Thursday, November 17, 2011

Contemporary Problems, My Response to Chapter 6

Chapter 6, Media in Everyday Life         

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
Nationalism arises between a “vanished past” and a “limitless future”
Constructs a narrative of loss, to promise some undefined future gain
First edition written as world changed, late 1970s, inter-socialist wars China / Viet Nam
Asian history never about socialism: entirely nationalistic
Collapse of ‘communism,’ and of internationalism, defeat for those with illusions
Nations persist; but defeat for the great economic idea of shared wealth (i.e. socialism)
Do we all have a nationality? Is it given or chosen? What is it based on?
A powerful, but without grand thinkers: no major philosopher makes argument for it
Famous definition of ‘nation’: “an imagined political community, imagined as both
inherently limited and sovereign” (6)
We never meet most other members of nation, we have to imagine them (and they define us)
Nations not become self-conscious, aware of something that pre-exists: nations invent themselves
Not falseness, but creativity seen in this process

Limited: not entire humanity, always an ‘other,’ even nationalists don’t want one nation
Sovereign: not religious, divinely ordained from one true god, but plural nations
Cultural roots of nationalism
Nations arose in 1700s as religions lost power, to provide continuity, endless future
Religious communities were/are immense, based in symbols and language
European exploration and contact showed plurality of cultures, hence contingent
Also rise of vernacular languages meant Arabic and Latin not the only language of the sacred
Two other keys to rise of nation: loss of strict hierarchies (economic changes)
Realize earth has a material history, fossils, history not fixed or fated; future is open, changeable

Books were the first modern, mass-produced industrial commodity, tens of million in first 50 years
Foundation of capitalism, international search for markets
From Latin, which you had to learn (made you bilingual), to local languages
Reformation, Protestants: huge rise in printing and thirst for ideas, basis of unique nations
Split single, international ‘catholic’ church with new writings, Luther a popular best-seller
Many haphazard news language regions and nationalities emerge, through print
à how might graphic design play these roles? Can it? Is there continuity in it?
Written languages unified nations, not as changeable as local spoken dialects
Print lasts, visible link to national, linguistic past: languages stabilize, become modern 300 years ago

Languages and print created ‘imagined communities’ and nations, i.e.
Huge rise of self-declared, post-colonial nations in North and South America, 1776 – 1838
Language not key to nations in New World: creole, spoke language of colonial masters
Haiti: Toussaint L’Ouverture, massive slave revolt, second republic in West Hemisphere
Empires used natives to hold on to Empire against the creoles, new nations
Colonies often developed national idea before many states of Europe
Sudden split of Spanish empire, 3 centuries old, large native populations, into 18 parts
Like revolution in America: heavy burden on colonies; and Enlightenment ideals
Present world grew out of administrative boundaries of the old Spanish and English Empires

Guy Debord, “The Society of the Spectacle” 1995 (original 1967)
An angry, highly political text about visual culture, direct experience is now “mere representation”
He puts it very bluntly: the “former unity of life is lost forever” —a high price to pay for images!
“The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.” (12)
Images mediate and shape (and falsify, i.e.) the fundamental social relationships in our lives
As if everything that appears is good, and everything that is good will appear
     (like Facebook: everything appears there, looks good, and is assumed to be good)  
“A negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself” (14)
Through the domination of the economic over all aspects of life, being becomes having
In a fashion not unlike Foucault, he sees power as generalized, everywhere, through spectacle
Visual practices self-generate, make their own rules, create illusion of freedom and leisure
We ‘see ourselves’ at the beach, or in a dream home: images are concrete alienation
In his most famous phrase, spectacle is “capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image.”
He is also carrying on an argument with the global communist states, like China or Russia
Sees them they as just “concentrated” spectacle: a bureaucratic capitalism
Everyone dresses like Mao “because there is nothing else to be,” no alternative images
The West is no better: “diffuse” spectacle, masking “class divisions on which the real unity of the capitalist mode of production is based.”
Long middle section gets explicitly political, history of failed revolution through 20th Ce.
Hidden ‘prize’ in the middle of the chocolate egg: people read this essay because of the term spectacle, in the context of visual culture studies, but it is really about defeat of workers’ revolutions
Looks to “criminality,” local self-organization, “the only undefeated aspect of a defeated movement”

Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large (1996)    (Ah-PAD-da-rye)
Modernity a claim to universality, Enlightenment a “self-fulfilling, self-justifying” idea
Looks at Western modernism from Bombay (Mumbai): “synaesthetic and… pretheoretical”
See, hear, and smell pages of Life magazine and Hollywood films: US replaced colonial England
Culture and media shifted his sense of nationality and identity
Media and migration determinates of modern imaginary, especially electronic media
“Electronic mediation transforms preexisting worlds of communication and conduct” (3)
Movement of people and vast circulation of images destabilize subjectivities, create “irregularities”
Should modernity be seen as a rupture, a step to something bigger and better?
Modern media and migrations do something new, a trans-national, even post-national effect
Many societies still experience modernity from afar, through global media, not as a national narrative
But interrogated, rewritten on local level through “subversive micronarratives,” opposition forces
à Like design? We learn an international history, but adapt and apply it wherever we are
And Diasporas bring changes of their own to global urban centres
Chapter 2, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy”
Modern world “now an interactive system in a sense that is strikingly new” (27)
Pull of larger groups – religious, commercial, political – replaced by smaller-scale, local loyalties
Benedict Anderson: “print capitalism” brings promise and power of mass literacy, shrinks distances
But is it a “global village,” or a rootless, schizophrenic, alienated, even rhizomic non-space?
à Do we not feel most at home in what we know, in our skills, in design?

Deleuze and Guattari, rhizomes
Important post-structuralist philosophers, D&G were looking for new forms of knowledge, opposed to linear and causal explanations, which only reinforced existing ideas and institutions of power. Their writing follows suit, being very dense and complex, making many unexplained references and connections. Rhizomes suggest we need to think in much looser, less structured and determined ways.
From Wikipedia:
In botany and dendrology, a rhizome is a characteristically horizontal stem of a plant that is usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes.
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari use the term "rhizome" and "rhizomatic" to describe theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation… the rhizome resists chronology and organization, instead favoring a nomadic system of growth and propagation.


  1. Rashik Patel

  2. Chapter 6

    We all have a nationality, whether we like it or not. Just take a look at your passport. It will tell you what your nationality is. It is given to you, whether that be at birth, or through an immigration process.

    Looking past the technical idea of nationality as which country you are a citizen of, still yes, everyone has a nationality. It may not be the nation you are a citizen of, it could be your background, your ethnicity, your religion, your politics, your city, a particular community, wherever you feel at home. Whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be cultural, its personal. Some people may want to keep their given nationality, while others choose to view their nationality as something else. Design will always come from your experiences, it is always influenced by your views and understandings and cannot be separated. You design as part of that nationality; your experiences of it. We don’t just hold one nationality as our own, it could be many. Looking at just our classroom, we are influenced by so many nationalities (and again, I’m not just taking cultural). Design as a whole, being influenced by so many nationalities, and being such a personal subjective field, becomes universal.

    “Electronic mediation transforms preexisting worlds of communication and conduct” (Arjun Appadurai, 3). Electronic, or technological connections and mediations also affect nationality. People can connect with a nationality although they are hundreds of miles away. A world of mixed nationalities, multiple nationalities is opened. This is beneficial in a way to design, we experience almost exclusively Canadian nationalism in school as the curriculum and other students hold Canada as one of their identities. There is more, and I feel like we are pushed to try to focus on the different nationalities, but in the end, Canada is the main contributor in our studies. The internet opens up a space in which geographical nationality is not as important as connecting with others of similar nationality. But its take away from the idea of nation. It crosses national boundaries, both geographical and imagined However, in this case, with so much nationality, is there even any left? Sure, there is culture, but nationality could be gone. Is there a nationality to the internet? I don’t think so. Either there is universality, or there is just so much nationality that there is almost none left. It takes away from a geographical nation, connecting and working with the people (physically) around you. It is both a benefit and a detriment to design.

