I generally don’t like to write forced blog posts. Instead I prefer to let my inspiration come naturally, which is why I guess I haven’t posted in a while…no inspiration…ha! But this weekend I had a chance to check out the movie Law Abiding Citizen and it took me back to one of my Visual Communication classes which centered on the idea of the Panopticon. The Panopticon was a prison model proposed by Jeremy Bentham back in the late 18th century (see image). It was designed to enable round the clock but invisible surveillance of prisoners via a tower central to a circular building. A lot of the movie Law Abiding Citizen was filmed within the walls of the Eastern State Penitentiary here in Philadelphia which was constructed with a similar idea of prison surveillance to the Panopticon.
Well what has this got do with anything was the question I first wondered upon encountering this concept. It seemed like a concern of architects not communication students or professionals. However, upon delving more into Foucault’s ideas, I realized that the concept of the Panopticon is much more pervasive than I ever would have thought. I don’t feel like I can do justice to Foucault’s ideas on Panopticism in this short post, but go here if you’d like a more in-depth understanding. Suffice it to say, Foucault was concerned with the manifestation of discipline in a society under constant surveillance or rather a society under perceived constant surveillance as one of the key features of this prison model was that the prisoners could never know when they were being watched.
The Panoptic system is present in our every day lives through camera surveillance, computer technology (think cookies on your computer) and in organizational settings to name a few. It is obviously a form of control and discipline that is very effective in first-world countries particularly. What’s interesting to me is that within Foucalt’s ideas is a commentary on how powerful vision and visuals are. That a society can be disciplined simply by the threat of being watched speaks wonders to the power of vision to imprint upon us what it wants us to do, see or be. The implications of this are far-reaching especially as we go deeper into a world of technological wonder and complexity.
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Ah yesss…this week saw yet another male celebrity apologizing for ‘transgressions’…and not one transgression mind you but according to some reports, as many as four transgressions! I will reserve my private thoughts on this breach of marital trust by professional golfer Tiger Woods and instead focus on the branding and PR implications of his missteps.
As the world’s highest paid professional athlete and one with an almost impeccable background, Tiger Woods in undoubtedly one of the most marketable athletes. Not as young and immature as Michael Phelps and not at all as reckless or stupid as Michael Vick, his image has netted him some of the largest endorsement deals ever signed by an athlete. Nike, General Motors, Gillette and American Express are only a few of the large companies behind the Tiger Woods brand. So how, if at all, will Tiger’s dalliances affect his sponsorship deals? If I had to bet I would say that they won’t. Thus far, all of Tiger’s corporate sponsors have stood behind him and will probably continue to do so.
The fact of the matter is that these sponsors stand the chance of making alot more money with Tiger in the long run than if they drop him right now. Let’s face it, the U.S. is a country that is still enamored by former President Bill Clinton, once the most powerful person in the world and an admitted adulterer. It’s a simple equation, the more money and power a public figure possesses, the less likely they are to take a serious hit from marital infidelities. Kobe Bryant endured similar scrutiny following his 2004 (much more serious) scandal but has since then rebounded nicely and I have no doubt that Tiger Woods won’t do the same.
What remains to be seen is how Woods intends to deal with this truly private situation which has unfortunately exploded onto the public radar. So far he has only made statements via his personal website, which I had no problem with before all the sordid details began emerging. However, with more negative information being uncovered each day, I think it would be smart of him to address the allegations publicly. Woods has probably lost the respect of alot of avid female golf fans (and males no doubt) and it would probably be wise of him to do some damage control.
For me, this incident raises another issue as well. Are celebrities good spokesmen for large corporate companies? We’re all human after all and none of us are perfect wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, etc. So why should we be surprised when one of our supposed ‘idols’ falters? The errant spokesperson has always been a concern of large corporations but I kind of think that the exposure the company can potentially receive will always outweigh the perceived effects of a spokesperson’s transgressions.
Just my two cents on the topic du jour….we’ll see how Tiger fares this week.
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This week’s Visual Communication readings centered around a discussion of how images contribute to and shape public opinion. Some of the buzzwords that came out of the articles are visual rhetoric, propaganda and pseudo-events. Funny that all of these words give off a slightly negative connotation.
I was particularly struck by the DeLuca & Peeples article: From public sphere to public screen: democracy, activism and the violence of Seattle. It provided a good frame I think for thinking about how violence and other image events serve the purpose of thrusting an issue into the limelight. But what also emerged from the article was the realization that our seemingly increasing tendency to privilege the dramatic image event can seriously marginalize the attention that certain issues/segements of society receive.
Undoubtedly this state of events is preferrable to total ignorance of any of society’s issues but it does raise some interesting thoughts on why public relations/public affairs is necessary especially for non-profit who represent under-represented organizations or issues.
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I’m finally back after what has seemed like an eternity…
I’m on summer vacation and have been trying to enjoy my time off from grad school before being thrust back into the world of 30 page journal articles and my impending thesis. Not one to stay idle for too long however I’ve been working on some projects while I’ve been away. Yup! The 9th Annual Miss Caribbean US Pageant has just concluded and I was an integral part of the marketing and PR for the event, I even did the website for the event. The organization has a long way to go but the experience was a good one. What I really gained from the experience was the chance to meet people who are interested in advancing Caribbean culture and causes in the US. Which brings me to an interesting point. Earlier in this blog I talked about networking and it’s status as a necessary evil but since being off of school I’ve come to realize that the most effective networking seems to happen when you aren’t expecting it.
I’ve always had a problem with controlled networking settings but since being off from school and working on projects I enjoy, I’ve met a few good people who I’ve been able to form mutually beneficial professional relationships with. It just goes to show that the best networking can happen once you immerse yourself in the things you love to do.
Out for now.
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