Mickey Mouse Monopoly
These links are to a documentary on Disneyfication of our culture including both arguments to the views on whether Disney is responsible for enforcing a specific childhood culture or if they are just creative and lovable entertainment. They introduce a good topic for discussion covering influences and power of large corporation companies and their objectives.
However there is never a missed opportunity to analyse and Disney has been scrutinized extensively. The fairytale stories all follow a similar pattern; there’s a beautiful girl who falls in love with a hansom boy, there’s a bit of drama, but the prince saves the day and they live happily ever after! It’s romantic and fantasy driven, always with a happy ending (it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t). On the other hand some analyse and instead come to the conclusion; there’s a leading girl who has to be small waisted and big breasted in order to be beautiful; she’s portrayed as vulnerable and in need of a man – anything but independent. They see this portrayal as an immoral message to Disney’s audience of young children that this is the status quo of our culture, that for girls to have the fantasy of falling in love and living happily ever after they must be submissive and rely on men.
I am not entirely convinced that Disney’s objective is to subliminally push young children towards the idea that everything about our culture is indeed true of this analysis; I find that if you analyse far enough into a topic then you can pull out just about any conclusion that corresponds with your views. Most who agree with these views do not think that it is the cause of domestic incidents or the reason behind girls insecurity but believe that it reinforces these ideology’s into our culture.
In this part of the assignment I want to pin point on the location of the story, as many people managed to produce a similar story however were not collectively reading the ‘Las Vegas’ theme. Due to culture and upbringing I felt that bringing a photograph in that ensured the location of Las Vegas would convey the story that the night started good ended bad due to a wild night of gambling and drinking. The reason I didn’t chose say a photograph of a wild drunk group of people was because I felt the connotations of Las Vegas may portray that instead.
Jonathan, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“Whilst in Las Vegas for a birthday my luck went down the drain as my land rover got lodged in the sand surrounding the casino.”
My goal was achieved in this analysis as the mention of Las Vegas is clear and the reader has an understanding of Vegas’s culture of gambling. The celebratory signal has been transmitted successfully through the image of the balloons and the message that something went wrong was perceived as an accident with the off- road car.
Kirsty Braes, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“Reminds me of ‘The Hangover’. A trip to Vegas goes wrong and people lose at gambling and their truck ends up in a hole in the desert.”
The correct location is present in this response but also a recurrence of the reference to the film ‘The Hangover’. Reference to this film itself gives connotations of party gone wild, gambling, drinking and ending in trouble. This may have been induced by the added picture of the Las Vegas image however testing this theory on the same person wouldn’t necessarily work as once they have an interpretation of the images that story sticks and is hard to differentiate away from even when another image is taken or added.
Emma Thompson, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“A couple and their friends went to Las Vegas to get married. They spent their hen/stag weekend gambling in the casinos, won a large sum of money. They released the balloons to celebrate their marriage before spending their honeymoon a large sum of money on an adventure packed holiday across the desert.”
The Las Vegas reference is apparent in this response but also a stereotypical trait is suggested in the story – to go off to Vegas and get married. This is the first analysis that covers this type of story rather than it being a birthday celebration. However the connection between the Nevada desert and Vegas has been missed here and instead a conclusion of a holiday away to a different desert has been reached. This is due to the knowledge the reader has – whether they realise this connection or not.
Karen Lyttle, 21, Design Student, Northern Irish
-“I went touring in America where I visited LA, but also went on safari. Our holiday turned into a bit of an adventure as our car got stuck in the sand on safari so my boyfriend took a chance with gambling so we could buy a new one. Thankfully we won!”
Out of all the stories this one does not successfully reach the correct location intended instead LA is suggested. This will be again due to the readers knowledge of the world and culturally upbringing, or perhaps a simple misunderstanding of the location. However the gambling element has been reached and presented in a positive manner as they won rather than losing in the bet.
Callum McBain, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“I went to Las Vegas one weekend to play some poker like in ‘The Hangover’, I began to win and the felt like I was floating but I was too greedy and lost everything, I was sinking in the sand.”
Reference to ‘The Hangover’ and Las Vegas dominate this story, the added image works will for this reader. The take a symbolic message from the image rather than the literal image of the jeep sinking into the sand, it’s more about being in trouble with dept due to gambling.
Lin Ma, 20, Design Student, Chinese
-“Some people drive jeeps to Las Vegas on the road. When they go through the desert they encounter a sandy storm, however they reach Las Vegas and play poker and gamble. Fortunately then won a lot of money celebrating by releasing balloons.
