Category Archives: Blog Project Prompts

Blog Post #9: Wanting Things

In my opinion, basic necessity plays a very small role in shaping our desire for things. In modern America, the idea of satisfying our basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing, is almost silly when you consider how much we have progressed over the past decade. At one point, finding the proper fabric to keep us warm, the right medicine to cure our fever, or the sturdiest material to construct our homes from was a dilemma for the people of this world. Over time we have failed but gained new knowledge from it that has allowed us to progress to the confident nation we are today. Furthermore, these advancements have led to technology that 20 years ago would have been seen as wizardry or supernatural. All of this has resulted in an abundance of our basic needs that is available to almost anyone and everyone. The dilemma now is determining what pleases us most yet moderating our intake. According to an article by Patrick Hess entitled, “The Power Social Media Has Over Teen Lives”, these desires are heavily influenced by our society and the social media takeover that will continue to play a significant role in years to come.

Nowadays, instead of struggling to find clothing to keep you warm or dry, the struggle is about finding clothing that makes you look stylish, professional, or relaxed. As individuals, it is human nature to find ways to fit in and be accepted by those around you. One way of doing this, is to dress in the manner that a certain situation or scenario calls for. For example, if you are going to a job interview, it is advised that you dress in the professional manner that the job entails. An interview for a corporate job would require you to wear a suit and tie. An interview for a movie role might require you to wear makeup or dress in a silly costume.

Social media also plays a huge role in influencing our desire for things. To speak of the times when friends from opposite ends of the world could not communicate in an instant is like referencing the dinosaurs or the Stone Age. We are all so connected that we feed off each other and influence each other in so many ways. This is all done through social media. The issue here is whether we use that for good or bad.

Patrick Hess, from the Huffinton Post website, discusses in his article, “The Power Social Media Has Over Teen Lives”, the various reasons that social media is able to thrive in this era. One reason he gives is “the need for acceptance”. Social media allows us to associate with others that share common beliefs or interests. Social media compartmentalizes our lives into the different aspects that we enjoy and we are able to share these moments with others, often feeding off new ideas and advice they may have. Another reason he gives is to gain “answers to life’s questions”. This aspect can often be misunderstood and lead to negative affects for the individual. Many times social media portrays things that are not real or exaggerated and individuals could feel pressure to conform. This could lead to things like shopping sprees, low self-esteem, and faulty finances. For me personally, I enjoy Instagram and Twitter because they influence my desire to travel and attend festivals. Following accounts like National Geographic and Wonderful_Places on Instagram give me insight into places that I would love to visit in the near future. I have been to Europe and South America and those trips have fueled my love for travel. Twitter is good because I can follow airline accounts and check them on a daily basis for deals.

Source:

Hess, Patrick. "The Power Social Media Has Over Teen Lives." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

Blog 9 – Striving For More: What We Own is Never Enough

While my sister was growing up she wanted a puppy so bad.  It took her seventeen years to persuade my dad to have a pet in the house.  My dad always said that a pet is really exciting for the first couple weeks, but then the reality of the huge responsibility hits.  I think several parents have this conversation with their kids! Exactly what my dad said would happen is actually happening.  My dad has all of the responsibility for caring for the dog because the "newness" wore off.  Thankfully, my dad absolutely adores this dog.

I believe there are primarily three reasons why we desire things: all of which are socially constructed, which Karina asserted in her post.  The three reasons I have concluded are:

1. a longing to obtain something that seems out of reach, a feeling of success

2. a hope to improve ourselves

3. to fit in

A Desire to Attain

I am not sure if my sister fell in love with the idea of having a puppy or for attaining something that seemed without reach.  I think that's one aspect of desire:  the longing to obtain something that seems out of reach: something that will make us feel accomplished.  Once we have it set in our minds that we want something, we develop a fixation and obsession to obtain this item.  Once the item is obtained, though, it often does not seem as exciting as we always imagined.

