Identifying Identity

I enjoyed researching and exploring the topic of identity this week. I realised how contrived my own ‘image’ is, my ‘personal brand’ (Hearn’s self branding”) that I maintain for myself. I figured out that a combination of my values, interests, relationships, and career specifically shape my own identity and sense of self. I am not as influenced by location, nationality or religion as others are; I have friends from all over Sydney, friends in other parts of the world and work, study, and go out in completely different locations; thus I have built networks and consequentially drawn influence from all over that has added to my identity. My family has lived in Australia since convict settlement and therefore I don’t have any unusual or particularly distinctive cultural traditions, practices or diversification that I would say sets me apart from the rest in terms of adding to my own individuality. Religion also does not play a major role in my personal image or uniqueness.

In regards to Hearn’s theories of self promotion, I realised how heavily my job impacts my identity. I work for a particular fashion retailer at both store level and office level; I have the label of a salesperson, rife with negative connotations of pushiness and cunningness; and the brand I work for is also heavily synonymous with youth culture, and upon telling people where I work I am often amused at the varying reception I get in return. My company is extremely image-conscious (as is any company, of course), however particularly so since it is in the fashion industry. Thus, I must in turn project a similar image and act in accordance with the behavioral values of the company. Over time, I have found that this image has become part of my own natural behaviour, image and identity, and there is no distinction between myself at or away from my place of employment. Similarly, I am often subjected to varying receptions when telling people where I live (on the southeastern coast of Sydney).  I am told I seem to deviate from the beachy blonde  stereotypical ‘identity’ of my area.

I find both these features – employment and location – as peculiar in their shaping of my identity; I wonder to what extent I have purposely contrived my image, and alternatively what of my identity has been unconsciously or subtly influenced, as Hearn suggests, by the features of my external environment.

In terms of technology and new media, Herring’s suggestion that we are not subjected to a unanimous, homogenous identity when bound by our gadgets; instead, our mobile phones and computers allow for us to further our efforts to express individuality and identify ourselves, through customization features, perhaps like choosing applications that interest us or benefit our individual lifestyles on Apple iPhones. I’m sure that anyone looking at the apps on my iPhone would be able to make some reasonable assessments about my identity based on this singular gadget. This reminds me of the recent debate over Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial ‘Instant Personalisation’ feature, allegedly allowing marketers to tailor advertising towards the individual based on accessing their specific interests.

Also, stemming form Herring’s ideas, I realised that often I use my computer as a means of facilitating my establishment of identity; I will use eBay to shop for unique clothing that nobody else will be wearing, and scour blogs for music and fashion inspiration on which I will create my own image. Yet again, though, I must pause to ask myself – is this considered an influence, or my own unique approach to identity?

This topic has been extremely thought-provoking, and I have come to agree with a postmodernist conclusion that there is no completely free, uninfluenced thought. The individual identity is, essentially, a product of their surrounds, despite a proportionate yet arguably smaller ability to manipulate these elements.

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The Meaningfulness of Media and Meaning

This week, I was most moved by certain videos we were shown in lectures. The clip from the film ‘They Live’, shown in our lecture, had a significant impact on me. As someone who has always been extremely interested and passionate about the ‘behind the scenes’ of advertising and marketing, I found this rather sinister depiction of communication – advertising as its fundamental, essential ‘sign’ or symbolism (being consumerism) – particularly poignant. Studying the readings this week, I also thought of another video we watched in a previous lecture; children recognising signs and symbols of multinational corporations, such as McDonald’s Golden Arches and mascot Ronald McDonald, yet falling dumbfounded and unable to recognise the image of Jesus Christ. This was extremely moving, if not chilling, to behold.

Such videos exemplify the sheer power of semiotics in communication practices, supporting the thesis of Schirato and Yell, and their exploration of Saussure’s theory of semiotics and his specific distinctions and cyclical relationship of the signifier, the signified, and the emergent ‘sign’. Reading this article prompted me to consider some of the signs that infiltrate my own existence. Surprisingly, this was a hard task! Are there signs and symbols so ingrained into my subconsciousness that I am stumped to produce examples at an instant? Scary! I urge readers of this blog to try it – it is quite alarming. The obvious ones that come to mind are walk, don’t walk signs; ladies’, mens’ and disabled bathroom signs; and Australian road signs. However, the corporate world has cleverly utilised Saussre’s theory of semiotics far beyond the point of the graphic sign or logo to remind us of their brand.