  3. I know that I have previously mentioned Richard Florida and his book entitle who's your city, but I think for a generation that finds the physical world at large increasingly small, and for whom place seems to be less and less of a concern (ie) I can be in toronto, collaborating with someone in Vancouver for a client in Europe, he presents some pertinent ideas.
    1. Creative economies and their clustering force
    Certain areas will begin with a small group of individuals interested in a specific thing (ie) technology and as news of this group spreads through their work, other individuals will be attracted to this area because they perceive it as a place where can engage with these people. Over time, the area will become increasingly saturated with people moving there with this particular set of skills, thus the clustering effect. This is evident in places like silicon valley for technology and New York for things like design and finance. As such they present an opportunity for stimulation that is unrivaled and as such demonstrate the importance of place in creative pursuits and the building of highly skilled professional communities.
    2. Conceptualizing place in terms of mega-regions (as opposed to other geographical sorts of boundaries like city or state)
    This is a mode of geographical thought that merges areas of procuctivity into mega-regions that constitute massive proportions of the world's productivity (often as a result of the creative clustering effect). In an era of increasing globalization, it is my opinion that this mode of conceptualizing geography is much more relevant and would contribute to a greater flow of information and ideas should it be embraced.

    This raises some interesting questions about the future of the physical world and the contemporary paradigms that people hold in relation to it. Will traditional boundaries hold as the become increasingly cumbersome and outdated in the face of current global culture? If the history of colonization has shown us nothing else, it is that boundaries are fluid, but the queston remains, will technology help to in a sense 'colonize' or shape our future physical world?

  4. I agree that nationalism is perhaps less relevant in individual-to-self and individual-to-individual relationships, but the individual-to-"other" relationship still depends heavily on national boundaries. There are problems with this, but because "otherness" is mostly internally derived and not externally imposed, I don't think a nation-less alternative is much better.

    Our familiarity with the real circumstances of geographically distant communities has not progressed at the same rate as our technological ability to connect. Practically speaking, it is quite possible to expand production into a global "mega-region" -– local design and remote manufacturing, outsourced customer service, cross-continental economic communities. But our conceptualization of global regions is still very much rooted in nations. To a Westerner, Egypt is Egypt. France is France. Japan is Japan.

    A Westerner's conceptualization of Egypt is probably a Frankenstein of secondary sources and may not, in fact, reflect Egypt at all. It may represent only a part of Egypt, or perhaps a region that also includes Libya and Tunisia. But notwithstanding the factual inaccuracy, or "imagined" quality, of the nation concept, it is hard to imagine how a Westerner could relate to foreign affairs at all without it. Defining Egypt as Egypt allows us to make sense of how Egypt is not Canada, but also to negotiate some kind of relationship to the political and personal struggles of Egyptians despite those differences.

    Nations are imaginary, but differences across geographic regions are real, and for whatever reason, a source of endless anxiety. The end of the nation concept is not the end of otherness. Rather it disperses otherness and makes it ungraspable, in state of pernicious, indiscriminate fear.

  5. This topic is a very interesting one, and seems to be a focus throughout much of the world. The idea of media and technology, and the influence it has on the interaction and communication of the world. Is it a positive or negative thing? I feel like it can go either way. As I spoke about in my chapter 10 presentation, the idea of technology being beneficial for various nationalities and cultures, it is definitely a positive thing because it provides outlets for people of similar beliefs and interests to gather and share. Especially for those people who are not in close proximity, geographically connected to friends and family. This also helps to maintain a sense of nationality and culture. And by all this, I mean our given nationality, because as said in an earlier comment, it’s inevitable, nationality is given to us.

