Week 5: Culture + Technology + Identity

September 18, 2009

For this week, we read most of Slack & Wise’s Culture + Technology and talked about Western paradigms of progress, convenience, and control, as they pertain to our understandings of technology and who we consider technologically literate and/or advanced. Further, this work helped us to think through technologies and our relationships to them as rhetorical and technological assemblages and articulations. Through a cultural studies and actor-network approach, Slack & Wise help us to imagine broader definitions of technology and to think about technology as more historically and culturally that contemporary fixations on new media tend to do. For example, they historicize how certain technologies have been unequally delegated and prescribed along gender, ethnic, class, and ability lines. Further, they interrogate how technologies prescribe identities and standards of beauty.

This work reminds me of the important work of Christina Haas and her evidence that we need to further consider the relationships between old(er) and new(er) media–and what we can learn from older media to imagine more useful and usable technologies, workplaces, etc. in the future.

Ironically enough, last week I saw an interesting ad for Post Shredded Wheat cereal that critiques progress for progress sake and argues that they are not succumbing to the pressure. I searched for the ad online and found the video of it. I found the discussion/controversy that ensues below the video compelling. Check it out: http://adweek.blogs.com/adfreak/2009/05/post-shredded-wheat-is-not-fond-of-progress.html

Haas, Christina. (1999). On the Relationship Between Old and New Technologies. Computers & Composition, 16(2), 209-228.
Slack, Jennifer Daryl & J. Macgregor Wise. (2005). Culture + technology: A primer. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.


One comment

  1. That is so funny! I’ve seen that Shredded Wheat commercial so many times and I’ve thought to myself how strange it is that they are criticizing progress… of all things, progress.

    After about the fifth viewing I slowly began to realize how ironic they’re being (I was slow to the take — though, in my defense, the 30-second spots are far less obvious than that 1-minute version) and, as the comments below that video iterate, how brilliant the whole idea really is.

    It really is the best of both worlds. For those conservative-minded Americans that actually shun progress and change, the commercial can be (and likely is) taken very literally. “Golly, Marge! Let’s buy that Shredded Wheat… they don’t fool with their recipe!”

    Inversely, we have our liberal audience who, ideally, will get the joke… being that there is so much irony in the ad and that, well, after all, Shredded Wheat must actually be pretty good since they haven’t had to mess with their recipe. No gimmicks necessary.

    I love visual rhetoric that works literally to convey a message and, additionally, on a higher plane, as tongue-in-cheek critique of that literal message. Artwork — paintings, sculptures, photographs, et al — can work in very much the same ways, and do. Pop art, in particular, comes to mind. Those too dumb (forgive my crassness) to get the silent cultural critique see simply pretty colors and visuals (so the artwork works to capture the attention of the easily dazzled and the intellectual elite alike). Brilliant.

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