In 2006 I underwent work experience with the creative department of a prominent major advertising agency in Australia. I was extremely lucky to score this gig, and for the sake of maintaining good relations with the business, I won’t give away too many details. One of their main clients was a particular multinational fast food chain. I remember being handed a booklet given to the agency by the brand’s marketing team, with specific information as to the specifications for advertising that brand. This included the exact colour shade that had to be used in all fonts, fills and formatting of the brand’s graphic design. This colour was named uniquely to the business. No other shade of this colour could be used in any campaign or graphic promotion of this brand. Then there was a font, again unique to the business. Just as the colour, this was the mandatory font for all advertising of this brand.

When making television advertisements, I was told to notice how all the actors would be wearing this particular colour, surrounded by similarly hued props. Obviously, semiotics extends far beyond the physical sign and delves into manipulation of our subconsciousness as consumers; the brand wants consumers to relate these colours and typography to their communicated brand experience, values and image; a practice alarmingly contrived to the ‘enth degree and almost scientific in nature.

I found media and meaning to be an extremely thought provoking topic this week; one that truly makes us – as both media audiences and practitioners – to stand up, rub our eyes and really take notice of what we are seeing… or consuming.

Media Audiences: Gaining the Upper Hand

In the readings this week, I noticed that the notion of the ‘media audience’ is explored from two different angles. In Couldry’s article, we come to understand distinctions and developments in media audiences over time, and the features of these new emerging audience structures. In Haddon’s article, however, the reasons behind these changes is explored and we can gain an insight into what goes into our choices as being part of media audiences. It is for this reason, that the articles go hand – in – hand with each other, that I found them equally interesting and useful this week.

In reading about Couldry’s ‘diffused audience’, I couldn’t help but think about contemporary advertising. Given the increasing fall in television as a powerful medium for mass communication (now with Digital television we can fast forward ads watching pre-recorded shows, or even watch television online or on our mobile devices), advertisers now have to find creative ways to communicate to their target markets. Much in line with the notion of Couldry’s ‘diffused audience’, is the advertiser’s need now to communicate WITH the audience; by involving viewers and establishing a participatory aspect to suit the diversifying demands of the consumer, and of course the growing ‘immunity’ towards traditional marketing efforts in general society. Guerrilla marketing is a fabulous example of targeting a diffused media audience – take for example, an ad that has stood out in my mind for crime channel 13th Street:

The interactiveness of this campaign not only exhibits new movements in creative advertising as a response to changing consumer demands, yet in itself is a reflection of the contemporary, ‘diffused’ media audience. Of course, it is important to remember that Couldry advocates the opinion that mass media still exists and remains effective, however I personally disagree, feeling that audiences now ‘control’ (this word might be a little strong for what I’m trying to imply – perhaps ‘more significantly influence’ would be better!) marketers and advertisers; the result of which I believe to be from a growing desensitsing and awareness to corporate motives and marketing tactics. The more diverse, ‘diffused’ media audience of the twenty-first century has distinct and individual sets of demands, to which the creative media practitioner must cater for in order to retain interest from the consumer.

Touching now on Haddon’s article, I wanted to address his point of mediums like the internet, gaming consoles and mobile devices as being wrongly portrayed as instruments of “isolation”. I completely agree with this, and have always felt that with the rapid rise and widespread saturation of social media, I feel that society is more ‘socialied’ than ever. The private life of the individual is more publicised than ever now, especially with websites such as Twitter allowing users to broadcast their every move to the public, twenty four hours a day. Social media demands of the user – or ‘audience’ – a level of participation relative to their specific networks; much in the same way that Japanese youths have created a culture of social expectation in regards to their mobile phone use in Mizuko Ito’s article we looked at previously. There can be no doubt now that, despite often operating these devices in physical isolation, we are more integrated and immersed in social relations than ever before with new media forms of communication.

Finally, in what many people have condemned over time, Haddon argues that rather than “inhibiting” language and progression, new media limitations (such as Twitter or text message word/character limits) have only created a platform for creativity and imagination, rather than oppressing these values, thus shaping these new media audiences of the twenty-first century.

I found this week’s topic extremely interesting, being an audience member of traditional and ‘new’ media myself, constantly immersed in media in a inescapably media saturated world!

