Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Manufacturing the discourse

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2011 at 10:59

This is an article from MSNBC about a memo outlining the need for corporate control of the OWS discourse. It illustrates not only plans to exert influence on the movement as a whole, but to also target individual leaders within the movement and politicians who express support for the movement with what will essentially be smear campaigns. The strategy starts with a $850,000 budget just for preliminary research and opinion polling in order to find the best routes for manufacturing discourse. Make sure to check out the video at the bottom of the page.

Here is a link to a PDF of the memo:http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/CLGF-msnbc.pdf


Subtleties of the discourses

In Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 at 14:52

This is a portion of an article from the NYT as quoted on MSN about sanitation and public health at the OWS site at Zucotti Park in NYC. In it a doctor comments on transmission of disease in the encampment:

Although condoms are often available on-site, Dr. Tierno said the protest’s evolution to private tents, from sleeping out in the open, had raised the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. The site’s pounding drum circles, he added, could lead to hearing damage. He compared conditions at Zuccotti Park to those in a hajj — the pilgrimage to Mecca, in which whole groups of people have come down with respiratory infections in a short time — and those experienced by the flower children of the 1960s, when, he said, communal living situations created problems with sanitation and sexually transmitted diseases.

This is such a great illustration of how discourse draws upon other discourses to be effective. An expert is quoted, thereby giving the words authority, which are used to project other discourses on to OWS. Promiscuity is inferred with the mention of the need for condoms and of the increased risk of STDs, thus linking the OWS discourse to negative discourses around sexual morality. Drum circles invoke discourses of tribalism and Western association of the drum to “primitive” culture, lack of civilization, and lack of control. Referencing the Hajj draws in discourse of Muslim and the lovely associations that the West has constructed onto that identity. Flower children inject discourses of vapid hippie-dom an being outside of mainstream society. Each of these discourses have been deployed, consciously or not, to position OWS outside of acceptable discourses of civility and “normal.” Other less marked discourses could have been referenced in order to illustrate  the effects of people living in close proximity. For example, cruise ships or conventions (such as the American Legion convention that led to “Legionnaire’s Disease”) could have been used instead of referencing the Hajj, and refugee camps could have been used instead of references to communes and flower children.

Link to article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45260520/ns/health-health_care/#.Tr2kOlaK9M4

Collaborative Questions

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2011 at 11:47

•What problem or issue does your collective work address?

For this project, we will be looking at the discourses of OWS and how it is being defined. Media is the most dominant form of representation of OWS, and we wanted to find out what kinds of discourses were being done at the site, and compare the two. How are they self-identifying, and forming an identity, and how is the media doing this as well? By working within and collaborating as a group with different perspectives, it will be interesting to see how different interpretations will occur. This format will help force us away from a normative interpretation of OWS. As part of the project we will also have to articulate what premises are necessary in order to accept an interpretation as “true;” what kinds of “common-sense” are at play? Working collaboratively, we will be more likely to recognize these tendencies within ourselves and the discourses surrounding OWS.

•How can your collective work intervene in, upend, rewrite, or transform that problem?

Our project is an example of a meaningful intervention; in other words, a way for Cultural studies scholars to interpret current events and to formulate knowledge. We can use our analytic skills to look at how identities are being formed, and the discursive practices that are being positioned within OWS, which is something that is resisting definition. Media have had a hard time distilling it down into a soundbite. Some of the questions that we will examine surround the branding exercise is happening by political parties, media, and OWS itself. Is there a resistance to this? How might we contrast these things? Has the movement become mainstream? How has it changed over time? People are discomforted with a lack of “clear message” within the mainstream. Why?

•What other people, institutions, and organizations would you like to bring into your collaborative project? How will you invite them into your project?

OWS is leaderless, so we cannot invite them in. The question for our collaboration is more: how are we part of the organization, and how can cultural studies workers contribute to the organization. We have invited ourselves into the organization and the space as participants and observers. We are also learning to collaborate among ourselves, as people with different political perspectives. Could we get other perspectives, or link blogs with people? Get opinions from different parts of the movement, not just Seattle? Other cities? Unions?

•Who are the intended audiences for your collaborative work? How are you going to build those audiences?

We are making a blog and the audience, for now, is between our collaborators. At some point we will open the blog up to the public, and try to promote it more. But for now, we would like to concentrate on making it into something that we feel good about sharing with the public. Because of this, then, the project at this time is focused on troubling, finding sites of meaning, and questions. As a long term project, the site could potentially be developed into a place where a wider public, or cultural studies people or OWS can also contribute to this discussion. We are positioned as coming from an academic perspective so we have to acknowledge the power that we have in our interpretation. We hope that the blog can also be a kind of archive or example of a collaborative exercise that could contribute to learning about collaboration.

•Provide an agenda of collaborative work over the next year (and beyond if you are so inclined). How might this project intersect with your work and interests after you complete graduate school?

Over the next quarter and coming year, we will use the blog as a platform for examining how our research skills and methodologies can be useful or can be applied to a current event, and how our methodologies could potentially be useful in interpreting movements, communities or media. We see this activity as useful for our own work because identity formation is happening at OWS and we are all studying identity formations to some extent for our capstone projects. We are all interested in questions such as: what are the truisms/common sense that need to be in place in order for certain things to be true? Our own research projects can tie into our OWS blog project by helping us to understand how we can better examine contested meaning at a specific site. OWS a good example, and a good snapshot and scale for what activist scholars can come up with for a quick analysis of a current event. This is important because the media cycle is so quick, and academics may be asked what they think as public scholars. How can we intervene in the current discourse that is being formed? We hope that by doing this, and using our cultural analysis, we will be more thorough and grounded than journalists can be.