    However, and earlier question that got me thinking a bit was “…will technology help to in a sense ‘colonize’ or shape our future physical world?” And I am having trouble deciding if I think it would help or hinder it. Because as I said earlier, it helps to unite existing cultures and nationalities with each other, but in turn, this keeps everyone separated. It keeps everyone distinct as nationalities and culture as they separate themselves from others who don’t share the same values or characteristics, thus it is not colonizing our world. But on the other hand, graphic design has definitely played a role in colonization in media and creating a kind of ‘language’: Isotopes, the symbolic language. This language was meant to (and in many ways does) create an international understood system of images that everyone around the world can understand, no matter their nationality. So in this sense, technology has helped to colonize the world. Other aspects of technology that provide a sense of unity and an international language, are things such as facebook and other social networking sites. Everyone who uses these pieces of technology around the world understands how to use them following the same directions and as people across the world, geographically, from them.

    So the more I thought about it, the more I was undecided. Does technology—or will technology—help to colonize our physical world? I think it will within a sense of community and culture, but will also help to preserve nationalities, and other forms of culture as people want them to be. I believe people decide how they want to engage with the rest of the world, and technology only aids in this.

  6. We do all have a nationality, but it is not only based on a certain place- but also a feeling of belonging and unity to a culture or something in life that is largely influential. I believe that it is something that is passed down from generations but we choose weather to adapt to it or not. It is Imagined in a sense that no body can really touch nationality but it is a feeling, and feelings can only technically touch our "souls".

    Graphic design plays a role in the emergence of the many haphazard languages because graphic design is about communication, and not everyone has the same means of communication, so that means new ways of communication have to be invented for them to understand what they mean. When everything was in latin, not everybody understands it, but when the language is translated to communicate to a certain group of nation, it makes communication between the nations much easier. In my opinion graphic design increases communication between nations, so they develop more and interact with each other more often.

    "Written languages unified nations"
    I feel like this is to true because in some languages like Arabic for an example, there is a "standard" and there are many many dialects that are derived from the standard form but mixed with different languages. Example: most countries in the middle east speak Arabic, but every single country has it's own dialect that is either completely different form each other, but sometimes a little alike. What unifies these countries is the "Standard" form of Arabic which is also the way the Holy Quran is written, also news papers, government documents (or any documentation), most poetry and of course books. All these things mentioned are mostly found in print. The standard Arabic language used to communicate has a certain feel to it, because you know that wherever you go in the middle east, it is the most common type of Arabic that everybody will understand if you do not know how to communicate through the dialect of the country, so there forms a certain type of nationality that you hold on to and are proud of, and this is all because the original standard arabic was in print via the Holy Quran. Print is considered a form of graphic design, so keeping things in print for centuries, they are passed down through generations and now transformed into interactive design. So printed graphic design also unifies nations!

  7. To be honest I am not longer sure what nationality is. It seems to me that some of the aspects that were mentioned above such as religion, politics, city or a community have their own separate meanings and have no particular connection to the nationality of a particular person. From what I understand nationality is the status of belonging to a particular nation. People can have different religion, different view on the politics, live in a different city or belong to a different community but be the same nationality. I believe that the belonging to some particular nationality is a choice of each individual made either consciously or unconsciously at some point of his/her life.
    When one is born in a particular country one is immediately introduced to the nationality of that country, however realizes that only when meets a different type of nationality. Some people have the opportunity to immigrate to other countries and then depends on the priority and desires of the person, he/she might choose a different nationality.
    This might sound a bit wag without an example. From my personal experience, I can tell that I am no longer sure which nationality I belong to. I have lived in two countries before Canada but I cannot say that I belong to either of the three. My religion, politics, believes and community, do not make me in particular Russian, Israeli or Canadian. But what do are my associations, feelings and thoughts of all the each country.
    I believe that today, people can choose their nationality not depending on language, skin color, religion or any other visual or non-visual aspects. One searches for similarities with particular group, imagines a community of people and argues that he/she belongs to that nationality.
    Similar Imagined community can be traced in design. Who are we designing for? We are imagining the viewers, predict their thoughts and actions and create the design accordingly. Were our predictions right or wrong we judge upon the success of the design, which again can be achieved in different formats.