Identities

The concept of identity is a very complicated one and, as a result, is difficult to define. In this week’s reading S. During makes an attempt to tackle this complex idea by saying that “they define who somebody is in terms of a trait, which might be anything from, for instance, a physical feature of the body, a belief, a genealogy or a culture preference. In effect they identify by placing individuals infot groups who share that trait. And this has a consequence: it means that identity is won at the price of reducing individuality” ( During 145).  He suggests that identities are not descriptive of what a person is as a whole but rather a list of characteristics they posses. We might not feel that these traits are good indicators of who we are as individuals but they are crucial to how the rest of the world perceives us. Because our identities are so important it seems unfair that many these identifiers are characteristics we have no control over including gender, age, nationality, etc.   During comments on the importance of these traits: “because individuals exist socially in and through their identities, without an identity there is no such thing as a socially situated individual” (During 145). In her post Natasha makes a good point about our social identities. She suggests that we would describe ourselves a certain way and would assume that those close to us (family, friends, etc.) would describe is in similar ways, perhaps with less depth. However, words used to describe us and make up our identity could be completely different if you were to ask someone that hated you. Which of these would be a proper definition of your identity? A combination of the two? Neither-because a list of traits can never truly define a person?  This is why I think identity is such a complicated term. During suggests that identities are only partial and that no trait or group of traits could ever fully define a person.

The importance of identities in media is two fold. First, advertisers gear certain campaigns to a particular group. This encompasses not only the people who actually fit in this group but also those who aspire to it. For example, Nike could launch a basketball shoe with the primary target of athletic, African-American, wealthy males in their 20s and tailor their ads to catch the attention of this group. Not only is the media identifying a target group through a list of traits but also asking the public to self-identify and determine whether they are or want to be in that group. The second way that the media uses identities is through branding. The brand that immediately comes to mind is Apple. People who use Apple products identify themselves as hip and technologically savvy. Whether people realize it or not, this “identity” of an Apple user is carefully crafted by the company itself. A great example of this is the series of commercials known as “I’m a Mac vs. I’m a PC”. Here is the link to one of many of these ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PwiljBN5-8&feature=related . In this, an every advertisement, the “PC” is an older, over weight, nerdy looking man who represents a “lame” computer. On the other hand the “Apple” is a happy, fit and energetic young man who represents a “cool” computer. It is obvious that anyone would prefer to be the man that plays the “Mac” as opposed to the man that plays the “PC”. Through these adds, Apple is hoping that the consumer will want to ascribe to the identity created by their brand and purchase their product in order to be seen in a more positive light by their peers because they are now part of a select group of “Apple Users”.

Identities

Identities was a very interesting concept for me to read, as it was something we all believe is true but we are not sure why. The first paragraph of S. During’s article states that “Identities are conceptually more complex then they may first appear. From one point of view, they define who somebody is in terms of a trait, which might be anything from, for instance, a physical feature of the body, a belief, a genealogy or a cultural preference”. This is an interesting concept as one would believe it would be harder to describe identity than in a handful of words. More interestingly so, one’s personal describable identity should be stronger than that of others ideas about your identity. However, this is not so.

Take for example me, the selection of traits I use to describe myself should be more appropriate and believe than that say of my best friends. I would describe myself as a nice, solid, care-free, open person whom strongest physical attribute is being short. When I rang my best friend Pete and asked for his description of me – my identity, he said “ummm you’re short and always there when I need you”.  Obviously there is not much of a difference in my opinion of myself and my best friend, as his my best friend and hopefully sees the best in me. But what happens if I asked someone who disliked me, I am sure there opinion would differ quiet dramatically. So my question is this. Why do we try so hard to get everyone to like us, and care so much about what other people think about us? Why does self- identity rank so much lower than other peoples perceived identities of us.

Secondly, if identity is so complex, like S During says, why do people only use a handful of words to describe it? An example is how I described myself previous – I used the words nice, open and care-free.  Since everyone is unique and an individual, how come the whole word uses common words to describe themselves? Words such as “nice” or “happy”, these are words that EVERYONE uses to describe themselves. Leaving everyone seemingly similar and taking out the uniqueness and individuality from life.

