Forum C

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Compare the two billboard advertisements above that were distributed across the state of Montana when I lived there by the Montana Meth Campaign.  Based on your reading from Discourses in Place, what narratives are being created in these billboards? How are these narratives created by the represented participants?  How is modality achieved in these billboard?  What are the main indicators of modality in each image? How are they different? Lastly, what kinds of relationships are created between the images and the viewers? How is that relationship created differently in each image?

Also, what kind of social control do these billboards attempt to influence?  Who is responsible for this exertion of social control? What ramifications ensue from these billboards that Montanameth.org might not have considered or weighed heavily enough? Do the potential benefits outweigh the potential harm? Do you find these billboards a problematic and/but justified use of public space? Why or why not? Please explain….

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4 responses to “Forum C

  1. In the billboards the narratives that are being used are: 1). the representations of real world actions in visual images, 2). the problem of how visual images index the real world in which they are placed, and 3). The problem of how social index actors index these images which are so abundant in our world, constructing ongoing social performances as part of the social situation front.
    The director who is taking these shots make the actors looks like “junkies”. By using make-up, picking people that are thin and having the actors give them the right facial expressions.
    According to the book, modality is the truth value or credibility of statements about the world. In the billboards the truth is that by sharing needles you can end up with hepatitis or HIV. In the first billboard the statement is about you’ll do anything for that next hit.
    The main indicators are the needles and the guy on top of the female. How they are different is by the first one the girl looks so forlorn. She seems to be only thinking of the hit that she is going to get when he is done with her. In the second billboard it seems that the girls are about to share a needle even though they have diseases.
    The images that are being portrayed are that if you happen to get hooked on drugs might be your reality. There are functional addicts in this world some make it and some don’t. I don’t feel that there is much of a difference. They are both talking about the problems of doing drugs.
    The social control that the billboards represent is the Montana government trying control the drug use in their state. The people that is responsible for the social control of what’s put out to the country is the United States government. Some of the ramifications are the people that sell the drugs. They don’t think about how much money these people make. Also they always go after the small drug dealers not the big guys.

  2. The two meth billboard campaigns are similar in many ways. They both are portray young girls that are stripped from their innocence. Their helpless facial expression are strong indicators of narrative representation. We can read clearly into these advertisements because human expression is universal. Also these images are said to have the “highest modality” because these photographs have “natural coloration which is seen as the most faithful to reality” (Scollon, 90). The second billboard with the two girls is considered narrative representation because their gaze towards the audience suggests that the photographer wanted the viewer to have an emotional response. In the reading, this is called a vector. A vector means a movement or a gaze in which the participants make some relations with one another (Scollon, 87). This concept can also be referred to as a focal point. In graphic design fundamentals, there needs to be a hierarchy in which elements are placed together. For example, it is called the primary, secondary and tertiary elements. Even though the first image is not technically looking at anything or affecting anything, there is a strong vertical emphasis. The design is effective because the bleek facial expression is the focal point and the typography in a way frames her face, putting even more emphasis in the expression. Scollon also mention that naturalistic representation is the primary modality in Western aesthetics (Scollon,90).

    The Montana Meth Campaign is directed towards young people specifically in the hard-hit Midwest. Thomas Siebel, an educated businessman, founded the campaign. His goal is to spread awareness and reduce the use of Methamphetamine. To appeal to the young generation, the concept for the billboard designs portrays naturalistic representations (Scollon,90). This method allows viewers to see the physical destruction of using meth, making a greater impact than symbolic imagery. On the website, there are personal biographic of young people sharing their stories. They are exerting social control by warning us about the impact of meth. I feel that Montanameth.org is an organization that is advocating a good cause but I feel in some instances they are targeting young meth users, which can be uncomfortable for some people to talk about. I feel the billboards are problematic but justified because even though the images are graphic and disturbing, I think that it is a good way to communicate when they show the extreme cases. For instance, they claim that 63%The campaign wants to create fear and awareness to potential meth users and they specifically target teenagers to young adults due to social pressures and curiosity. Meth: Not Even Once is an effective slogan because it is saying that one dosage is not even acceptable. It can also be argued that the billboards are inappropriate to be displayed in public space. The billboard advertisements show no sympathy and do consider the feelings of those who already are meth users.

  3. In the first billboard the narrative that is being created is the fact that the girl is using meth and is obviously now addicted because she is now having sex for 15 dollars. This shows a lot about the girl just through one picture and simple text. In the second billboard explains that these friends share everything but because of meth, they now share HIV and Hepatitis. In both of these billboards the pictures show that these girls are using because of their darkened eyes and the way they look. To show the narrative they show girls that could be pretty but make them look as though meth has ruined them.

    The modality here is that they are saying these girls could represent your reality if you use meth. The pictures have high modality because they are real girls and, such as Kress and van Leeuwen say, it is natural coloration. The relationships created are the fact that this could be your reality. It makes a viewer stop and think what would it be like to be on meth and look like that? The second picture looks as though the girls are looking at you like you are interacting with them and you could be there. The first she is being taken advantage of by a man so you are forced to think differently, such as how disgusting that is that meth would make you do things such as this to use again.

    I find these billboards to beneficial to society. The social control that these billboards attempt is to stop people from using this drug by showing them a reality of girls who use them. If one sees these girls and puts themselves in that reality, they will think twice about it, for fear of being addicted or catching a disease. I think that these billboards are a good use of public space because of the drug problems in our country right now. There are so many users and meth is something that is very dangerous. People need to understand the dangers and Montanameth.org needed to use such disturbing images and situations because that is what is needed to fully understand the problem of meth.