  8. What I think Debord is saying in The Society of the Spectacle is that we have begun (at the time it was written) to emulate the images that were originally meant to emulate us. We live as copies of copies, and as a result nothing is authentic anymore. Through mass media we are saturated with a wide array of imagery that tells how we should live our lives. The government also has a hand in this, and we all simply do as we are told. People experience alienation; the loss of the belief that they are in control of their lives, whether it be their actions, relationships, or value. This is a result of “the spectacle;” the bombardment of mass media we experience that tells us how we should be living our lives.

    This book was written in 1967, so it may be that it was relevant at the time, but looking at it in the context of the present, I do not think the spectacle has the power Debord asserts. Imagery is not enough to control a population, and if the public really wants to do something, they will do it. Take cigarettes for example. You hardly see any advertisements for them, they cannot have television commercials, but there are still a large number of people who smoke. In an effort to stop people from smoking, cigarette companies were forced to put images of the potential dangers of smoking on their packaging. While this did have some effect, the people who really wanted to smoke kept smoking. The most effective step towards stopping smoking so far has not been to saturate the public with media, but rather legislation. No longer allowing people smoke indoors has discouraged far more people from smoking cigarettes than any advertising campaign could. This is also true of seatbelts. When it was decided people should wear them for their own safety, rather than putting up signage to inform the public, it was simply made illegal not to wear one.

    With the increasingly widespread ability to easily record video/take pictures and share them online, as well as fabricate false footage, I think that imagery has lost some of its credibility. When the photograph first became popular, it could serve as proof of an event. It has since lost some of its integrity, and consumers are wary of what they see in the media. While not everyone questions what they are told, I think it is a trait that is becoming increasingly prevalent.

    Finally, with the large volume of media out there, and its easily facilitated creation, people are losing track of what good quality media looks like. When anyone can create whatever they want and get it out into the world, it is not always the “best” media that gets noticed. A video on You Tube can get millions of views because it is terrible. Author’s can publish writing that never otherwise be read. Anyone can claim to be a musician and upload some loops they put together in Garage Band. I am not saying the internet should be closed off to these people, rather that with so much out there, quality is becoming less common and people are losing the ability to distinguish it. I like the fact that anyone who wants to can have a voice. While this is detrimental to the quality of the media, I think it also diminishes the power of “the spectacle”.

  9. I would agree that nations are “imaginary”. We all have some type of nationality, we are born into one, and then have the ability to change it through immigration, but we will always belong to a nation.

    Geography plays a role in nationality. Being physically separated from other nations does create certain constructs that form a nationality. This includes social factors that are influenced by climate, predominant cultures or religions, politics, history, etc. These constructs lead to the othering of nations and create the idea of nationality. An example of the idea of nationality put into use is the situation when travelers from the United States will display the Canadian flag on their person or luggage in the hopes that they will be treated more favorably in a foreign country. This is because there exists the construct that Canadians are friendly and unintimidating as a nation. Are all Canadians friendly and unintimidating? No, but it is imagined that most members of our nation are. So this points to the idea that we do have nationality. However, through the use of media, such as the Internet, we come to a different conclusion.

    Today, nations are able to communicate easily as a result of technological connections. One can work and communicate with someone from another nation with ease. While working at a company this summer, one of the partners in our company lived in London, England, while our office was in Toronto. While there were small issues with the time difference, we were able to collaborate and work together seamlessly as if she were in the office with us. This ability to connect with other nations does blur the lines of differences between nationalities. When looking at the Internet, there seems to be no nationality to it; it seems to be universal. In some ways, depending on your interests, you become part of your own nation. Design itself can be thought of as a nationality, and that can easily be translated geographically when looking at the “design centers” of the world, like New York.

