Cultural Analysis of the Media: Cultural Consumption

Mon. 9-11.50 am, AMS 101, RTF 403, Spring Quarter 2003

Chuck Kleinhans
office : 209 Annie May Swift; 847-491-2255
office hours Tu 3-5

Cultural Consumption.  The creation of consumer culture is a central feature of capitalist production, modernity and post-modernity and a political issue for left and right. Globalization spreads through commercial culture and commercial culture is shaped increasingly by global concerns. Media is a form of cultural consumption, a vehicle for it, and a stimulus to promoting cultural consumption.  We will try to untangle the complexities of this phenomenon.

The course will examine a range of approaches to cultural and media consumption from advertising and marketing to culture-jamming .  Analyses by diverse figures: Marx, Adorno/Horkheimer, Baudrillard, Bourdieu, Radway, Davis, etc. Case studies of the fashion industry, popular music, fandom, theme parks, tourism, television, film/video revenue streams, SUVs, e-bay, etc. The connections with gender, nationalism, race/ethnicity, and the environment will be highlighted in an attempt to synthesize a broad analysis.

Student will prepare discussion notes and post them on Course Info in advance of the class meeting.  Discussion will be the principal mode of class meetings.  Students will complete the course with a final paper.  The paper can be a broad synthesis of the material considered or a more specialized research paper.

required books: (at Norris Center Store)

Susan G. Davis, Spectacular Nature
Gary Cross, An All-Consuming Century: Why Commercialism Won in Modern America
Robert Bocock, Consumption
Juliet B. Schor, ed. The Consumer Society Reader (The New Press)
Don Slater, Consumer Culture and Modernity (Polity)

Monday March 31
Introduction: lecture.  Cultural Consumption

screening: Paper Tiger, SUV tape

next week:
Due: group one: SUV’s; research and pro and con. (post on Blackboard by 5 pm Saturday April 5)

Reading: be ready to discuss
Bocock, Consumption  (all)
Enzensberger, “Irresistibility…”   [handout]
Douglas, Listening In, “The FM Revolution”  (excerpt on hi-fi) [handout]
Willis, “Unwrapping Use Value,” [handout]
Adorno/Horheimer, The Culture Industry”  assigned discussion leader
Baudrillard, “The Ideoogical Genesis of Needs,” assigned discussion leader

Recommended outside event: Thursday April 3, 8 pm. Siskel Film Center (164 N. State Street, Chicago). Harun Farocki, The Creators of the Shopping Worlds, 72 min. 2001. Director in person.  Farocki is a German filmmaker who makes essayistic documentaries.  Many of these examine in great detail the work processes of media and consumption practices (e.g., the extreme care taken in a Playboy centerfold shoot, etc.)  Here he examines how shopping centers are planned.  Be advised, while the topics are often similar to US documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman (social institutions), Farocki is less concerned with the human interactions that Wiseman concentrates on and is more concerned with work processes.  The aesthetic is thus similar to Adornoesque makers Jean-Marie Straub and Danielle Huillet: expect slow and spare exposition.

April 7
Why We Desire
a. discussion SUVs
b. discussion. Bocock/Douglas/
c. discussion: Willis, Adorno, Baudrillard

next assignment:
Due: ethnography of shopping; observation, participant observation, interview based on Susan G. Davis, “Shopping” (post on Blackboard by 8 am Sunday

Reading in advance of ethnography:
Susan G. Davis, “Shopping”
Fiske, “Shopping for Pleasure”

Marx, “Fetishism of Commodities...”
Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption”
Bourdieu, “The Aesthetic Sense...”  assigned discussion leader
Holt, “Does Cultural Capital Structure American Consumption?”  assigned discussion leader


April 14
Why We Shop; material culture and process
a. discussion: shopping
b. discussion: commodities and consumption
c. discussion: cultural capital

next assignment:
Due: Big Mac group: report on McDonalds (online research, pro and con; Fast Food Nation,  The McDonaldization Thesis, the U.K. McLibel case, etc.), interviews. (post on Blackboard by 8 am Sunday

Zha, “Learning from McDonald’s” 

Curtin, “On Edge”
Radway, “The Act of Reading the Romance...”
E. Wilson, “Feminism and Fashion”
McRobbie TBA


April 21
Changing Tastes

a. discussion: McDonalds
b. screening/discussion: global taste
Screening:  section of ABC, “In Search of America”
c.  discussion: what is feminine consumption?

Garry Cross, An All-Consuming Century
hooks, “Eating the Other”
Shor, “Towards a New Politics of Consumption”
due: Virtual shopping group: ebay and online marketing/consumption

April 28
History of U.S. Consumption
a. discussion:  Cross
Assigned responses to Cross
b. discussion: the politics of consumption
c.  discussion: consumping online

next assignment:
due: Commercials group: report on Goldman and Papson web book, “American Advertising” http://www.lclark.edu/~goldman/global/
Global Capital website. “We have been hard at it, working to bring out a new and improved version. Those efforts have now borne fruit.  We have now launched what we hope is a much improved version of the site - improved in design and layout as well as in functionality.  The database now works and is searchable. The map works.  And we have addressed navigation issues throughout.  We are still finding errors here and there.  But they should be fewer and farther between now.”

Friedan, “The Sexual Sell”
Ewen, “...Images without Bottom...”
Goldman & Papson, “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning”  and website: http://www.lclark.edu/~goldman/global

Lasn, “Culture Jamming”
Stay Free, Copyright Issue

May 5
Advertising and its others
a. discussion: commercials
b. discussion: culture jamming, Kill Your TV, voluntary simplicty, etc.

next assignment:
Susan G. Davis, Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience
Taylor and Tilford, “Why Consumption Matters”

May 12
Consuming Nature
a. discusson: nature, theme parks, tourism

next assignment
due: Barbie and Friends group
Seiter and Riggs, “TV Among Fundamentalist Christians: From the Secular to the Satanic”
DuCille, “Toy Theory...”
Chin, Purchasing Power: Black Kids And American Consumer Culture (selections)
meet with  Chuck regarding final paper progress

May 19
Children and Consumption
a. discussion:  Barbie
b. discussion: kids cultural consumption

next assignment
Slater, Consumer Culture and Modernity

May 26--Memorial Day holiday, no class
[Screening TBA time: Ermo (Xiaowen Zhou, 1994)

June 2
a. discussion: theories of cultural consumption

June  9 exam week

papers due, wrap up discussion

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