RE: freeway-mediatiing-tools & others

Date: Sat Jun 19 2004 - 21:55:46 PDT

It is courious, Jay. One of the things that as a foreign me stroke me
a lot of the USA electoral campaigns was that they were street clean,
at least relatively to political campaigns in Chile. So, the images of
Iraj were somehow new to me. Indeed most of the things I saw during
the last years while I was in the USA were American flags and some "I
support our troops" boards. In the last Chilean presidential election
the candidate of the right had advertisings with his name in ALL (and
this must be taken literally) the light posts of the country. That
was, of course, a huge invasion of our public space, and got him 48%
of the votes. It seems that this demonstration of public force through
the repetition of his name was enough to have him as a good
alternative for many (plus a very simplistic discourse). Fortunately
the guy lost by a small margin to the left candidate who struggled to
compete in public advertising with much smaller funding. Contrary to
the USA, political messages appear on TV in a regulated way, that is
to say, in a proportional way to the electoral weight of the
candidates. As our electoral system forces the political parties to
compete in two big coalitions, both guys got a similar time on TV but
not in the streets. (Actually nobody cared about the TV propaganda,
which was a small time of the day at the same time everyday). 30 years
ago, before Pinochet, the street seemed to have been less controlled
by the official propaganda of the parties and was more of a real place
of competing discourses. During the Pinochet regime, it was the main
space of resistence. We actually had very nice "murales" made by the
political brigades and quite creative voices of resistance. Now we
recovered democracy, but lost the streets to the organized advertising
of the political parties. That make me thing of the famous Sartrean
dictum which says something like "we never were as free as under the
Nazi ocupation".


Quoting Jay Lemke <>:

> These are very interesting questions in terms of theory.
> I first encountered something like this with the BUGGER-UP campaign
> in
> Australia, where people went in the night to paint-over strategic
> portions
> of advertising billboards in cities and along main roads. They
> particularly
> targeted cigarette ads in the period I was aware of them. They would
> make
> clever modifications of letters and sometimes images to change and
> usually
> to reverse the meaning of the billboard, so that it was negative for
> the
> brand image being sold.
> In part this depended on the existence of many other copies of the
> billboard that were NOT altered, so the originals were familiar to
> people
> and they could interpret and appreciate the few that were "de-faced"
> by the
> activists as referring to the original brand images and marketing.
> I think this activity would be most naturally interpreted in terms of
> deCerteau's notions of counter-hegemonic tactics in the popular
> culture
> world. It could also be interpreted through Bakhtin's notions of
> heteroglossia, and some newer related ideas of my student Caspar van
> Helden
> about "polyvalence", which is a particular sort of strategic
> ambiguity/polysemy that depends on the existence of multiple
> audiences or
> audiences that have internalized multiple possible viewing positions
> and
> value systems.
> When we add to these discursive effects the contexts of spaces,
> places, and
> media we can appreciate that places and our movement through them (as
> well
> as virtual attentional spaces such as a radio dialogue we may hear as
> we
> drive) are also meaning-making resources of a specialized kind, and
> which
> can be integrated with visual and linguistic signs in a variety of
> ways to
> make special meaning effects. A famous case of this are the "Burma
> Shave"
> roadside signs in the US, mainly in the 1930s to 50s, I think. They
> were
> small, each one only a word or two, and spaced along the road so
> that, at
> the normal speed of driving, they appeared in your visual field at a
> fixed
> rate as you drove -- something like a cinematic effect, but much
> slower --
> and they "spoke" a message, complete in some cases with strategic
> pauses
> for special effect. Usually these were everyday moral sayings, often
> Christian in inspiration, or biblical quotations. And the last one
> always
> said simply "Burma Shave" the name of the shaving cream product being
> sold.
> I am sure that some clever teenagers must have modified some of these
> signs
> in interesting and creative ways, to the horror of their elders.
> A billboard, or a defaced billboard, is a different experience seen
> briefly
> as we drive past it, or seen steadily at some distance, standing and
> not
> moving. Different again is the effect of a "bumper sticker" that we
> see
> steadily in front of us, but in a small field of vision. The
> institutional
> context of a visual advertisement in a magazine, on a television, or
> on a
> billboard that we walk past everyday in our normal lives is also
> different.
> Some of these are far more intrusive into public spaces that coerce
> our
> vision without any act of consent (buying a magazine we know has ads
> in it,
> watching commercial television likewise), and so acts of resistance
> to them
> have a different social meaning. Similarly, for any group that feels
> that
> they are denied a public voice, or that paid voices are allowed to be
> louder with no democratic justification, there will always be means
> sought
> to enter public attentional spaces. Once there, and we are all there,
> we
> find available resources for making meanings, often existing text
> materials
> or technological affordances, which we can then turn to our own
> purposes,
> to put forward our own voices. A bumper sticker also usually carries
> the
> personal voice of the driver as endorser of its message, very
> different
> from a billboard which has no personal voice behind it (no
> "principal" in
> Goffman's terms), which raises interesting questions about the voice
> which
> takes responsibility (cf. Bakhtin on "answerability") for collective
> signs
> of resistance along the road?
> I find that commercial advertising calls to my home telephone are
> already
> incredibly frequent (I absolutely must turn the phone off to work at
> home
> or I get up to four such calls an hour, in many cases from
> institutions
> with whom I already do business of some kind, e.g. my bank or cable
> television provider). I don't drive with my cellphone, so I wonder if
> people are already being deluged by such "voice-spam" calls while
> driving
> the roads? While negotiating multiple attentional spaces as when
> driving,
> having a conversation, listening to the radio, watching billboards,
> and
> answering a cellphone ... is theoretically interesting, it also seems
> to me
> in many cases to put people's lives at added and needless risk. (The
> recent
> effort to allow people to add their phone numbers to a national data
> bank
> of No-Call numbers for commercial purposes was overturned, or
> indefinitely
> delayed in the US, by our conservative courts, which seem to think
> that
> the right to disturb my personal privacy at home or while driving in
> order
> to sell me time-share real estate in Florida is an absolute
> constitutional
> human right ... of the sort that Iraqi children apparently do not
> have to
> be free from "shock and awe" bombardments.)
> "Momentary outcomes" of interpretive perception there are in many of
> these
> cases, but we should keep in mind also that many of these signs are
> repeatedly put forward to our attention, over longer time periods (a
> basis
> of advertising, and counter-advertising, campaigns), even if each
> individual encounter is very brief. And collectively, in most cases,
> both
> the sources of these signs/messages, and their various audiences, are
> collective groups, spread out themselves through space and over
> time.
> Many thanks for raising these provocative issues, Iraj.
> JAY.
> At 03:33 PM 6/17/2004, you wrote:
> >Thanks Judy for your response and Sorry for not being able to say
> things
> >clearly. Let me try differently by asking:
> >
> >How does one talk about this kind of public protest in CHAT? It
> appears to
> >me that is part of some 'activity' and it must use 'tools' and
> does
> >something with 'rules and roles.' And all actions occur in their
> own
> >cultural history and geography. And actions produce, respond to, and
> may
> >resolve multiple conflicts --in gesture and speech and meaning
> making.
> >
> >I do not know about history and geography of this kind of action.
> But it
> >seems to me that any protest involves engaging with other forces
> that
> >already have history and geography. A momentary outcome depends on
> >'interplay' of forces--what meaning is produced in the mind of a
> driver on
> >the freeway in response to observing a protest sign?
> >
> >iraj
> >
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: Judy Diamondstone []
> >Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2004 12:12 PM
> >To:
> >Subject: RE: freeway-mediatiing-tools & others
> >
> >Iraj, I'm not sure how to read your commentary on the site you've
> cited
> >below.
> >
> >Or perhaps I should say, I'm not sure how to read your commentary on
> >by way of the political performance "art" advocated on the site.
> >
> >The Los Angelos Art Squad (not sure of the name) used billboards to
> "talk
> >back" to commercialism in the 1970s -- the freewaybloggers are
> certainly not
> >the first, though I think this particular kind of expropriation of
> public
> >sapce did start in California (does anyone know?)
> >
> >Judy
> >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: IRAJ IMAM []
> > > Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2004 11:13 AM
> > > To:
> > > Subject: freeway-mediatiing-tools & others
> > >
> > >
> > > I came across this interesting site.
> > >
> > > I will try talk about this in a general way, please excuse my
> > > misreading of
> > > CHAT.
> > >
> > > I thought this is somehow related to recent discussions on
> > > 'externalization'
> > > and on 'bodies, matter, action, and meaning.' These sign postings
> on
> > > freeways (and callings on White hate radios) seem to show
> people
> > > (subjects)
> > > taking action using visual (and audio) tools [gesture and
> > > speech], breaking
> > > formal rules and impose their own informal ones on public spaces
> (freeway
> > > and airways). By taking up a 'new role' and status, as
> > > 'offender', they seem
> > > to expand on the 'community.'
> > >
> > > They seem to 'externalize' a kind of 'counter script' and
> project
> > > images and
> > > concepts through signs and words that go in the direction of
> hoping to
> > > produce a 3rd space (a la Lefebvre and Soja)--a different
> 'activity.'
> > >
> > > Taking advantage of daily spatial practices of a large number of
> people is
> > > not something new. Bill boards and commercials have been
> polluting urban
> > > spaces and airways for so long. These practices and their tools
> are seen
> > > 'normal' through sanctioned 'roles and rules' that have produced
> their own
> > > historical and geographical culture. Using these public spaces
> > > for another
> > > 'activity' is interesting.
> > >
> > > iraj imam
> > >
> > > The Center for Applied Local Research
> > >
> Jay Lemke
> Professor
> University of Michigan
> School of Education
> 610 East University
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Tel. 734-763-9276
> Email.
> Website.

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