In an article entitled  "The Unattainable Urge to Always Want What we Can't Have" poses that we long for things we can't have in all aspects of life.  Whether it be a car, a job, an object, or even in a relationship, desire is present in our every day lives.  An American educator is cited in the article, named George Loewenstein.  His explanation for the desire for seemingly unattainable things is as follows:

"According to Loewenstein, something significant happens when we feel a gap between what we know and what we want to know: curiosity hatches. As a result, we often feel the need to take action, to do whatever it takes to bridge that gap."

I certainly see where this curiosity Loewenstein mentions could lead people to purchase, but I believe there are other reasons as well, such as self improvement and fitting in.

An Attraction to a Product for Self- Improvement

I am guilty of this... guilty of thinking that a product can do something for me that I am not capable of doing myself.  'I will start working out.  I just need something to kick start my motivation.  Maybe some new, cute work out clothes will help,' I think to myself.  Another product that has sparked my interest are activity watches, such as The Fit bit, tracking aspects of health and activity levels.  Since I cannot seem to become motivated to exercise without a product, maybe a product like this will motivate me, I consider.  Here is an ad for The Fitbit:

Every one in this video seems so happy.  They are out doing active things that, let's fact it, we would all love to be out doing.  I think people see this ad and want that to be their lives.  While none of us are naive enough to believe a watch with transform our lives, I think a part of our subconscious associates happiness with a product like this.

A Desire to Belong in a Social Circle

Lastly, we seem to desire to fit in.  If the people we associate with on a regular basis have a certain item, we feel the need to buy what they have in order to fit in.  Again, it is a social thing.  An article entitled "Why "Retail Therapy" Works" describes the story of a woman who moves to a larger city for a new job.  She realized that her coworkers at the new job had nicer clothes than her, so she immediately went out and bought nicer clothes.  Desire can be largely connected to the attempt to fit into a social circle.

Can you think of examples when you bought something to feel succesful, to fit in, or to improve yourself?  Are there other reasons why someone may desire an object?

To conclude, I found an advertisement that incorporates the aspect of desire into its content.  I found it interesting, but I am still sure that a Mercedes owner would get bored of the car and try to aspire to the next step of the success ladder.

 

Featured Image Credit:  https://flic.kr/p/8fDscU

FitBit ad link:  https://youtu.be/K0qVi_nF6y8

Mercedes ad link:  https://youtu.be/SKyj2Gb4u0M

 

Egocentrism and Consumerist Culture

As soon as we begin a discussion about consumerist cultures index fingers fly outwards.  Yea, those "basic B*#%hes" or "Buckhead Betties" are all about it, not to mention those rap stars, but me?  Oh no, I'm immune to that.  I may like a few standard necessities, but it's not like my whole check goes to clothing.  Or we think that we are immune to advertising because we lack a television or may have taken courses in rhetoric, at least these are thoughts that come up for me when I think about consumer culture and wanting things.  But then I contemplate longer:  well there was that time in middle school that I got fake nails, I still own a designer purse that I bought around that time, and sure, for a while I shopped (and still do) at the Goodwill as per the trend.  Do I not directly tie who I am to my image, deciding whether or not to wear makeup, to put on patched or nice jeans, to cut my hair short or leave it long?  Okay, so I am image conscious, but does that mean that I am a part of the consumer mindset?

After working two retail positions, one at Whole Foods Market (or "Whole Paycheck"), and the latter and latest at lululemon Athletica, I've begun to realize that "image conscious" is another way of saying "self-centered".  This is the aspect of human nature that companies rely on as being consistently there.  If they can appeal to our desire for self improvement--something that is inborn--they can sell us anything from algae juice to skin-tight pants.  When selling products, after all, they are really selling a fictional version of you to you.

This example promotes healthy and adventurous lifestyles being pursued by beautiful people by normative standards.  In fact, lululemon's focus is so strongly on the lifestyle that their product supports that people in their ads do not even have to be wearing the product.  Instead, it is all about a lifestyle.  Consider the following #givepresence video.

This video includes many ages and styles.  Many of the subjects are not even wearing lululemon, instead representing the lululemon lifestyle through aesthetics.  We see a white background, bright but low contrast lighting, well-groomed adults, simplicity, and intense focus here.