Again this anaylsis plays on the positive side of gambling – winning rather than losing.
Charlotte Matthews, 19, Design Student, Scottish
-“I recently came back from a holiday with my husband in Las Vegas, there was good points and bad points to the holiday. The good bit about it was the fact that we won £15000 on the poker game and celebrated with hundreds of balloons and alcohol. However the bad point was our car broke down as we were on our way to the airport. The £15ooo makes up for the hours of waiting for help.
This interpretation points out the correct location, the celebratory theme but runs with it as a positive outcome of gambling. It is varied from the previous story slightly however the cover the same main points.
Although the second experiment was effectively successfully in clarifying the location there was still a variation in the stories that perhaps would be rectified with the use of a linguistic message. So I conducted a third experiment, testing whether by adding text to one, two then three of the pictures would narrow down the stories to one central interpretation. I wanted the story to still follow the representation of the film ‘The Hangover’ so words that related to partying, drinking and the results of a wild night were going to help the success of the experiment.
The first few people were asked with the added word on the image of the poker chips – DRUNK.
Caroline Martin, 20, Design Student, Scottish.
-“Going out to a party/ night out then getting drunk and playing poker with the night ending badly.”
With the subtraction of the Las Vegas image there is a sense of a clear lack in location definition from the first story. However it is obvious to the reader that the night is defined by alcohol and people will ‘get drunk’.
Charles Stewart, 20, Design Student, Scottish.
-“After a drunken lad’s night of poker, we decided to sell a land rover and tie balloons to it. Before we knew it the car was floating. As the balloons popped we went lower and lower. Suddenly we crashed into sand. Where the hell are we?!”
Again a lack of location in Las Vegas is shown in this analysis, but again the ‘drunken’ aspect is still intact. What I found with this response was that it was very imaginative compared to the rest of the stories. I wondered whether he got the inspiration from the resent Disney film ‘UP’.
Second group of people were shown an additional word on one of the images, the balloon image – PARTY.
Qing Ye, 20, Design Student, Chinese
-“When a person has experienced the modern city life – partying, drunk and dancing, he/she will feel bored. So he will try a different experience like a explorer of try an extreme sport, something crazy!”
The location here is not specified here but does identify with the city which is better than the results from before. This reader must be relating this type of behaviour with the city culture due to their own personal knowledge and views of the city.
Mary McCarthy, 19, Maths Student, Scottish
-“ It’s 100 degrees and the race is on, the annual 4×4 desert racing championships! Kirk this year’s favourite to win is geared up in his kitted out jeep. The race starts…………. Kirt is the leader…until an unexpected surprise!! His once perfect 4×4 becomes stuck in a sand dune and the newly modified wheels -perfect for gaining speed- aren’t strong enough to work the jeep out. Needless to say Kirt and his crew are last to his humiliation. Then on to the after party….balloons, music and dancing fill the room. This year’s winner has taken centre stage, giving an acceptance speech, not to forget adding the today’s embarrassing event including Kirts 4×4 failure. The laughter becomes louder, the winner seeing the crowd’s reaction grows more and more confident. Looking proud to accept the bottle of very tasteful and expensive champagne, he then shakes with a strong might and pops the bottle open all over Kirt until he is soaked in the wasted alcohol. What started out as an exciting day for Kirt ended in humiliation and embarrassment.”
This is an elaborate response to the images with words present on two of them. Again no reference to Las Vegas but also the reference to gambling has also disappeared. The words in this case have not helped but rather prevented the process of elimination.
Finally all three pictures featuring words – DRUNK, PARTY, MORNING AFTER.
Sheonagh Gall, 20, Design Student, Scottish
-“I was so drunk last night at the party that I felt really terrible the morning after. Last week I went to a party, got soooo drunk and ended up at the casino, as usual! The morning after I went out in the car, still drunk and crashed it!”
Analysing this response reveals a positive outcome as each element is present in the story however the location is still an issue and with the added presence of the Las Vegas image I believe this would have been 100% successful.
Stuart Sichi, 13, High School Student, Scottish
-“4 men go to Las Vegas and have a bachelor party. They all get drunk and go spend all there money in a casino. The morning after they find themselves in the middle of no where and cant remember what happened. – ‘The Hangover’
This is the perfect analysis of the images, the location – Las Vegas, the storyline, and the comparison to ‘The Hangover’ are all present. Perhaps my brother and I are on too much of the same wave lengths?
