CCT205: Digital Innovation and Cultural Transformation

RESET from Sujaya Rampersad-Singh on Vimeo.

A short film on technology and communication.
Produced for CCT205 at the University of Toronto.

Guerrilla Girls

Community of Practice Profile

Guerrilla Girls

Anonymity, a practice used by the Guerrilla Girls, is often used in social movements to provide a voice to issues without pretense (Anonymous, Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story, 2011). The Guerrilla Girls are a feminist group formed in 1985, frustrated when the Museum of Modern Art featured only 17 female artists out of a total 165 artists (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ). The Guerrilla Girls are an example of a community of practice that utilize anonymity to critique and address issues of inequality. This paper will argue that the Guerrilla Girls use social media of various forms to bring attention to inequality issues through a non-threatening, satirical, feminist approach.

Two founding Guerrilla Girls created the establishment, and together with other members, call upon social change through the creation of feminist visuals (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ). Members of the Guerrilla Girls remain anonymous; they must be selected by existing members to become a member, and feminists who appear to lack humor are not seen as a proper fit for the group (Anonymous, Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story, 2011). The Guerrilla Girls as a community of practice generated pragmatic initiatives, aimed at creating an equal division of opportunities between genders (Chave, 2011). The integration of humor, in the Guerrilla Girls visual media pieces, appears to portray the feminist movement divergently to traditional depictions of the movement.

As feminist artists, the Guerrilla Girls maintain anonymity through the use of the names of dead female artists (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ). This not only maintains the anonymity of the Guerrilla Girls, but playfully gives attention to (deceased and living) female artists whose work may have been disregarded because of their gender. The Girls argue that the art field would be altered if female, and coloured artists had their art incorporated into the art world (Chave, 2011). By depicting the need for diversity in the art field in a humorous way, the Guerrilla girls allow the audiences of these media pieces to “feel a part of the inside joke” (Chave, 2011). This approach allows larger groups of people to realize that the issue of inequality remains prominent in society.

From 1985 to date, the Guerrilla Girls produce visuals such as posters, and “graphic works” that target “sexism and racism both in and outside of the art world” (Demo, 2000). One example of a satirical poster was “The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist” seen in 1988 (Demo, 2000). This poster highlighted issues female artists faced with their art careers. The Guerrilla Girls presented the truth; deliberately utilizing a humorous delivery. This tactic is a signature of the Guerrilla Girls, aimed at capturing attention and stimulating thought from its’ viewer. By saying things such as “Getting your picture in art magazines wearing a gorilla suit” (Demo, 2000), the Guerrilla Girls illustrated the unfortunate truth about female artists; they are mostly recognised in absurd situations. The list of “advantages”, which were obvious disadvantages, highlighted the need for equality to be brought to the art scene.

The Guerrilla Girls create visual texts depicting issues of inequality in striking and humorous ways. Demo argues that the Guerrilla Girls message is always coherent to their rhetoric, despite the form that the message is conveyed through (Demo, 2000). The Guerrilla Girls are consistent with their arguments because “each poster, action, or book project confronts sexism and racism” and each media piece reveals “the incongruity between social ideals and practices” (Demo, 2000). While the Guerrilla Girls could explicitly target men in their media pieces, their humorous and satirical approach generates a comedic effect; in doing so, they demonstrate the need for change, without placing blame on individuals who may be in a position of advantage. The posters created would “provoke discussion” (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ) that offered the potential to stimulate social change; the depiction of feminists in an alternative construction showed that “feminists can be funny” (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ).

The Guerrilla Girls use communications and media technologies to showcase and share their media content. Various media forms such as magazines, posters, billboards, books, as well as online content (such as their website) are generated to broadcast their message (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ). The Guerrilla Girls argue that they “reveal the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair”, to do so they expose issues “in politics, art, film and pop culture” using “humor and outrageous visuals” (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ). Their message becomes more memorable by using the combination of humor and anonymity; the Guerrilla Girls would wear gorilla masks. By taking identities out of the question, the focus becomes the issue of inequality. Through the billboards, posters, and websites, Guerilla Girls highlight issues that reflect society, by emphasising problems with society itself through humor.