  4. I will refer to the upper image as the first, and the bottom image as the second.
    In the first image, the narrative presented by the interaction of the participants is one of power and powerlessness, control and lack of control, opportunity and vulnerability, subject and object, dominance and dominated, male and female, and so on with like dualities. The positions of the participants in the frame of the image defines their positions relative to each other; in this case, the narratives mentioned above are suggested by this very arrangement of the participants. To illustrate, the narrative of power/powerlessness is suggested by the fact that the male is on top of the female in such a way that it appears the female has no power, in addition to her state of withdrawal. However, this interpretation is flimsy at best. What ratifies this interpretation is the text. The text implies that when one is addicted one lacks power over one’s actions; conversely, it implies that when one is not addicted one has power over one’s actions. This reinforces the narrative displayed in the positions of the participants relative to each other, that of power and powerlessness. Likewise, this is true for control and lack of control, dominance and dominated, and so forth. By taking these narratives jointly with that of male and female, and that of opportunity and vulnerability, we could interpret that the image is establishing a relationship with the female viewer/reader, namely, that females are more vulnerable to males if they become addicted, more so than they would otherwise. Regarding the relationship the image establishes with the male viewer/reader, it seems to be that (1) males are not subject to addiction, or at least less likely, but that (2) males are subjects to whom females are objects. (2) may very well be another relationship the image establishes with the female viewer/reader, as in creating, in both cases, a protagonist/antagonist relationship between females and males, respectively.
    The modality, that is, the validity in terms of truth of that which is being represented, is achieved by the full color photography. This, perhaps, is meant to reinforce the idea that the situation depicted is indeed taken from the real world.
    Before I move on to the second image, as a side note, notice the use of the word normal: it could be that $15 for sex is not normal, but $100 is. Also, does the image imply that all prostitutes are meth users, or that when you are a meth addict you are more likely to prostitute yourself without due compensation.
    The second image is a bit more complicated in that the possible narratives are highly based on interpretation without much to confirm such interpretations. So, let’s speculate away. Perhaps one narrative could be that of individuality and personal space. When you are on meth, you are more likely to allow your individuality and personal space be transgressed by others. So, from sharing lipstick to sharing a sexual partner, or even, perhaps, to a lesbian encounter, that is, in the case that the two girls shared their bodies with each other in a sexual encounter. This latter narrative, that of the girls sharing their bodies in a sexual encounter, is quite interesting in terms of the relationship the image establishes with the viewer/reader: could it be that using meth leads to homosexuality? And if so, what is this saying to the homosexual socialite? Again, this interpretation is highly speculative, and for that reason I will not entertain it any further, its mention suffices. What strikes me as ineffective is the modality of the image under the scrutiny of image semiotics. Its artificial lighting, very much in the style of the Baroque period of European art, one characterized by contrast, which, in painting, was exploited by the choice of lighting, seems to invalidate the reality of what is being depicted. But, on the other hand, under some other scrutiny, the contrast in the lighting might be meant to shock, doom or impose upon the viewer/reader. Taken in this sense, the participants seem to be “under the spotlight”, as it were, and nobody wants to be under the spotlight. So, the message may be “Don’t take meth or else you will be under the spotlight.”
    Based on what has been said, we could suggest that the billboards mean to control (1) meth usage, (2) addiction, (3) the subjugation of men over women (not controlled but reinforced), (4) homosexuality, (5) sharing among individuals, (6) prostitution, (7) unprotected sex, and, in that, (8) the spread of venereal disease. Those responsible are a social group, who only exert pressure upon the rest by way of convention, and, in that, exert authority by way of majority (very democratic I might add). The undesired ramifications may very well be those messages in (3)-(6). I will not venture into speculating whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential harms. For it is not clear how to compare them. What are the benefits of a complete cessation of meth usage in society? Presumably, that all the harms meth usage is related to will disappear. What is more, all its benefits will disappear as well. So, our formula would look like this: take the benefits that would ensue from a complete cessation of meth usage in society and subtract from them the benefits that using meth in society provides; and then, subtract from that the harms that meth usage entails, which, in turn, is derived from subtracting from it the harms of not using it, say, boredom or the lack of a certain kind of recreation. As it may have become apparent, nobody wants to do this, for obvious reasons, being that the values we may place on the benefits and harms in our formula are purely subjective and relative to the opinion of our dear minds, of which there are many I might add. So, our formula would never be useful. Also, I cannot say for sure that (3)-(6) would really be signified in the minds of those exposed to the billboards, therefore I could hardly speculate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harms. That aside, I believe the billboard may be both problematic and helpful, depending on the observer and his or her interpretations. Opposed to what may have been interpreted by what I have said thus far, I am not an advocate of meth usage, and believe that its usage brings a lot of harm. If, therefore, the billboard is successful in diminishing the usage of meth then it becomes helpful. It may become problematic if its abusive techniques to influence its viewer/reader are seen through, in which case, its objective is ineffective to such a point that it may even encourage defiance, and thus encourage meth usage. However, whether it is problematic or helpful has no bearing on the usage of public space as I see and define it, that is, it need not be helpful to be a justified usage of public space. Consider the right of neo-nazis and Ku Klux Kan members to demonstrate. They are certainly not helpful, on the contrary, they are very problematic social groups. Yet, they have the right to demonstrate in public space nonetheless.
    As a final remark, nothing I have said, or the connections that I have made, should be taken as an argument in the strong sense. It is all a matter of speculative interpretation.

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