•How does your research and work as a MACS student inform the tactics of your collaboration? How does your cultural studies theory/methods influence your practice?

This project is heavily based on discourse analysis techniques coming from a Foucaultian perspective, yet it is also about hegemony, and who is changing the terms of the debate. Although our analysis for this project is not based on analyzing the political discourse per se, we are informed by the political economic factors surrounding the formation of OWS. A major part of this project could be defined as coming from a communications perspective, as we are looking at how ideas are being communicated, by who, and what this means in terms of power. The media analysis part of our project is coming from this perspective. We see this project as a way to apply what we have learned in MACS to a current event, and to see what happens when we try to bring our critical cultural knowledge outside of the academy.

Maps of OWS

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2011 at 14:39

In honor of this week’s readings I looked up some ways that OWS is being mapped:

Social Media

Individual Attendees

Locations of Protests

Protest Locations as well as Major Events and Arrests

Audio Clips from Westlake Center

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2011 at 10:15

Here are some audio clips from Westlake Center.

This is a clip from a woman in her 30’s who was carrying a sign that read “if you make less than $164,000 per year you are part of the 1%.” She looked like a typical suburban soccer mom and was standing with two other protesters at the corner of Westlake Plaza, somewhat apart from the main encampment of Occupy Seattle.

This is a clip from a man in his 30’s (the brother of the woman interviewed above). He looked like a typical Northwest urbanite, dressed in polar pleece and a toque. His sign had an image of Captain America. He describes how he became involved with Occupy Seattle.

This is a second clip from the man interviewed above. In this clip he talks about public perception and media perception of the movement.

This clip is from a young man who was passing out fliers about the idea of moving the encampment to Seattle Central Community College. He looked like a typical NW college student. In this clip he talks about reasons to move to Seattle Central and in this clip he talks about health care.

“Vendetta” mask becomes symbol of Occupy protests – Celebrity Circuit – CBS News

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2011 at 20:35

“Vendetta” mask becomes symbol of Occupy protests – Celebrity Circuit – CBS News.

Remember, remember the fifth of November…I never realized that the mask image was supposed to by Guy Fawkes, but as I was researching images associated with OWS, I finally figured it out. I thought it was a joker-batman-clown image at first and I had no idea where it cam from. It’s fitting that it’s the 5th of Nov today!

Occupy WS airs TV ad

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2011 at 20:13

Air time has been purchased and the ad has been showing since Saturday on Bloomberg News, ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox News, among other networks and is booked through Monday. The ad was expressly created to contribute to the discourse around OWS identity. In it, the multi-message positioning of the movement is maintained, and indeed highlighted, as is the multi-generational, multi-classed, and multi-ethnic composition of the constituents.

Click here to link to video and article on MSNBC : http://fieldnotes.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/05/8657432-occupy-reaches-into-living-rooms-through-new-tv-ad

Slavoj Zizek: ‘Now the field is open’ – Talk to Al Jazeera – Al Jazeera English

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2011 at 19:37

Slavoj Zizek: ‘Now the field is open’ 

An interview with Zizek on many subjects including OWS, the Arab Spring, the Greek protests, and other discontents. He claims that they are all a similar resistance.

He speaks near the end about how the tea party appropriated the language of working people’s struggles for themselves, but now that OWS and other struggles have entered the scene “times have changed.”

Street Space

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2011 at 19:26

Street space:

(Referring to the IWW struggles of the early 1900’s):

“The streets were the physical means of production for meanings. They were the spaces in which values were produced and contested. The result was a series of protracted and often bloody ‘free speech’ fights in which control over the streets was a physical and ideological battleground for the ability to organize, control, and shape the social reproduction of labor.

What are the physical means for meaning and value production now? How has access to audiences changed? Where are the spaces in which an audience may potentially be found and organized, and who controls access to those spaces? How have ideological and physical struggles over the shape of social reproduction been transformed? There are no simple answers to these questions, but there are important trends worth noting. In the first place, spaces of communication and meaning have more and more moved ‘inside’: inside the radio, television, and internet, inside the mall and shopping center, and inside the movie house. These spaces are more readidly amenable to monopolized control (over the means of production of meaning) than are the streets. They are also spaces , in modern capitalist socity, that are (for the most part) privately owned” (p 86).


Mitchell, D. (2000). Cultural geography: a critical introduction. Blackwell: Malden, MA.

Who defines?

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2011 at 19:23

Who defines?

“As Guy Debord (1994:130) put it in his classic account of the Society of the Spectacle, ‘culture is the general sphere of knowledge, and of representations of lived experience, within a historical society divided into classes; what this amounts to is the power to generalize, existing apart, as an intellectual division of labor and as the intellectual labor of division.’ A second starting point for understanding the production of culture, therefore, is to focus on who possesses this ‘power to generalize’ and  how they use it to advance the ‘intellectual labor of division’- the division of one group from another so as to stabilize and name ‘culture,’ and so as to say about their own or other’s lived experience: ‘this is true.’” (p 72).

“[The culture industry’s] job is to develop the idea of culture so as to normalize or smooth over contradictions between systems of production (which are inherently and grossly unfair) and systems of consumption (which rely on the myth that we all can have it all). One of the jobs of people working in the culture industries is to name and define resistances and strategies to the workings of the political economy, to redefine them as ‘culture’ and hence as an expression of ‘taste’ rather than active resistance” (p 80).


Mitchell, D. (2000). Cultural geography: a critical introduction. Blackwell: Malden, MA.