The strategies used by the Guerrilla Girls are essentially humor and anonymity. The perception that feminists are serious and lack humor is altered through the Guerrilla Girls’ approach to media content creation. Feminists seen as lacking-humor are not incorporated into the group (Anonymous, Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story, 2011). When one poster insinuating violence against men was proposed, Alice Neel explained, “when it comes to this kind of behaviour (the use of physical force or violence) [in media creation] women will lose” (Anonymous, Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story, 2011). The integration of violence, or a threatening nature in media, is not seen as a beneficial tactic by the Guerrilla Girls. They use “facts, humor and outrageous visuals” as part of their strategy and methodology (Anonymous, Guerilla Girls ). This allows the Guerrilla Girls to address important issues of inequality through a more approachable depiction. Anonymity, through the use of gorilla masks in “hi public appearances” (Chave, 2011) is a signature tactic of the Guerrilla Girls. The “masquerade” (Chave, 2011) draws attention away from the identities of the Guerrilla Girls, and towards the issue discussed.

This community of practice addresses social issues of inequality in a frame that is divergent from the traditional, straight-forward, feminist approach. Guerrilla Girls contribute towards social change by highlighting issues of inequality through humorous and satirical lenses. One characteristic of the Guerrilla Girls’ approach is to use social media forms, such as bus ads, or billboards, to ask for equal opportunity. Chave argues “the Guerrilla girls tended to represent themselves as pragmatists, asking only for their fair share of the proverbial art-world pie” (2011). Furthermore, the Guerrilla Girls work to change “what it means to be a ‘girl’ producing art”; they do this through “the group’s name and dress to their use of sexual innuendo” (Demo, 2000). The Guerrilla Girls’ creative approach to attacking social issues of inequality, in the art world especially uses a dynamic that is unique to them.

The Guerilla Girls once faced the challenge of hierarchy within the group itself (Anonymous, Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story, 2011). The Guerrilla Girls had an issue of diversity initially, where members of colour felt out of place, but with the creation of Guerrilla Girls BroadBand it brought back members of colour who had once left (Anonymous, Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story, 2011). The Guerrilla Girls have faced criticism from various sources over time, “art dealer Mary Boone described their campaigns as ‘an excuse for the lack of talent’ ” (The Independent, 2009). Tulley however, argues that the Guerrilla Girls benefit from publicity and that their presence in the media promotes the Guerrilla Girls’ message regardless (Tulley, 2009).

The Guerrilla Girls address problems of inequality, with special attention given to the art-world. Through various media types, the Guerrilla Girls use tactics of anonymity and humor to create social awareness about inequality. They use the gorilla masks, “feminine” apparel, and sexual innuendo to present their messages (Demo, 2000). The Guerrilla Girls aim to bring awareness and stimulate change with regards to gender and colour diversity, with special focus given to the art-world. The Guerrilla Girls feminist approach to social movements and social media incorporates satire and humor, to show that feminism does not have to be an extremist movement. Although the group has faced criticism (The Independent, 2009), it uses those publicity moments as opportunities to get out their message (Tulley, 2009). As a community of practice the Guerrilla Girls are strategic with the way they represent themselves. They select new members carefully and infrequently, to select feminists with a sense of humor (Anonymous, Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story, 2011). To maximize their impact on audiences they utilize images crafted to capture attention, with satirical or humorous text to illustrate unequal divisions of opportunity between gender and color. The Guerrilla Girls’ approach therefore maximizes impact without threatening dominant groups.

References

Anonymous. (2011). Guerrilla Girls and Guerrilla Girls Broadband: Inside Story. Art Journal, 70(2), 89-101.

Anonymous. (n.d.). Guerilla Girls . Retrieved from Guerrilla Girls: http://www.guerrillagirls.com/admin/moreherstory.shtml

Chave, A. C. (2011). The Guerrilla Girls Reckoning. Art Journal, 103-111.

Demo, A. T. (2000). The Guerrilla Girls Comic Politics of Subversion. Women Studies in Communication, 23(2), 133-156.

The Independent. (2009). Guerrilla girl power: Have America’s feminist artists sold out? Retrieved from The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/guerrilla-girl-power-have-americas-feminist-artists-sold-out-1666140.html

Tulley, C. (2009). 6.2: Image Events Guerrilla Girl Style. Retrieved from Enculturation: http://www.enculturation.net/6.2/tulley

 

 

CCT316: Communication and Advertising

Chosen PSA: What’s Your Thing?  (Companies Committed to Kids)

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX6qUFm1HsI

Youth, do Your “Thing”