    So how does design fit into a globalized world? If design is subjective, how can it relate or react to universality? As the world evolves the boundaries of nationality may become unclear and design will have to react to that. Design, in its purist form is a discipline. It is influenced by the surroundings, settings, and social circumstances encountered by the designer. Technology dominated media such as the internet have changed the scope of “surroundings, settings, and social circumstances”, by removing the traditional physical shackles of the designer such as travel and geographical location. The ideology of The Global Village has never been more real and apparent than it is today. True excellence in design will no longer be a product of trends, fads and fashion but an outward expression of the stirring of the soul of the designer.

  10. I think many people, who have been responding to this chapter, have been confusing nationality with identity. With nationality, there is a certain level of power assumed. People form nations, it’s not just inherently within someone. Nations are created based on political similarity and as Anderson explained, nations are completely imaginary. Identity is what you are; what values and mannerisms you inherently have. You can identify yourself with having a nationality of Canadian, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have the identity of being a Canadian. As many have pointed out before me, you can have a Canadian passport, but you might not necessarily consider yourself “Canadian.” In fact, with Canada, there is no real established identity. Yes, we have our politics: PCs, Liberals, and even Quebecois, but there is no real distinguishing feature that makes us “Canadian.”

    Earlier in the year, we were discussing what it means to be a Canadian, and no one could really pinpoint what it actually was. American’s have their patriotic freedom; they can do whatever they want, because they are all free individuals. We would probably also be considered free, but that’s not what distinguishes us. On a federal level, apparently the Canadian identity is described to be a “Mosaic.” It’s a clash of cultures that fit together to form an overall Canadian identity. That’s what defines us, officially. This of course, is not true, because we are only diverse in pockets of Canada - the large cities. All the other small towns and a good chunk of the rest of Canada is completely Caucasian or Native Indian. This really doesn't do well for our economy, as a nation because we have no real focus. Half of us want diversity, half of us don’t.

    Anderson’s reading says that written languages unify nations since it’s not as changeable as local spoken dialects. In our case, this does not work. We are a “nation of diversity”, with multi languages. Our primary language is English, however there are plenty of immigrants who come to Canada and completely function in society without learning a bit of English. We are also supposedly a bilingual country, where all of our governmental material is available in English and French – and in many cases other. Students are forced to learn French, when in fact they probably wont ever need to speak it outside of school. Language in Canada is actually what is splitting us apart as a nation. Quebec has always wanted to be its own nation, even with all the efforts the Canadian government has tried to accommodate French English bilingualism.

    This makes me think of the current debate that's happening in Toronto. They’re debating whether they should offer multilingual books in libraries anymore. Due to funding cuts, they are debating what they can and can’t get rid of. But doing something like this goes against what the Canadian identity is. It completely hinders the ability for even those individuals who don’t know English to learn literacy, and in turn increasing distances between those people and the rest of society. I know for a fact that some libraries in parts of Toronto function heavily on multilingual books. If that is taken from them, they will not have the same turnout and flow that they have right now.

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  12. Chapter 6

    The identity that is part of each person can either be assigned or created by us. More often than not, there is a bit of both as we negotiate the external powers attempting to exert their influence. Labels of nationality is negotiated as we encounter them. I would identify myself as both Canadian and Chinese but, I would also be quick to point out that I have rejected some of the associated values of each nationality. Questions of nationality are tied closely to those of identity. Some may reject the notion of nationality as part of their identity because they cannot pin themselves to specific places or groups.

    How we define ourselves can in some ways be thought of as a negative definition. We see ourselves, see others, and then figure out what is different between us. For as long as differences exist, the "Other" will exist. Europeans, to legitimize their colonialism, created museums to propagate ideas of Social Darwinism and their own status in the hierarchical systems of the classification. They even created highly detailed simulations in their own cities of what they imagined other cultures like India (Mathur) and the city of Cairo (Mitchell) to be. Mathur called these displays complete with real people, "living ethnological exhibitions." The Europeans created an identity for themselves about their place in the world so that they could flex their "evolutionary" authority over other peoples.

