Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CLAM 6 part II: Barcelona advertisement

The following is an advertisement for a university in Tarragona, found in a publication in Barcelona.

CHRONOS||CONTEXT The advertisement is for a college called Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Since they are placing an ad in a paper, I am guessing that it's a small school or one that exists primarily online. Their intended audience is 18-25 year olds who want to go to college. The text is written in Catalán, so I'm not sure what it says.
PATHOS||EMOTIONAL APPEAL The ad clearly plays to a desire for freedom. The college students are sitting around in the sun, blue skies, laughing and having a good time and don't appear to be doing any work. Nonetheless, the text says something to the effect of increasing your ability or pursuing your dreams. It inspires a sense of fun, carefree life that college can bring you! The bike lurking on the right hand side and the license plate at the bottom also emphasizes the sense of freedom, mobility, or running away.
ETHOS||AUTHORITY Although I'm not certain of the exact translation, the text of the ad says something to the effect of the University helping or believing in you. The ad portrays the University as a tool or a friendly presence that enables you to reach your dream of sitting in a group of fun, fashionable young people on a hilltop. The university doesn't make any moves of seeming authoritarian, disciplined, bureaucratic or even offer very much reference to academics at all. Instead, the student is at the center of attention...the advertisers flatter the ego to get on the good side of their readers.
LOGOS||LOGIC With the invitational text in the top center, the image large and centered, and the phone number below, the logical flow of this ad is clear. You want to go to college? And be carefree and pretty like these people -- then call this number for information about the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

CLAM 6 Part I: McDonalds Website Analysis

The first impressions given by the USA McDonald's website and the impression of the Spanish website could not be more different!

The Spanish website features clean, layered fragments of the McDonald's logo with a blue sky background and strong "graphic design" image. Animated panels offer information about McDonald's specials and nutrition, and every few minutes a cheerful video plays advertising McDonald's "Calidad" -- or, Quality -- with fresh ingredients flying across the screen in slow motion, with those tiny little water droplets as if the lettuce were JUST washed.

The ETHOS is that McDonalds is a hip, modern corporation that values good health and quality ingredients -- just like you!
The PATHOS is the guilt-free satisfaction you can enjoy from eating McDonalds, with all those positive associations of fresh, healthy vegetables and high-quality beef.
The CHRONOS (sp?) or context of the website is that you can know what your food is made of, and be responsible for what goes into your body. A corporation that is up-to-date with modern values of healthy eating and civic responsibility is supposed to have the clean graphic approach that McDonalds has worked hard to display.
The LOGOS of the website is clear, with easily navigated links across the top, to tools such as finding a restaurant, applying for work, looking up nutrition facts, or finding out information about the corporation itself. Additionally the scrolling animation promotes features that McDonalds would like to highlight, such as new menu items and offers for children.

The USA website, on the other hand, is just painfully stereotypical American. A giant Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon Burger dominates the front page. As if the sheer amount of meat in the advertisement was not enough, the slogan underneath emphasizes the sensuous, indulgent qualities of the meal: "Chipotle is here for a good time, not a long time. Smothered in the sauce that's sensationally smoky, deliciously bold." The background is a drippy sauce-colored image that adds to the over-the-top promotion. The whole thing is totally sexed up: lighting, colors, testosterone-charged Cowboy vocabulary...even the Angus Axiom has thinly veiled sexual connotations ("for a good time call...") Meanwhile the add urges viewers to "seize the bold" -- adding to the manly cowboy image of the site.

ETHOS: McDonalds knows its business with MANLY MAN FOOD. We don't mess around with piddly little sissy stuff. We've got what you REALLY want.
PATHOS: McDonalds food is SEXXXXYYYYYY.....! You know you want it. Look at our clean, sexy meat. Beef beef beef. This entire ad is intended to make you salivate and subconsciously consider the various applications of the phrase, "Seize the Bold"...
CHRONOS: the context of this advertisement is the understanding that Americans want big, chunky, manly meals. Our priorities are not strongly aligned with health and quality. Instead, this ad tries to seduce us with sensory information about appearance, texture and flavor.
LOGOS: In a sidebar on the left, users can navigate information about the food, promotions, company background info, services, locations, and contact info. At the bottom of the Angus ad are some more visually appealing ads for McDonalds products, as well as a link to information about the beef quality.

This post is getting really long so I'm going to break it into 2 parts

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Literacies: The whole of human history leads here.