Relating this experiment to Barthes views seems reasonable although in reality does not always work perfectly; there are so many variables involved that change a persons perspective. Gender, religion, nationality, age, occupation and many more that have to be accounted for when carrying out this experiment as basic knowledge of cultures and environment changes when these variables differ.
For my experiment personality was a variable that played a big part in differing the stories. If the reader was more conserved the story would mirror that trait but if a person was eccentric they’re story would take a more imaginative form. This created a problem with the process as many different people will read things different even with added information pushing towards a certain conclusion.
However they’re was an aspect that I found interested me. It was the comparison of the images to the film ‘The Hangover’, I found that this finding suggested that the images did not only invoke a story but also memories allowing the reader to compare the film’s traits to the messages in the photographs. Each story investigated in this experiment has it’s own linking pattern, whether it be linking a characteristic of an activity to a specific location or developing a symbolic message linked to a literal picture. This shows how much more goes into creating a story from images than we actually realise when we do it. It defiantly shows potential in advertising and many other design driven practises.
I felt that perhaps if you wanted to focus the experiment primarily on what messages change the reader’s interpretation then selecting subjects whose profiles were similar in some way would allow you to eliminate variables to some extent. However this concept would not work in practice as people are all varied and for good reasons so instead more experimental tests should be done to investigate the variations of human habits and profiles in order to take this concept further.
That’s the jist of my random images. At first glance I thought my subjects have got a hard time considering these images as one story but after studying them a bit more a basic story emerges that can be varied in many ways. Factoring in a subject’s upbringing, nationality and basic knowledge of culture and habit allows these varied stories to materialize. You read the images from how you know the world – based on your knowledge as an individual.
One of my pictures – the order of images is irrelevant – is a simple image of balloons. Further analysed however they become pink balloons on a sky blue background. Even further they are a large set of pink balloons about to be let off into the summer blue sky, either intentionally or not. However that is one interpretation – my own – and others may read this differently especially when set adjacent to a different image.
To understand this image initially you must have the knowledge of what balloons are, what colour the sky is and to be able to differentiate between colours. This is the un-coded iconic message, the literally meaning of the image as Barthes explains; these messages are what they are they do not offer anymore than that.
The picture of casino chips and a card from a deck again requires basic knowledge of what these objects are and what they are used for. The connection made usually concludes gambling or a poker, a card game of some sort. The connotations of these signs however can read as a representation of Las Vegas, but to acquire this assumption the reader must have a certain knowledge of a culture that associates with gambling and Vegas. Based on a person’s individual culture and upbringing will determine whether these visual signs will be translated as that conclusion.
Out of the three, the image conveying a jeep angled out of a hole in the sand seems to be the most abstract. It is very open to interpretation and without assistance from the other two images the story from this image could be very vast. Again like the other images a basic knowledge to understand the image must be present in the reader; sand – desert, jeep – off road vehicle, stuck in a hole – trouble.
The first experiment was a sort of pilot to initially test the grounds of what people read the opening images as. I expected a varied response to the photographs but thought that there may well be a reoccurring theme connecting the stories together.
Rachel Laing, 19, Design Student, Scottish
– “Reminds me of the film ‘The Hangover’. What starts off as a good night out soon turn’s wild, resulting in the car in the sand.”
Connotations of ‘The Hangover’: A story of a group of guys on a stag weekend to Las Vegas, they gamble, get very drunk and end up in a lot of trouble.
I found this analysis very interesting because not only did the images provoke a story but they also stimulated reference to an existing story. They induced memories. Along with suggestion to a film, this analysis becomes quite literal as she described the car being “in the sand” just as the picture literally depicts.
Ross Lesslie, 22, Design Student, Scottish
-“This is about somebody who likes the partying lifestyle. They seem to gamble and spend all of their money on silly things. This then led them to get stuck in a rut. They are struggling to sort out their life and it is like they are stuck in a hole.”
On the other hand this interpretation takes a more symbolic view of the story. Rather than looking at the literal meaning of the car in the hole, he reads it as a metaphor of being “stuck”, at a dead end in life due to their ignorance of gambling. Both this analysis and the first pick up on the partying and gambling portrayed from the images however both pick up on variations at the same time.
Sarah Mettleton, 20, Design Student, Northern Irish
– “It’s summer again and time for a holiday. Our destination – Las Vegas. Sun, sand and casinos. Everyday was spent sunbathing and the nights spent having fun in casinos. We even won a major prize and celebrated with champagne and balloons.”