    Nations and groups are still creating identities for themselves even in contemporary times. Aside from the geographical boundaries, limitations of what can and cannot be are still guarded in an attempt to create a kind of unity. Canada, with its vast number of ethnic and cultural groups cannot ascribe itself to a single ethnic identity and so "multi-cultural" and "mosaic" become identities themselves. Individually, these smaller groups may have vastly different ideas about how things should work but the advantages of joining together under a wider umbrella still have many advantages. In the case of Canada, the wealth generated by southern Ontario supports much of the rest of the country, despite the varying opinions on how this country ought to be run.

    Notions of identity, are in many ways, notions of belonging to specific groups of shared belief. Communities based on ideas allow people from all over the world to claim a spot in certain circles. The existence of the Internet has only served to grow these communities exponentially. Where two people who may never meet one another face to face, they could share ideas and communicate online and participate in communities based on everything from philosophy, entertainment, art, sports, and hobbies. Internet memes themselves create communities, allowing people to share certain kinds of knowledge complete with their own set of inside jokes. It allows people to negotiate far more complex identities for themselves with the vast number of communities now made accessible through their fingertips.

    Works Cited

    Mathur, Saloni. Living Ethnological Exhibits: The Case of 1886. 14. Blackwell Publishing, 2000. 492-524. Print.

    Mitchell, Timothy. Colonising Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Print.

  13. I would like to discuss briefly the clustering force of creative economies that Aimee touched on in her response when she referred to the ideas of Richard Florida. This sort of clustering of creative industry relates to the thoughts of Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish in their “Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide.” In chapter five, Modern Typography and the Creation of the Public Sphere, the authors refer to this phenomenon in its inception. The chapter centers around the introduction of moveable type in creating forms of mass media. The newspaper is focused upon as being significant in the creation of the public sphere, a “virtual space created through the exchange of ideas and information,” which also began to generate creative economies (95). Texts and forms of media such as the newspaper were integral in inspiring dialogue and debate, and thus the formation of “communities of belief” (ibid). These communities of beliefs were, after the introduction of the newspaper, centered around common beliefs and interests and formed upon the basis of common readership rather than common location.

    While these communities of belief were now based upon a common readership, they were still reliant on geographical location due to the need to read the same newspaper and discuss its content in coffee houses, etc. Globalization has vastly altered the way communities of belief are now formed through interaction via new modes of communication such as twitter and facebook. It’s interesting to note, however, that, just as the original communities of belief were in still, in part, reliant on geographical location, these specialized creative hubs continue to form geographically despite the abolition of obstacles between international communication. This brings up the question for me of whether face-to-face human interaction is somehow a significant part of human creative collaboration. Likewise, is this interaction simply desirable, or necessary for creative advancements in technological development or similar? Is the ability to collaborate virtually detrimental or beneficial to our design solution. Finally, would “wicked problems” be more likely to find a solution in design if the world could collaborate one giant coffee house?

  14. Nationalism has always been a funny topic to me. I have never particularly felt a sense of loyalty or nationalism to Canada. I also have never met another fellow Canadian that has identified strongly with Canada. That is, until I went on a trip to Taiwan this summer. The trip was a summer camp with a group of other young adults my age from all over the world (albeit most were from America). Suddenly, all the Canadians were quite proud of their nationality, as were everyone else of their unique countries. Somehow, I found myself adamantly defending the concept of buying milk in bags. But really, milk in bags isn’t much more convenient or genius than buying it in a gallon (…it’s lighter to pick up and pour?). Yet I, and the other Canadians defended it and everything else Canadian. The Americans, surprisingly enough, were the only ones that were probably less enthusiastic about their nationalism there. Was this because they were the majority? Perhaps we don’t identify with a group, or a nation, when that is all that surrounds us. Maybe I just haven’t met the people, but while here in Canada, I haven’t met anyone enthusiastically nationalistically loyal to Canada.

    Bringing things back to Chapter 5 on originality, people don’t like to be the same as everyone else. In a way, it makes us feel even lonelier than being different because what we identify with is something so massive and shared, it doesn’t really seem to be shared with anyone. Whereas, by identifying with a smaller group within the masses around us, we are able to be unique as well as “belong”. The concept of “belonging” is a humorously ironic like that; we try to belong by being different. So loyalties to small groups develop out of our loneliness in mass culture, from comic-book enthusiasts to apple users to designers to Canadians. We suddenly feel connected to these groups as they help define us.