I hit my browser icon and type in the username and password to log into the Internet. This step always annoys me. As soon as I’m authorized, I open 2-5 tabs to different pages… whichever one loads first gets the first 5 minutes of my attention. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing homework, looking for a friend online, or googling images of Jordan Gordon-Levitt, I’m going to flick back and forth between those 5 tabs every few minutes. A new window takes about 8 seconds to load. I will spend those 8 seconds on another page. I’m in two separate instant-message conversations as I write this.

Am I a spoiled, shallow cross sample of a generation of Internet Divas? “Oh my gawd, the internet is, like, soooo slow!” Is Google making me stupid?

I think the changes in the way we think and read (now, “browse” and “surf”) are both a symptom and a product of humanity’s cultural history. And I think it’s important to honestly assess those changes without being quick to make value judgments. Things change. People change technology, technology changes us… it’s a dynamic relationship that flows both ways, in which fear is our only enemy.

Our priorities have changed. Richard Foreman’s “cathedral-like” person – dense, complex, and articulate – is no longer the primary cultural ideal. A cathedral is a particularly apt simile. Who builds cathedrals anymore? They don’t, not like they used to, hundreds of lives and hundreds of years, stone by stone. We can throw up a church in a couple of months, now, but so what? What is the meaning of a cathedral built in a single summer of crane-crossed skies?

We want something different, now. We want to free ourselves from the generations of trade knowledge that taught the peasants how to cut stone and build arches. The arch was successful, and the road, and soon, ideas and information were coming from across the world. It’s too much. We can’t store it all. We need a repository.

Humans dissociated themselves from time so that trains could run on a uniform, legible schedule. Henry ford dissociated us from the manufacturing process: reduce what you must know. Store the rest in a system. Technology multiplies information, and it’s too much. We live in a global world, now. I’m a 21-year-old female: a hundred years ago, I might well be darning socks by candlelight for my husband. That’s all I needed to know. Now, I need to have access to vast quantities and unbelievable varieties of information, just to competently interact with the world around me. When I wake up in the morning, I wake up to a globalized existence.

The Internet – this patchwork of screens that I live in – is that repository. From any portal I can access any bit of information. Thank God. I cannot imagine having to remember all the width and breadth of my knowledge for myself. The knowledge is stored and organized for me, without relying on my memory. Yesterday I talked to a guy from Korea. The city of Haeundae-gu, to be precise. While I was talking to him I looked up the Wikipedia article for his hometown. Now I know about one city in South Korea. It has great beaches. I was able to make this reference by looking up the article in my browser history. You need your socks darned? There’s a how-to website somewhere. I share knowledge with a 19th-century housewife and a South Korean student. The homogeneity and universality of the Internet is what enables me to access that knowledge.

Now I function not as a data storage unit, but as a node of relationships. “On the screen, the subjective again trumps the objective,” Kevin Kelly writes in his article, “Becoming Screen Literate,” “The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into a new mashup, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link.” How postmodern of you, Kelly. But those are our priorities: not to discover “absolute” data, but to draw new relationships between existing ideas. Hyperlinks are the ultimate expression of modern intelligence. Direct. Succinct. Impersonal. In this manner, we create and use thousands upon thousands of new relationships every day, between data, between ideas, between images and words and knowledge. Retaining data is not important. Drawing relationships between data points is our life and breath.

Is Google making us stupid? Or are we now still primitive man, chipping away at stones, making new tools to free ourselves from old labors to seek new ones?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

See pictures/read about Poor Man's Potluck here.

Tratando de ser integrada!

So I have been working on my integration into my host culture. This week I watchedCómo Entrenar a Tu Dragón with my Spanish friends (Gabriel, Sergi, Ramón) across the hall. It's exactly like How to Train Your Dragon, except with your comprehension of dialogue scenes relying heavily on expressive animated body language and repeated keywords.

I also somewhat successfully cooked Spanish tortillas, which is not at all what you think of when you hear "tortilla." In Spain, a tortilla is the lovechild of an omelet and a potato cake. They're simple to make, and thus popular as college kid food. Mine turned out okay although Gabriel says I need bigger chunks of potato to make it the right size and consistency. Cooking itself is still a little foreign to me, so I consider this an accomplishment.