This was the first response that highlighted an actual location – Las Vegas. In order to relate gambling to Las Vegas a certain knowledge is required (Barthes reference to the third message) about the culture surrounding this location. It so happens Las Vegas is publicly and famously advertised for gambling and casinos so the knowledge required is not uncommon but still is required to come to this conclusion. To add, this analysis is in ‘story-telling’ form differing from the previous two which follow a more analytical form.
Mark Ward, 23, Chef, Scottish
-“One man, went to Las Vegas for his birthday, lost all his money so decided to drive into a ditch in the desert.”
Again this response picked up on the actual location on the story (Las Vegas) and also follows a similar story to Rachel Laing’s analysis. It doesn’t necessarily mention ‘The Hangover’ but follows that story line. Hint of the ‘story-telling’ form.
Alberto Vantool, 42, Business man, Italian
-“A friend’s birthday to Las Vegas goes horribly wrong as a jeep is stole and police chase it into the desert when they seem to get into a bit of trouble.”
This analysis picks up on the celebratory balloons, the location, and the dilemma faced at the end of the story. Although there is no literally reference to the poker chips and gambling, it is assumed that Las Vegas has connotation of this therefore he feels no need to ‘state the obvious’ as he believes this is common knowledge.
Dorothy Sichi, 49, Literacies Tutor, Scottish
-“… couple on a ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday in the Sahara Desert … huge problems with their vehicle … lost control of it in a bid to escape bandits in … the Sahara. …they had taken part in an impromptu game of poker … When they were finally rescued by the police in a high speed chase… the next time they want to celebrate a birthday they will stay at home… have a huge party with all the trimmings in the safety of their hometown!”
This response was the first to take a different (but not completely) direction. Instead of what was seen as the ‘obvious’ choice in location, the Sahara was chosen, perhaps because this person either wasn’t that aware of Vegas or maybe doesn’t approve of Vegas so subconsciously avoided using it in the story. However they do pick up on the birthday element and also the gambling signals nevertheless varied slightly from the other stories.
Albert Sichi, 57, Learning Assistant, Scottish
-“A man went on an adventure after winning an on line poker competition. He bought an expensive off road car and decided to try it “off road”. He travelled to the Sahara desert where he became a cropper. Unfortunately the only way he could be rescued was by balloon.
The only reaction that came to the conclusion of an ‘online’ casino was the last of the stories. What I find quite ironic is that the eldest of the readers was the only one to suggest what is classed as the ‘new, modern, up-to-date’ version of gambling when students apparently are the generation of next!
Within his essay he explains that his aim is to find out how the image acquires its meaning and where it concludes and if it does what comes next. Especially with – not restricted too – advertisement images, Barthes points out that the meanings behind these images are not unintentional they’re representational of the message that the advertisement wishes to convey.
Bathes brakes down the message within the image into three different messages; the linguistic, the coded iconic and the non-coded iconic message. The first relates to the literal language of writing, an example used is that of the Panzani brand; the linguistic message is maintained by the caption that is easy to understand as long as you have knowledge of language (basic reading and writing). Also the branded items in the image provide an indication of the companies name; furthermore it provides connotations that depict a theme of Italianicity reinforcing the brands qualities.
Further on in the essay Barthes asks the question, whether the linguistic message, either it be text or a caption, adds to the message of the image valuably or just renders it surplus. It needs to be successfully enough to allow the reader to understand the level of observation that the advertisements wishes to convey but at the same time cannot sound repetitive or slightly patronising. Barthes believes that the linguistic message should ‘guide our interpretation’ of the image.
The second message of the ‘pure image’ is based on your knowledge of culture and habit. You read it as you know. In the Panzani case there are many signs to this message that allow you to decode it such as the image of provisions within a string bag suggests a trip to the market, the fact that they are falling out of the bag creates another sign – where cultural habits play a big part in the connotation – that of providing shopping for oneself rather than stocking up. The image of Panzani brand on many products in the bag also suggests that they can offer everything required to carry out your meal. However without these signs would the image still be read the same way?
The non-coded iconic message – the third – is representational of the ‘real objects’, the literal message. To understand this part of the message the reader of the image must have a basic idea of what the objects are. You must first and foremost know what an image is, concerning the Panzani advertisement the knowledge of what a tomato, pepper and spaghetti is essential. These messages do not offer further meaning, they are what they are. They bring the connotation of the image down to the literal level.