    As you’ve covered in your post, design can reference and speak to many different nationalities/groups. If a designer is able, by tapping into a certain group’s aesthetic and language, they are able to speak directly to their viewer. The viewer is tuned and attached to the “languages” of their nationalities/groups. I guess this is where the designer has the power of good or evil in their hands (ultimate manipulation or whatever). This is what brand does. They try to invite you into a group you can identify with, with other people.

  15. One of the things that piqued my interest the most was this idea:

    "Images mediate and shape (and falsify, i.e.) the fundamental social relationships in our lives. As if everything that appears is good, and everything that is good will appear"

    Having lived briefly in Ho Chi Minh City (a communist government country), I grew up being taught to have a strong sense of national pride. In Vietnam, it is not uncommon to see murals like these everywhere:

    I did not think of much of these murals growing up. By using this folk art aesthetic, it has a friendly and warm tone of voice. Now that I am older, and having learned more about how oppressive and corrupted the government is, I realize that these images are the mediation between the citizens and the government. I also realize that this is not something that is 'normal' (to have murals painted promoting government messages). After moving here to Canada, I noticed that although the government doesn't promote nationalism through messages such as murals, the Canadian government does so in other ways: through products (beer, the Canadian olympics outerwear, mittens), television, etc.

    Also in western culture, murals are considered to be a symbol of grassroots and community movements. Underserved communities such as Jane & Finch have mural initiatives where they have youths painting murals for empowerment. Whereas in Vietnam, murals is considered to be a tool by the government used to spread their messages.

    It is intriguing to me that not only do images mediate and shape social relationships, the outlet it chooses to take shape in (murals, advertisements, products) also say something about the culture too. As designers, I think it is interesting then, the choices we make in how our design are delivered to the mass public.


  17. Nationality, defined as being a member of a nation state, in my opinion, is a colonial concept. Before the British (and French) rule and colonization of the Arab world, Arabs associated with tribes, village culture, ethnic origins, or religious affiliation.

    Then came borders set by the English and the Sykes Picot agreement of the division of Western Asia. And all of a sudden, neighbours became nationals of different countries. On the Arab world, as an Arab, I see little positive effect. Yes we all go crazy when the Iraqi football team wins over another country, but if being one against the "other" is all the concept of Nationality has brought then I see it as detremental and stupefying.

    I think that is the biggest result of Nationality: creating an "other".

    And then we hear Quincy Jones's We Are The World and read a little more and suddenly realize "we're all the same, borders are of no importance". A realization that hits us as if its an unheard of concept.

    But citizenship also brings universal "ideologies" and unites all people living in one place under one law. Thus, tribal law, personal taste, religions, social status becomes a subordinate to the national law. This is a democratic solution to a diverse people. I enjoyed reading of Appadurai in the course Image and Influence and in his and James Hoslton's piece Cities and Citizenship, one reads "On the other hand, the mobilizations of those excluded from the circle of citizens, their rallies against the hypocrisies of its ideology of universal equality and respect have expanded democracies everywhere: they generate new kinds of citizens, new sources of law, and new participations in the decisions that bind. As much as anything else, these conflicting and disjunctive processes of change constitute the core meaning of modern citizenship, constantly unsettling its assumptions".

    I am a citizen of two countries. I don't know what that means. I think its powerful because I was very happy to hear I don't have to lose my Iraqi Passport (A notebook, really) when I became a Canadian citizen. But I also dread going to Iraq ever again, and feel like I'm "coming home" when I land in Pearson after a period of travel. What does that make me? For me, I've resolved to not consider citizenship and nationality major determinants of who I am (Neither have I chosen religion). This is why you don't get a short answer from me when I am asked about what I am. You're in for a long story that usually involves a definition of who I am based on my dreams and experiences.