Not to harp upon the Tiger Woods fiasco, God knows we’ve all heard enough about it since Thanksgiving, but I came across this Newsweek article by Neal Gabler that ties in with one of my previous posts on the pseudo-event. It discusses the rise of the celebrity and the writer contends that ‘celebrity’ is the art form of the 21st century and serves the same purpose as books, dvds, plays, etc.  He references Boorstin (who we’ve read in my Visual Communication class) and below is an excerpt:

But there is a less antiquated and reproachful perspective on celebrity—one that may help explain why Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and now the new and revised Tiger Woods seem so embedded in the national consciousness. In this view, celebrity isn’t an anointment by the media of unworthy subjects, even though it may seem so when you think of minor celebs such as Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, or Levi Johnston, or the gate-crashing Salahis. It is actually a new art form that competes with—and often supersedes—more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays, and TV shows (and the occasional golf tournament), and that performs, in its own roundabout way, many of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: among them, distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition, and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community. I would even argue that celebrity is the great new art form of the 21st century.

Gabler more or less breaks down our obsession with celebrity which he attributes to our obsession with interesting narratives ands explain how anyone can become famous once they have an interesting narrative behind them. I tend to agree.

Access the full article here: Tiger-Stalking: In Defense Of Our Tabloid Culture

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.

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.

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 fpublic_relationsor 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.

Strangeness of SeeingOk so I left off about a month ago with grand expectations of posting here regularly…never happened. But now that I’m back I figure I should go back to where I left off…thoughts on The Object Stares Back by James Elkin.

I found this book to be a good starting place for a course on Visual Communication as it definitely exposed me to some ideas on seeing and vision that I had never previously considered.  For instance Elkins says:

“Vision, I have argued, is not the simple thing it is imagined to be. It has to do with desire and possessiveness more than mechanical navigation, and it entangles us in a skein of changing relations with objects and people. In particular, vision helps us to know what we are like: we watch versions of ourselves in people and objects, and by attending to them we adjust our sense of what we are. Because we cannot see what we do not understand or use or identify with, we see very little of the world — only the small pieces that are useful and harmless. Each act of vision mingles seeing with not seeing, so that vision can become less a way of gathering information than avoiding it. “(p. 201)

The implications of this quote are tremendous for those involved in any aspect of communicating visually i.e. artists, graphic designers, those in the marketing and advertising industries. In order to have a full command over one’s audience an understanding of the complex nature of vision is imperative I believe. People don’t see what they don’t understand is a line which translates well to marketing communication. It explains why advertisers use those images most common to a majority of people to sell their product, it makes it easy for our minds to process and subsequently take in the message being touted. Knowing this can potentially demystify the process of creating graphic displays which stand out in our already image saturated world. Thoughts?

Envisioning the Visual

As part of my grad school course requirements I”ve been asked to create a blog for my Visual Communication & Culture class. I had originally considered starting a new blog specifically for the class but decided against it because 1) I have trouble keeping up with one blog far less two and 2.) alot of the ppl who read this blog (not many I assure you) may find some of my musings on the topic interesting and helpful.

As you may or may not know, my professional interests lie in marketing communication, social media and advertising, all areas which directly rely on some sort of visual communication. That said, in this special ‘column’ entitled ‘Envisioning the Visual’ (which I hope to post to weekly), I hope to merge my academic knowledge with my professional interests by applying (or attempting to apply) what I understand from the course to professional marketing and advertising examples.  Of course there’ll be the occasional random rambling on the topic as well. Sooo..let’s see how this works out. Stay tuned for some thoughts on the James Elkins book ‘The Object Stares Back’. Interesting stuff, I promise.

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.