            It may be necessary in a society with insecure youth to advertise the importance of celebrating individuality. In “What’s Your Thing?” created by Ogilvy and Mather Advertising for Companies Committed to Kids (previously Concerned Children’s Advertisers), emphasis is put towards encouraging youth to find their “thing”. This public service announcement works to illustrate various activities from which youth may be able to identify with and potentially mimic. This paper argues that the purpose of this public service announcement is to encourage its youth audience to participate and engage in a recreational activity that suits them individually. Using arguments from “A New Consumerism” (Cross), “The Alien Past” (Strasser), “Reflection and Reviews: An English Teacher Looks at Branding” (Twitchell), as well as further discussion of consumerism and hermeneutics from “Content Analysis and Hermeneutics” and “All the Cool Kids are Doing It/Communicating the Emotional” lectures by Heydon, the aforementioned argument is made. The main indication of this advertisement’s intended audience is the demographic of its cast.

 

 

            The aim of “What’s Your Thing?” is directed towards a youth audience to encourage them to find and participate in an activity that suits their talent. The message that “[e]verybody is good at something” (“What’s Your Thing?”) is transferrable to a vast audience; however, the age group of the chosen action explicitly reflects a chosen youth audience. One may interpret that the PSA aims at mirroring its’ target audience through the choice to illustrate this PSA through a youth cast. As Howard Beale ranted (“Turn off Your TVs”), television produces and reproduces its’ audience, to an extent. In correspondence with Beale’s argument, the advertisers applied this concept with the intent of creating a youth audience dedicated to using their recreational time to improve their talents. If the audience acts as a mirror or as a by-product of television, then the function of this ad is to get youth to mimic the individualized dedication shown in the ad.

In order for the audience ‘produced’ by this PSA (“What’s Your Thing?”) to reflect the individuals depicted in it, (as a ‘product of television’ – “Turn off Your TVs”) dedication was used as a common identifier between each of the individuals. This PSA can be interpreted to promote individuality through its depictions of uniquely-talented, uniquely-dedicated, youth. The PSA compiles seemingly candid scenes of youth practicing their various hobbies, pastimes, and activities, from bug-collecting, to practicing magic, to playing sports (ibid.). The candid nature of these scenes appear to be presented through the “creative perspective” (Kelly et al.), because they are placed in believable locations, and most seem oblivious to the camera, which indicates that these scenes were spontaneous. The PSA complies many different activities from which the audience members are hoped to identify with, over the course of one minute (“What’s Your Thing?”). The addition of “[n]obody’s good at everything” aids to encourage youth to single out something that they are “good at” (ibid.). By crafting numerous unique activities, the PSA works to relate to youth whose individual interests are likely to vary across a broad spectrum. The inclusion of unique interests among more traditional interests in the ad projects the message to youth whose interests may seem odd to others.

The ad works to motivate youth to work towards and identify with their interests; the broad spectrum of presented hobbies encourages the “produced audience” (Heydon) to individually exhibit their unique interests. As discussed in “The Audience”, personalization is an essential factor to consider when the intent of the advertiser is to motivate the audience to do a certain thing. The audience is fed a number of ideas with the hope that at least one of them will motivate youth to exhibit the same determination seen in the ad. The PSA identifies its intended audience to be youth, the intended message is that the youth should participate in what they are “good” at (“What’s Your Thing?”), and the ad goes further to highlight that there are countless things that people (specifically youth in this case) are good at, and that each individual is good at something different.

To convince youth to participate in activities that may set them apart from other youth, the ad was required to provide enough incentive through its communication. It is important for advertisers to connect with their audience through relatability; a shared identity between advertiser and audience may increase the chance of the ad’s success. Kelly et al. discuss “creative perspective” in relation to viewing the world through the perspective of the audience; they explain the necessity to use that perspective when crafting an ad. Relatability through the creative perspective creates shared understanding, and a level of trust. The incorporation of numerous activities presented in the PSA gives insight to any number of talents that the audience may exhibit (“What’s Your Thing?”). Through relatability, the advertisers depict youth in an apparently natural way; the youth in the ad resemble how youth appear in real life: sometimes loud, odd, active, and energetic. One example from the PSA is the “magician” who has just “cut” his sister in half “again”(“What’s Your Thing?”), the young girl is yelling for her mom, something most people have experienced at some point in their lives.

