of the means of communication, as television or newspapers, that reach very large numbers of people.

Well according to this definition, most forms of media we have now are forms of mass media. Through the Internet, especially, it's possible to reach billions of people in every corner of the globe in mere seconds. Communication has never been easier, and all the information of the world is literally at our finger tips. Reaching out to the masses brings great power, and unavoidably great responsibility.

When I think of mass media, I generally think of governmental speeches or natural disasters. Those take up every television station, so you are forced to watch it whether you like it or not. Mass media in those cases has the power to influence decisions, but rarely relies on the content, and usually relies on the medium used.

In reading the beginning of Mythologies by Roland Barthes, I came across this quote that I believe demonstrates the type of persona that makes mass media so powerful. "...they succeed in imposing an immediate reading of their inner nature: Armand Mazaud, a wrestler of an arrogant and ridiculous character (as one says Harpagon is a character)." (Barthes, 19)

As I have read L'Avare by Moliere, and am familiar with Harpagon, this struck me as an apt description of the kind of characters created by mass media. When someone is murdered there is immediately a villain cast, and regardless of whether they are guilty, they will be treated as a one dimensional insane person who is totally evil. When a prime minister gives a speech on television, he attempts to portray a magnetic and charismatic individual that people can relate to. When being presented to the masses through mass media, one character trait is often exaggerated until it overshadows everything else. Like Harpagon, whose overwhelming characteristic of greed becomes his only characteristic, people portrayed in mass media have one aspect of themselves focused on, forgetting everything else.

After exploring how people are portrayed in mass media, I attempted to understand exactly what is portrayed. I listed all the forms of media I consider mass media; television, Internet, magazines, radio and newspaper. There are so many ways to deliver information to the masses, and they all deliver information to hundreds of thousands of people everyday. With all of this information available, and all of the different views out there, it's amazing people don't get confused.

The reason this confusion isn't more evident is that is that people don't generally think much about the media. "the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator." (Benjamin, 13) Mass media isn't generally thought about, or discussed. It is something accepted as truth, which gives mass media the opportunity to stretch the truth. The mass media is similar to a spectator sport. We watch what is given, and we accept what we see. There lies the great power of mass media; it has power to influence a change in a great number of people, though that power is sometimes used in a negative sense.

So what is mass media? I'm not sure if I answered the question, though I made the attempt. I am a part of the masses that this media is trying to reach, so even the fact that I'm aware of such a thing is positive. Regardless of what each individual gets from the mass media, it gets the same thing to millions, or even billions of people. Mass media have the power to affect the lives of millions of people, and it's important to know that they can do it in both a positive and negative way. It is important to keep that healthy skepticism of what we see, but also to keep that hopeful optimism.

Media is any channel of communication, and mass media is opening those channels to the masses. It's important to be prepared for the flood of information to come.


Walter, Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies . 1. New York: Hill and Wang, 1972.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wonders of the World Wide Web

Right now, I am posting on a blog on the Internet. After I'm finished, I will continue to be connected to the world wide web (I like saying/typing it too), checking my favorite sites at least once. I don't generally keep track, but the hours a day I spend online is quite possibly mind boggling. This isn't merely something I do a lot. Without the Internet for a prolonged length of time, and without something else to do, I am noticeably upset. It's not like that happens much, save for the occasional technological malfunction. On a summer camping trip I was overjoyed to find that they offered free wireless Internet.

So why am I so attached to this all powerful invisible entity we simply call "the Net"? I suppose there are several reasons. One is the instantaneous knowledge about anything and everything that is apparently at my fingertips. A simple search and everything I ever wanted to know about anything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to complex nuclear physics is right there. The information out there is so extensive that it often takes hours to sift through the most innocent of google searches. As someone who is constantly in search of more information, this can be appealing. But does more mean better? Does fast access mean credible?