After reading this essay relating this language to our own disciplines begins to look a lot easier, simply within our studio projects or even out with student work and looking at it from a professional angle. Continuing with the current experimental assignment we have that allows us to put this idea into practise, I’ll also consider the opportunities given within my course that will allow me to use this method of language with images to take projects a step further. Just now a simple idea of how to use this knowledge comes to me; by merely selecting images from research that I know will convey and present my message and concept of say any project clearer then presenting information to clients, tutor and peers becomes easier as a more universal knowledge becomes apparent and the intensity of thought is on the same level.
This assignment was for us to investigate further into the theories of consumption within design and to apply this to practice.
Investigating and analysing a subject’s personal environment, possessions and family relationships with the use of photographs allowed us to attempt to find out about the person through their influences, interests and the people around them. Whether they are truly their own person or are subconsciously following ‘the Canon’ was the purpose of the investigation. Also applying our theories to actual evidence introduced us to the practical side of design studies.
I analysed about eight photographs of my subject (Sheonagh Gall) each varying in content such as different family members, different periods in time, various processions allowing me to process what each photograph told me about her.
Initial taking an educated guess as to who the ‘other’ people are in the photos and their relationship to the subject, then putting it together with the surrounding environment and possessions to create a story and understanding of what is happening in the photograph.
The evidence in the resources led me to certain conclusions about my subject’s (Sheonagh’s) influences and relationships. Many of her photos appear to be herself and her brother (or an older male relative; cousin); the fact that she has chosen these certain picture may in itself indicate her influence and relationship to him. In each photo she appears close and comfortable with her ‘brother’; either in an embrace or a friendly activity; a protective side to the brother is quite frequent in the photos indicated with an arm around the subject or positioning himself close to the same level as his sister. Demonstrating that their relationship is strong and that Sheonagh may look up to her brother as he is older and seems to take care of her. One photo of my subject and what seems to be her brother again shows a different side of their relationship but also reinforces the ‘older brother quality’ that shows his influence in his younger sister. It’s a more mischievous scene of the two of them peeking through a hole investigating something unknowing of the presence of a camera. He perhaps investigated first and Sheonagh followed lead, trusting and influenced by him; or perhaps he coxed her in convincing her to look first as she trusted him and looked up to him therefore wanting to impress him.
Another strong male influence appears in a few photos indicating how important this person is to my subject. Firstly appearing in a significant day of the subject’s life; her first day at school perhaps, the photo depicts a scene of an older male figure; father or grandfather, taking Sheonagh by the hand and leading her along a path. I based my analysis on the evidence present in the photo; she is dressed in a school uniform, very young, the male relative is looking down at her making sure that she is ok, perhaps apprehension of going into something new therefore leading me to the conclusion of her first day at school. She looks to him for support and possibly relies on him to lead her in the right direction.
In the other photograph another male figure is present showing a playful side of their relationship. A scene of them playing in the sand or the subject sitting on his knee imitating a pose taken by the male figure; her grandfather, indicates the ‘fun’ side of their relationship; it shows a stronger bond between them reinforcing their closeness. The ‘copy cat’ scene portrays her grandfather’s influence on Sheonagh, how she imitates him. Perhaps this impression still carries on in the present and many of her choices are influenced by him consciously or unconsciously. The beach scene also depicts a trusting side of their relationship as it appears he has buried her up to her neck in sand, there must be a huge element of trust in their relationship to allow him to go through with that task. Again it’s a very playful scene and shows how comfortable she is with him, place her trust in his hands – or rather spade!
Certain elements of this investigation were not as clear as others; favourite people perhaps showed through more than favourite colours. However basing my findings on the evidence I took an educated guess that in most of her photographs as a younger child she appears to wear pink a lot but at looking as she gets older that isn’t the case. As this is based on a guess, coincidence may play a big part in my conclusion so the following part of the assignment, where we meet up with our subject and discuss our finds, is imperative to understanding the task and understanding how people and markets are perceived whether initial research is coherent or irrelevant.
It was interesting to find out how other people perceived me through the memories we store in photographs. Little subtle things that I may have never noticed before are points that people may be able to pin point and look into to find out more about me, as did Sheonagh. Looking into my subjects personal life was hard at first, I perhaps felt apprehensive in case I touched on sensitive issues, but if you be considerate to your subject and deal with your research ethically then you can allow it to go further.
This assignment gave us a more practical take on investigating techniques allowing us to understand a bit more into the reality of research and resources. It’s not always a simple click of a mouse or a search in Google and all your questions are answered, primary research is the fundamental element of your opinions and your discipline; strong views need hard evidence to back it up.