The Whole Foods aesthetic is similar, as seen in the following video in which ABC News examines John Mackey's beliefs alongside his business model by claiming somewhat illuminatingly that

"Cost is a lot less important than ideals."

In my own experience, once I engaged in a company with whom I shared ideals, I transitioned into a more avid consumer and supporter.  Suddenly--partly because of the need to do well at my job and partly because of my increased desire for things--I found that while working for each company, I bought more choice foods and high-quality clothes for myself than ever before.

So what does all of this mean?  I suppose that whoever battles egocentrism also battles consumerism.  And hello, that's all of us.  But before we start feeling guilty, let's keep in mind that this is no great villainy unless we choose to remain unaware of what is going on.

Desire for Goods Stems from….

I get a lot of emails from stores such as Loft, Modcloth, and Amazon. They usually are advertising a sale on specific goods and usually I just delete them and continue with my day. Every now and then though, I will see a sale that is great and I feel like I need what they are selling and will go to their site to shop. Before I saw the email I didn't need or want anything from these stores, but after I find myself needing a new dress or some kitchen gadget.

large-1
Clueless

 

How did these stores manufacture my desire for consumer goods?

Scientists can't seem to agree on what makes humans desire certain things. In an article by LiveScience by Melinda Wenner, sociologist Dalton Conley stated, "Sociologists, evolutionary psychologists and economists all have different ideas about what drives our preferences, yet none really get to the bottom of the issue".

Speaking from a biology perspective, Neuron did a study that shows how a human brain's pleasure center kicks into gear and floods the brain with dopamine at the very thought of getting something we want. By just looking at a picture of something we get happy.  Scientists from many fields still theorize about why our brains do this though.

Psychology Today did an article titled The Madness of Materialism where many specialists put forth their ideas on materialism.

Many economists and politicians believe that acquisitiveness—the impulse to buy and possess things—is natural to human beings. This seems to make sense in terms of Darwin's theory of evolution: since natural resources are limited, human beings have to compete over them, and try to claim as large a part of them as possible...

Another theory is that the restlessness and constant wanting which fuels our materialism is a kind of evolutionary mechanism which keeps us in a state of alertness. (The psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi has suggested this, for example) Dissatisfaction keeps living beings on the look out for ways of improving their chances of survival; if they were satisfied they wouldn't be alert, and other creatures would take the advantage.

In conclusion, scientists don't really know how and why humans desire consumer goods so much. They only know that we do to satisfy cultural and biological needs.

www.tannerfriedman.com

 

Blog #9: Wants vs. Needs, 21st Century Edition

desire(Screenshot. Definition courtesy Google.)

Overview

We can talk about the differences between wants and needs all we want, but this concept seems too elementary and does not coincide with our advanced discussions in class. Therefore, when I speak of the necessities of life, I am referring to the things that we need to be socially accepted and to function properly in the 21st century. So, for example, while we do not need to wear clothes to breathe and survive, it would be frowned upon in society not to wear any (...right?). Likewise, even though we do not need a computer to keep us alive in the literal sense, we do need it to function in a world that is constantly dynamic in technological advancements.

Influential Factors

It goes without saying that desire is a part of human nature, so it is an absolute necessity of human existence. The things that each individual desires varies from one another, but the factors that influence these desires are the same. There are three that automatically come to mind: advertisements, status, and friends.

15everywhere.xlarge1(Photo courtesy NYT.com)

Advertisements. We cannot get away from them. In fact, according to Yankelovich, a market research firm, it is estimated that we see 5,000 advertisements every day, so it is inevitable that they influence us to desire certain items based on who they model and/or the message they associate with the product. Advertisements lead us to think that if we buy X, then we will be/be like Y. People will also have certain perceptions of us, which introduces us to the influence of status.

bmw
(Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Status plays a significant role in the things we want. We yearn for things because we want to look a certain way to the people around us. It is a way to categorize ourselves by social class. It builds self-confidence and adds value (or at least we think it does) to our lives. These are some reasons why people care about buying certain name brand clothes and cars.

friendslead
(Photo courtesy Engadget.com)

Friends (no, not the sitcom, your actual friends) also have a say in the things we want. They are judgmental of our belongings, and we want their approvals because they are the people in our lives that matter and with whom we come in contact the most. Ultimately, it is human nature to want our peers’ approvals and even want them to envy us because we generally put their opinions above all else’s.