As Neil Postman says, " it does not help us, neither does television or any other 19th- or 20th-century medium (except perhaps the telephone), to solve the problem of what is significant information. " (Postman)

So while I know exactly how to find enough information to possibly fill several libraries, the Net doesn't help me to decide if any of it is worthwhile. The fact that anyone can publish anything on the Internet makes this seemingly impossible task slightly more problematic. If I were to say right now that the sky was purple, it would forever exists on the Internet without the warning that it is simply an interesting fabrication. In my search for information, I learned to be cautious, and that more isn't better.

I must also remember that just because I know more, doesn't mean I can feel better about the news of the "greater world", wherever that is. I like to always know what's happening, in terms of natural disasters. crime, war, or what is in other words "the news". But knowing all this doesn't fix anything. Knowing all this means that these problems will still exists, especially when knowledge is a passive process.

As Neil Postman also says, " we are deluded into thinking that the serious social problems of our time would be solved if only we had more information, and still more information. " (Postman)

So why else do I have an obsession with the world wide web (it is fun to type)?

I think my obsession and slight dependence come from the connections. When my best friend was in China for 2 months, I could speak to her every day as I normally did. When all my friends went to different cities hours away for university, I could talk to them as much as ever through instant messaging. Other forms of technology allow this, but the world wide web allows in instantly, and at no cost. When the Internet replaces human connections, it becomes a problem. Although through social networking cites such as Facebook, you get the illusion of being connected, in the end, you are alone at your computer. However, when great distances prevent physically seeing important people, the Internet gives many options of keeping in touch.

I'm off to explore more of the online world now, but I will always exercise caution. After this post, I realize that limiting Internet time might be a good thing, so that this doesn't become a dependence that interferes with daily life. Cutting off the Internet entirely isn't really necessary, and being slightly addicted I might not be able to handle it. It's not as though I'm a slave to the Internet. It just influences most aspects of my daily life...that's all!

On a side note, you will notice I have changed the title of my blog. I might do it a few times. This one is the title of a great song by Superchick.

Until next time,


Postman, Neil. "The Humanism of Media Ecology." 16jun2000 13 Sep 2008 <>.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why blogger?

This is my third foray, I believe, into the world of blogging. My other blogs, however, have been a bit different. They have been a bit more personal, and entirely un-edited. This time I will attempt to make my posts a little more intelligible. I found setting up this blog really easy, probably because I have blogged many times before. Perhaps in the future I will attempt to learn all of the neat ways blogger has designed so I can make my blog interesting. The phrase "academic blogging" seems a little intimidating at first. After some thought, however, I have come to realize that it is simply a place to discuss my thoughts on more academic issues as opposed to talking about what I ate for breakfast or my trip on the bus.

Choosing which blogging service to use took me longer than setting up this blog. I was tempted to use livejournal, a service I have used before, but decided against it. It would be doing what I attempt to avoid; going with something safe and familiar in spite of its faults, and not exploring what else is out there. Many people, myself included, often choose brands that they grew up with, brands from their childhood that they know well. It makes me think of the reason many people eat at McDonalds. As I child, I would get McDonalds as a special treat, mostly for the wonderful Happy Meal. Those golden arches came to represent that childhood excitement that I'd want to keep going back to. Livejournal was my McDonalds of blogging; I knew exactly what to expect and exactly what I had to do.

That is exactly the reason why I chose blogger. During my extremely memorable first mass communications lecture, blogger was among the recommended services, and I was completely unfamiliar with it. I saw it as an excellent opportunity to learn how to use a new service, and expand my blogging horizons. I like to try new things, because regardless of whether or not I like them, I will have gained knowledge. I hope that in the future this blog will be both a place to post my thoughts on certain issues, and also a place to gain a new perspective. has this to say about blogs, "What the best individual blogs tend to have in common is voice -- they are clearly written by human beings with genuine human passion." While this is an exercise for a class, I hope this blog will also become a place to develop and share my passion for certain topics.

Until next time,

Laura Fixman