The ad illustrates the idea of illustration, which is an important aspect of recreational participation, unlike some advertisements that capitalize on the idea of obsolesce or convenience. While Susan Strasser argues that consumer cultures promoted the idea of ease and convenience (“The Alien Past”), this PSA diverts to a consumer culture where physical engagement and hard work are promoted. The difficulty to sell the idea of hard work arises when consumer advertising routinely works against it to idealize the ease of convenience. The PSA diverged from using the consumer culture “common sense” values (Strasser) as tactic, because the advertisement promotes the opposite of ease: hard work. Twitchell’s discussion of the “you-just-don’t-get-it motif” (123) applies here in part, since each individual in the PSA does something that is unique, which they do for their own enjoyment despite what others think. There are many activities demonstrated so the audience may not understand some of them; however, the PSA insinuates that individual talent should be celebrated rather than discouraged, even if people “don’t-get-it” (123).

The visual content conveys the message of individuality though participation to an extent, but the textual elements were necessary for clarity. Hermeneutics (“Content Analysis and Hermeneutics”) allowed for clarification of the PSA’s intention. “Nobody’s good at everything” contrasted with “[e]verybody’s good at something” in the ad, shows a progression of encouragement towards identifying and participating in an individual talent. Hermeneutics, “the science of interpretation” gives attention to the “textual levels of persuasion” (“Content Analysis and Hermeneutics”),  the first textual element may appear as a deterrent from being “good” at something; however, the second textual element signifies that one need not be “good at everything” (“What’s Your Thing?”). These methods used to persuade youth to engage in individual activities, were crafted with the intention of promoting youth to have ambition and interest towards the things they enjoy and have aptitude for.

It is likely that a PSA from Concerned Children’s Advertisers is directed towards children and/or youth; however, an unequal division in the cast’s genders reduces the efficienct of the ad since the entire cast is male (apart from one female sub-character). If youth (as a whole) are the targeted audience, and the intention is to motivate these youth to participate in individualized activities, the chosen method is likely to be effective more so towards male youth. In “A New Consumerism” Vance Packard’s ideas of affluence are discussed with regards to advertising and marketing which “produced a mass of insecure individuals each trying to define and display themselves through their goods” (343). The “goods” (“What’s Your Thing?”) in this case are the hobbies and talents exhibited through the individuals presented. In this case the insecurity of not being “good at everything” is being argued against, emphasis is put on participating in whichever “thing” the youth are best at.

It is important to understand the audience that is being advertised to, it allows for the creation of a mutual level of understanding between advertiser and consumer. The “creative perspective” (Kelly et al.) is evident in this ad through its depiction of youth physically engaged in their individual activities. This method demonstrates understanding of the audience: youth who resemble those from the ad, on the advertiser’s part. The advertisers know that youth are good at a vast number of different things and illustrate this through numerous depictions of possible talents and interests. The incorporation of unique interests as well as recognizable interests offer youth numerous opportunities to find a shared talent from the PSA. The creative perspective (Kelly et al.) was used by showing many of the youth mid-practice, which creates a sense of the candid moment, which may seem more spontaneous and natural. These types of shots provide the ad with an air or authenticity, which is likely to encourage a positive reception from the audience.

Capitalism and consumerism are routinely romanticized through advertising (Twitchell), in order to counter this type of advertising stance, youth were encouraged by being shown the potential that youth their age exhibit. The material possessions held by those youth were not necessarily important, but the dedication put forth through their practice provided them with tenacity, and potentially with talent. Twitchell argues that through “romanticism […] the objects of our dreams become material not ethereal, we started to spiritualize the secular, to give the stuff of getting and spending a transdental affect” (232). To romanticize diligence and tenacity, rather than a commodity, the PSA incorporated both talented youth (for example the performing dancers) and youth with potential (for example the tuba player who is rehearsing). The PSA does not tell youth what they are good at, instead it offers numerous suggestions towards what their talents may be, and tells them that “[e]verybody’s good at something” (“What’s Your Thing?”). The persistence seen in the youth presented may influence the youth audience to aspire to work on their own talents.

In a consumer society, where convenience and ease are idealized, things that require effort and time to succeed in lose some of their allure. Furthermore, the difficulty to motivate an audience to act a certain way arises when alternatives to recreational activities (such as gaming or watching television) seem to encourage inactive behaviours. “What’s Your Thing?” is an example of a PSA with the intention of encouraging the participation of recreational activities. The intent and purpose of this ad is to motivate youth, especially male youth, to identify what they are “good” at, and to dedicate their time to it. The ad diverges from consumerist ideas (Strasser), and promotes activity over the promotion of commodities. The methods used, including the incorporation of the creative perspective (Kelly et al.) communicated the message through numerous depictions of the point “[e]verybody’s good at something” (“What’s Your Thing?”). While the ad may not be effective towards a youth audience containing both male and female audience members due to its use of only male characters (with one exception), it is effective towards a male audience through its incorporation of numerous examples of male youth depicting what one can be “good” at.