My Examples: The Three C's

Basic necessity is just as it sounds; it is the basic foundation for the things that we need, but it is also the basic foundation for the things that we want. Think of them in terms of categories. What do we need to live and to be socially accepted today? I thought of three things with which the majority of people in today’s society can agree: cell phones, clothes, and college degrees. All of these things have evolved to being essential parts of life in the 21st century. They are my three chosen categories of basic necessities.

In regards to cell phones, the type of phone to buy is our want. Sleek Apple ads convince us to buy the latest iPhone so that we are part of the "elitist" Apple community which has accrued celebrity status but is also attainable by ordinary people, such as our friends.

Likewise, the name brands of clothes/accessories are  our wants. Louis Vuitton is a great example. The ads tell us that this brand symbolizes the highest social class. If our close friends have it, then we want it because we strive to be greater than or equal to our peers (see, friends influencing friends).

Lastly, and most importantly, we want to go to the best college when it comes to our college degrees. We treat educational institutions like name brands. The school where we get our degrees is indicative of our levels of education because our socially constructed world told us so. Not only that, but the type of degree that we earn must also be considered "useful" by our discourse communities.

Conclusion

I will make a bold statement and say that all of desire is socially constructed, whether it is explicit or whether it requires some explanation. Even the desire for my great grandmother's ring is socially constructed although it is an object of sentimental value. When I was given her ring by my aunt, she told me not to tell any of my cousins that I had it. Why? Because my cousins wanted it not only for its sentimental value, but also for its status : "I want this ring because it means whoever has it must be someone special within the family."

How much of our desires is socially constructed to you?

Sources Cited:

ASB. "Needs versus wants." YouTube. Video.

Story, Louise. "Anywhere the Eye Can See, It's Likely to See an Ad." NYT. Website.

"What is a discourse community?" UCF. Website.

Blog Post #10: What is exposition?

The full title of this class, from the course catalog, is "History, Theory, and Practice of Exposition." Over the course of the semester we have identified some of the formal and rhetorical characteristics of expository writing. In general, the purpose of expository writing is to explain, inform, and describe. Its organizational structure tends to be narrative or associative. Expository writing is often found in "essays," a form or genre that, as Lynn Z. Bloom explains, often operates as a catch-all category for the heterogenous canon of short works studied in first-year composition courses.  Expository writing that describes or explains the author's subjective experience and perception displays the markers of "expressive discourse," that is writing through which the author develops and comes to a better understanding of her identity as a human subject in the world.

Image credit: "Message #1" by John Nicholls on Flickr.

In this blog post, you will offer your answer to the question presented in the title: What is expository writing? Or, in a formulation that includes modes of composition that employ more than alphabetic text: What is exposition? How is exposition different from persuasion? And what is the relationship between exposition, as a rhetorical activity, and material culture studies, as an interdisciplinary field of cultural study and analysis? What, if anything, can we learn about the history, theory, and practice of exposition from material culture studies? Or, how does material culture studies draw upon the theories, or reproduce the practices of exposition?

Posting: Everyone

Commenting: Anyone who feels like it.

Category: What is exposition?

In your Blog #10 post, you should do more than offer a list of answers to these questions. Rather, you should offer a cohesive, reasoned answer to the central question presented in the prompt title: What is exposition? In the course of attempting to answer that question, you may also be offering answers to these or other related questions. Your post, though, should read as a coherent statement about, perhaps even an argument in favor of the criteria you are using to define what exposition is. You are encouraged to draw upon any of the texts we have read this semester, including Writer/Designer and Everyone's An Author.  Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog as they've been outlined in the Blog Project Description.

Feature Image: "moleskine" by Jochen Handschuh on Flickr.