To top it all off, a bunch of us ventured out last night to celebrate class being postponed today. We went to a bar where Liz and I got the opportunity to chat with some locals. (Parents: the bar culture is much more mainstream and not as sketchy as you probably imagine from back home. Also I was with lots of other people.) We met two young men, an Argentinian and an Australian. The Australian spoke perfect English and Spanish. The Argentinian (Mattias) knew only Spanish and the English titles of Pink Floyd albums. With Liz and I at about the same level of Spanish language competence, it was the perfect quadrangle of conversation with the Australian there to patch the holes. YAY!

I'm looking for ways to improve my grasp of Spanish by reviewing verb forms and vocabulary. I almost always understand the gist of what's being said, even at normal speaking pace, but I lack the resources to respond intelligently. The more I understand of the other person, the more complicated my intended reply becomes, and I'm stymied by simply not knowing the words. Last night was fun because it was light conversation, the kind of tone and vocabulary I've practiced in classes.

Friday, February 4, 2011

CLAM Blog 4: Imaginary Exchange Student


One of the things I laugh about here in Spain is my utter confusion when someone asks me, "Where are you from?" When meeting new people in Clemson, that part of the conversation is a well-worn routine. "Greenville... about 40 minute's drive from here... I went to Eastside High School..." Pausing, of course, to allow them to ask the series of questions that falls within their range of familiarity with the area. If they go so far as to ask what High School I attended, they'll likely conclude by rattling off a few names to see if I recognize any. There's about a 30% chance that I will.

Here, in Spain, I don't know what question I'm being asked unless I have some background information on the asker. "Greenville" means nothing unless you know South Carolina. South Carolina means nothing unless you already know I'm from the United States, which is in North America, which is in the Western Hemisphere. But sometimes, they're asking what study abroad program I'm with, where I'm staying in Spain, or even where my family's lineage hails from. I'm tempted to begin replying, "Planet Earth," just to establish some common ground. But, depending on who's asking, I'm not sure if the humor would translate.

Because the final, tiniest ring in the concentric circles of identity that ripple out around me is the space of my own mind, where everyone but me is a stranger. Think how often you have to explain yourself to someone inside all your other rings. I do things that seem illogical to outsiders because of the values, rituals, beliefs, song and dance in my head; the ethos, nomos, mythos, archon, and techne of my own subjective experience.

So "my people" needs definition, and a lot of it is reflexive: I am a female as opposed to a male, an American as opposed to a Spaniard, a South Carolinian as opposed to a New Yorker, a Clemson student as opposed to a Texas A&M student. I'll identify myself towards others in response to how they identify themselves towards me. Who is this exchange student? What is their previous culture and body of experience? That will make all the difference in how they encounter my people for the first time. I'm going to call my exchange student Eubert.


I think Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions are helpful for explaining the overall value systems and cultural trend of the largest circle, which is modern American culture. Based on my own experience, I would guess that Americans have a low PDI, a high (very individualist) IDV, have a lower MAS (more feminine), a medium low UAI (avoiding uncertainty), and a Long-Term orientation. In summary: Americans tend to have a low tolerance for unequally distributed power (watch the news), value individualism WAY more than collectivism (every man for himself. Watch the divorce rates), minimize the difference between gender roles and values (compared to the rest of the world), avoid uncertainty and favor belief in absolute Truth (I'm talking a culture-wide trend, here. Way more Baptists than Buddhists in America), and value thrift and perseverance with a big fat "F.U." to tradition, social obligation, and preserving reputation. Strangely, these are things that are easier to explain in an academic way than to explain to someone experiencing them for the first time.

Ehn... it's impossible to fully explain everything in all my culture rings to a stranger. Too broad a scope. I'mma skip down a few to a more interesting culture shift.


Dear Eubert,
Welcome to your new life at my family dinner table. Here are a few guidelines:

  • The cultural rule is don't discuss politics, religion, or sex at the "dinner table," but this rule will be broken by your mother, father, and grandmother. It's fine if they bring it up but not if you do. Smile and nod politely and avoid expressing any strong view which may be considered controversial. Since my grandma is a minefield of political and religious triggers, and my mother will die of shock and shame if you say anything about sex at all, I'd avoid speaking entirely until you've adjusted.
  • You should be smart. If you're not smart enough to seem smart, criticize pretentious people in an excruciatingly ironic meta-pretention.
  • You're also supposed to be creative. Good luck proving it.
  • Name-drop philosophers, artists, and authors as much as possible.
  • Mom has a sensitive conscience. Try not to make her feel guilty about anything or inadequate, because she often feels that way anyway and it will really make her sad.
  • Don't interrupt Dad's sermonettes on whatever has been on his mind lately. Sometimes you get really good stuff out of them, so try to listen in addition to being polite.
  • NEVER CUSS or you will get dirty looks from the parents and possibly a lecture about your character later.
  • Do not mention alcohol more than once in a conversation or you will receive the aforementioned lecture about your character.
  • Entertain Grandma's ill-informed questions about your life. She means well.
  • UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you permit a political discussion to begin with your Grandma present! Do ANYTHING, stand on your head, belch, sing row-row-your-boat, anything to divert attention away from political affairs. If you don't you will have to endure your grandma's incredibly misinformed political interests which she nurtures under the tender care of Fox news and fear-mongering militant conservative talk show hosts. Do not sarcastically refer to ridiculous political rumors (Obama is the antichrist, healthcare reform bill is a sign of the apocalypse, etc.) because chances are she might actually believe it.
  • Evan is Straightedge, Caroline is a vegetarian, Eric shops at thrift stores. Try and find something within the mainstream "hipster" counter-culture to distinguish yourself.
  • Pretend to be a Christian, even if you're not, for the sake of your grandma and to avoid more lectures.
  • Once you part ways with the Faith every negative experience you have will be attributed to your spiritual deficit. I would just keep hush about it and avoid the whole thing. It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you can smile and nod.
  • Eat grandma's food even if it is a strange combo and has too much mayonnaise.
  • Always compliment mom's food, too.
  • You can make fun of Dad's cooking if needed. But you won't, because he only cooks eggs and pancakes, and they're awesome.

Good luck.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sevilla y la Sociología

Humor me, I’m a Sociology minor.

This past weekend I took a trip to Sevilla (Seville to non-Spaniards) for a breath of fresh air. It’s a smaller city, so Ellis, Nathan, Colin, Melissa, Nick and I were able to comfortably explore the whole thing on foot in two days. I loved it. In part due to its size, Sevilla’s streets are wider and cleaner. Everything is very colorful and sunny, with the exception of a few minutes of rain Friday night. My favorite part was Alcazar: a gorgeous palace with extensive courtyards, fountains, and garden after garden. I loved the detail of the tilework and filigreed arcades set to a bright color palatte (thanks Moores). And in one garden, we saw peacocks! =D There’s a river through the city, and the walking path alongside it was beautiful, too.

One of the other things I noticed about Sevilla in contrast to Barcelona was the culture shift. People were out and about the entire weekend, dining in the plazas, shopping, and filling up the parks and boardwalks. In Barcelona, we did small scoping projects on local parks as part of our Seminar coursework, and everyone’s photographs showed barren, empty parks and plazas. Part of the difference may be the weather, since it’s still pretty cold in BCN, hovering in the 50’s this week and the 40’s last week. But I also noticed that people seemed friendlier and more accommodating in general. We went into a café, obviously foreign and shy of Spanish, and the proprietor went far out of her way to explain the menu and make us all comfortable. Not the resentful stare you get up here.

It’s probably a little of the North-South thing. I read somewhere a long time ago (warning: highly credible source, obviously) that the dynamic between friendly southerners and “colder” northerners shows up in many cultures throughout the world. Based on my current four points of reference, my scale goes something like this:

  • Greenville/Clemson: People initiate contact with strangers and are actively (some would say aggressively) friendly. Borders on creepy if you’re not used to it.
  • Sevilla: People mind their own business, but if they do interact with you, they’re going to be pleasant about it. It’s the perfect balance!
  • NYC: People mind their own business. I didn’t find New Yorkers unpleasant. They just assume you know what you’re doing, and they’re not going to get involved. They’re refreshingly indifferent to strangers.
  • Barcelona: There is ALWAYS someone trying to sell you something, getting an attitude or cat calling you. Actively unfriendly, in my personal opinion.

To cut the Barcelonians a break, we are living in Raval, which is a strange mix-mash of the “sketchy” side of town (not actually dangerous, just your stereotypical minority community) and the heavily touristed area across La Rambla. I think the locals who aren’t trying to make money off of tourists are pretty sick of them. At 5’10” and an Eastern European (?) profile, there’s no way I’m sliding past that one.