Works Cited

“What’s Your Thing.” Promoting Self-esteem. Companies Committed to Kids, 1999.                     Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Cross, Gary. “A New Consumerism, 1960-1980”, (339-345).

The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader. Ed. Joseph Turow and Matthew

  1. McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Heydon, Jeff. “The Audience.” University of Toronto. 14 January 2015.

—..“Content Analysis and Hermeneutics.” University of Toronto. 28 January 2015.

—..  “All the Cool Kids are Doing It/Communicating the Emotional.” University of Toronto.

18 March 2015.

“Howard Beale: Turn off Your TVs.” YouTube. YouTube, 1976. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.

Kelly, A., Lawlor, K., O’Donohue, S., “Encoding Advertisements: The Creative                                        Perspective”(133-146). The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader.

Ed. Joseph Turow and Matthew P. McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

 

Strasser, Susan. “The Alien Past: Consumer Culture in Historical Perspective”, (25-35).                 The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader. Ed. Joseph Turow and Matthew

  1. McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Twitchell, James B., “Reflection and Reviews: An English Teacher Looks at Branding”,               (227-236). The Advertising and Consumer Culture Reader. Ed. Joseph Turow                    and Matthew P. McAllister. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Twitchell, James B. “Miss Clairol’s Does She…Or Doesn’t She?”(118-125).

20 Ads That Shook the World: The Century’s Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All.  New York: Crown, 2000. Print.

WordCamp: Your Ubiquitous Technological Community Conference

October 06, 2015

Shanta Natwani, a web design instructor and educator for ICCIT students at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, conjoined with Sheridan College, spoke and co-organised the WordCamp Toronto 2015 conference at Humber Lakeshore.

Shanta points out that “[m]ost students have visited millions of pages but, being a consumer of pages doesn’t make you good at understanding how to design a page effectively.”

For students, WordCamp is an important opportunity. Shanta says, “[t]he job of your dreams is not on internet postings, it’s within your network. One of the ways that WordCamp can help is by improving that network, such as talking to the other attendees; it is key to keep those connections active after the conference and an online presence can help them do that, whether that is their LinkedIn profile, a portfolio or your own website.”

WordCamp offers ideas, instruction, and assistance, for students who wish to publish an online portfolio. There are resources available online that will easily give you a bare minimum website.  For an effective presence online there are more things to consider.  “In reality, there are a large number of things that you need to take into account when building.” If you want to present yourself with more than just a name and an image, WordCamp seminars will introduce techniques to help you stand out in a technologically innovative way.

Everyone is welcome, regardless of their experience level with web design. Beginner seminars cover the mysteries of WordPress. For those unfamiliar with WordPress, it is popular blogging content management system, but its capabilities expand far beyond that description.

Kevin A. Barnes works with Ex Fabula: a non-profit storytelling organization, he also works as a web developer in Wisconsin. Kevin gave a seminar on using WordPress for storytelling. A writer can present their stories using stunning design, with simple additions such as themes and plugins available in WordPress. Kevin says the “sense of an enthusiastic community” is most important for students to take from WordCamp.

Jessica Gardner is a website developer who also provides instruction on how to set up a website. Her seminar was an “introductory tour” of WordPress. What is most important for students to take from the WordCamp experience is to connect to the WordPress community, according to Jessica. She says there is an “amazing support system”, and there is “no proprietary”.

Seminars cover topics for beginners, intermediates, developers, but are open for everyone. If your interest is in search engine optimization, facets, geolocation, ecommerce, or if you are not sure what any of these terms mean, it is a good idea to attend a WordCamp conference.

Want to participate in the WordPress community? Shanta advises students to “volunteer at the WordCamps, go to meetups, have a site, write a plugin, build a theme. Ultimately, do what you do best to help the community at large. Not everyone is a coder or a designer. Sometimes, you might help organize that event, or shoot a video for someone or take some photos at an event. Help out where you can.”

To find out more about WordCamp Toronto, volunteer opportunities for 2016, sessions, topics, dates, and locations, visit https://toronto.wordcamp.org/2015/.