Blog Post #9: Wanting Things

Over the course of the semester, one of the things we have circled around is the problem of desire. To what extent is our desire for things an intrinsic and necessary part of human existence? For example, we need objects to help us accomplish the "projects" Kinneavy identifies in "Expressive Discourse."

Image “consume” by Nathan Siemers on Flickr.

And to what extent is our desire for things manufactured by what Clifford might call the "dominant ideology"? For example, advertisers convince us we need stuff not necessarily because we need it to survive or even to be emotionally and physically comfortable, but because companies need consumers to buy their products in order to turn a profit.

Image “Consume” by What What on Flickr.

For this week, consider the different factors that influence human desire. What role does basic necessity play in shaping our desire for things? How do the intrinsic properties of the things we desire influence our consumption habits? How much of desire is socially constructed?

Posting: Group 2

Commenting: Group 1

Category: Wanting Things

In your Blog #9 post, you should do more than offer a list of answers to these questions. Rather, try frame your post around the description of a central experience or practice from your own life, or an interpretation and analysis of the information you've gathered in your research for the object analysis. Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog as they’ve been outlined in the Blog Project Description.

Feature Image: “CONSUMED” by Mark Colliton on Flickr.

 

The Meaning of Value

There was a brief group analysis done in a study, and the question that was asked was each person valued. While answers differed among each individual, there was one commonality, which was that value did not always hold a monetary significance. So, it can be said that value is based on the importance of one’s emotions.

Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they're probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.

Our values are our greatest motivations for which we spend our time, and sometimes, money on. I guess, personally for me, the value of human life is what I choose to absorb into my life. Our life is like a treasure box in which we’re constantly adding meaningful objects, people, and memories into; removing harmful or toxic people at the same time. But in the end, they all leave some type of mark, and it makes our life story more interesting.

kintsukuroi3

(kintsukuroi)

There is a form of Japanese art where they take a broken bowl or a vase, and “glue” them back together with gold. The idea behind this theory is that repairing this broken pottery makes it much more beautiful for having been broken. Instead of disguising its cracks, it instead embraces them. Instead of getting thrown away, it now becomes an object of value because of its history and strength.

So basically, we give things value. Knowledge is important, but we give value towards education. I feel like knowledge is common sense, and it’s something we are all capable of, but we put a price on it making it something of value. As Ty mentioned on her post; we heavily influence how valuable something becomes. A plain t-shirt might sell better if a celebrity endorses the t-shirt, thus helping it to sell for over hundreds of dollars. So, the value of life, education, or things, is what we bring into it.

What Does Value Mean to you?

Before taking this course if someone asked me the value of anything I would have more than likely immediately thought of it from a monetary standpoint. Now I see things completely different. Many things in this life you simply can't put a price on. No amount of money in world can measure up to the value of some things.

In my opinion there is not just one correct definition for "value". Value holds a ton of different meanings that vary from person to person. My definition of value would be how something or someone makes you FEEL. The price of the object has absolutely nothing to do with its true value I feel. This is where people sometimes get lost and lose touch with what really matters. Many people think money money money when in reality that's not what truly matters. Lets take human life for example. There is no amount of money on the face of this earth that could be traded for human life. Human life is priceless and holds a value that is unattainable with any amount of money. I think I can speak for everyone when I say human life is quite valuable. Ironically however it is the things that are priceless that many people take for granted like human life!!

Now there are things in this life that are quite expensive and yet hold value beyond the amount of money spent on it. A great example of this would be education. I am a firm believer of the old saying "knowledge is power". Unfortunately knowledge comes at a steep price. We spend loads and loads of money to obtain a college degree in order to have a "better life". The very life that is precious and holds such a high value. Although we grunt and despise spending all of this money the knowledge gained and what we as individuals can concur utilizing it is its true value.

At the end of the day the value of something or someone is what you make of it. It is quite relative. An old rusty watch could appear to hold no significant to one person but be priceless to the next. That rusty watch could have tons of sweet precious memories of a loved one attached to it or a beautiful history behind it. These factors are what determines the value of something or someone. Things that can't be replaced and memories that can't be duplicated are what makes something priceless.

Listen to your heart when determining the value not the price.