A. Hearn also brings up an interesting point in his article. That is the concept of self-branding, identity and advertising. A. Hearn describes the relationship between self-branding, identity and advertising as “The face or identity of a brand works to establish a relationship with the consumer”. Branding in advertising is not something unknown or shocking to us. Examples such as Myer branding their logo to Jennifer Hawkins, David Jones to Miranda Kerr, Elephants with Optus, as well as associations such as purple and Cadbury.

 Many concepts about identity were discussed in the articles. However these three i believe are the most important. I believe that no longer is identity and individual, unique thing. But rather an association of concepts fabricated together to create a “norm”, a norm which drive society to act, interpret and analyse in exactly the same way.

Hope it makes sense,

Love Natasha Boustani xx

Identity

“Identities define who somebody is in terns of a trait, it can be anything from something physical to psychological. In effect they identify by placing individuals intro groups who share that trait. And this has a consequence: it means that identity is won at the price of reducing individuality”. With this quote I think we can understand what is the text about, is like how does society builds up your identity and how you can lose your individuality by being part of a group. This is a great discourse in psychology today, like how people since they are born have a post-it like a tag that describes them, but in most of the cases that tag its not even you and you have to act like it because you start believing you are like that. For example, when you have two children, and you always mark differences among them so when the “smart one” gets a bad grade its such a problem and if the kid doesn’t want to get good grades anymore he would have to because its his “identity”. What I’m trying to say its that we lose our individuality and carry a personality that its not totally ours. “People identify with their identities to a greater or lesser degree because identities constitute framework of their lives…It is important to distinguish between given or inherited identities…” – During S. Why do you have to inherit an identity, in some ways its good because your born being someone and part of something, but this makes your individuality smaller. This text was a good way to carry us to the next ones, because now we know what does identity means for them and how is related with media. For example in the text “Variations on the branded self” its so interesting to see how far media has gone. “The face or identity of a brand works to establish a relationship with the consumer… Self branding illustrates how flexible corporate capital has subsumed all areas of human life, including the very concept of a private self.” – Hearn A. Self branding describes the process in which consumers match their own self-concept with the images of a certain brand. So now they are brands for each type of public. You can see this link http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/10/brandyou.html In the last text we can see how media equals control in all aspects. For example when they said that this early generations are the most watched, how can this not be true, now every kid has a mobile phone, in some nurseries they have cameras so you can watch your kid from work, and if you leave your kid home you also have cameras to watch him. Media is like an addict cycle, we get more media each time and now we need more and more. Another interesting concept they talk about its “adults, not youth, design and produce youth entertainment media”. And it’s the first time I stop to think about this and its completely true. Adults always blame youth that our T.V. shows, videogames, etc. are not like they were in their times, and that all that violence its making us harder and more violent. But now I realize that we didn’t claim for that stuff they gave it to us. So its not what we want or we are looking for, its what they are offering us. And all this it’s a consequence of our identity. “Intentionally or unintentionally, game designers provide role models on which young players may base their behavior and self image.” This construct youth identities. So I agree when they said “commercial interests and the mass media have not behaved responsibly toward youth”. They are a lot of important concepts in this articles but for me these one were the most.

writing a qualitative research report `Liamputtong, P.

This week’s readings brought up facts and helpful hints to help us with our major assessment- Our research report.
In ‘writing a qualitative research report’, Liamputtong talks about the difference between qualitative writing and quantitative writing, outlines the styles of research report, number of techniques to write a good research report whilst including a discussion about writing for publication.

He states the difference between qualitative and quantitative writing, by first telling us what they are:

“A quantitative report consists of a concise presentation of the methods and result of the study. Qualitative writing, on the other hand, ‘must be a convincing argument systematically presenting data to support the researcher’s case and to refute alternative explanations'”

This pretty much gives us a head start as he gives us a clear definition in how our report should be. He goes on talking about features of a qualitative report and how they help us write the report, such as qualitative data which ” gives the writer freedom to use literary devices to keep the reader’s interest and accurately translating a meaning system for the reader”

After that, he asks us to think of our target, who are we writing for? and who do we want to read it as qualitative research are written differently for each target audience. He then tells us the structure in which we should write in and how we should use our articles in which he encourages us to use not one, but many.

In a sense, this article is really useful to read when writing our report as it works as a layout of a qualitative report. It encourages planning and efficiency, in addition, it is easy to follow and understand. By reading this, it helps in many ways and if not read, then clearly you’re missing out on some very good help in hand.

always,
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