Perspectives on Consumption Fall 2019 “The Culture of American Consumption,”

In our first unit, “The Culture of American Consumption,” we will read authors’ views on what has become an American popular culture “grounded in consumption, […from] the direct purchase of goods and services […to] the enjoyment of music, movies, and television, or…other digital services and all that they offer” (Maasik 67). (You may read other authors if you don’t like the assigned readings.) We will examine how what we consume defines what we value and, more importantly, various ways of framing or telling stories about selling and buying. We “are what [we] buy, and what [we] buy fulfills what [we] are” (Maasik 74) … or at least who we think we are or who we would like to be. For your first paper, you will do two things: 1) analyze three authors’ views of our attitudes and behaviors towards consumption in order to describe how each author characterizes, defines, understands, tells a metaphorical story about the interactions of buyers and sellers/advertisers in today’s marketplace of goods and services and then 2) assert your own perspective, or argue for one of the three you critique, as the best, most useful way to characterize, understand, tell a story about today’s consumer culture. The implicit answer to the “So what question?” here is that the view you argue for will help us be as prepared as possible to negotiate the “enemy terrain” (Norton 85) on those battlefields of retail space—both meat and cyber. As Abraham Riesman says (not in the context of consumption but regarding the opposite worldviews he gets from his analysis of Superman and Batman), “Which of these…worldviews provides the better way to live a good and productive life?” (316). The question I want you to keep in mind as you read the articles, carefully review your chosen three, and then write the paper is what characterization, understanding, definition, or STORY of interactions between sellers/advertisers and buyers provides the best way for us to be the savviest, most contented consumers possible? Here are some questions to consider: • Who’s the target audience the authors have in mind—buyers, sellers, advertisers, all of them? • What figurative language (mostly similes and metaphors probably) and/or motifs do the authors use to describe today’s consumer culture, the interactions between sellers and buyers the marketplace of services and goods? • Where do the authors perform semiotic interpretation, and what cultural codes, ideological systems do you infer they have in mind in order for the signs they cite to have the meanings the authors claim they do? Recall our authors’ comments that when we perform semiotic analysis, we move from interpreting “the denotation of a sign to its connotative significance by situating it in a historically informed system of associated and differentiated signs” (294). • How do the above semiotic maneuvers support the authors’ characterizations and metaphorical stories of our contemporary consumer culture and encourage our acceptance of their views as ‘true’ and useful? • In addition to the second bullet point above, what other rhetorical strategies do the authors use to persuade readers to accept their characterizations? • Same as bullet point four but for their rhetorical maneuvers (as in appeals to pathos, pathos, or logos…or anything else you think the authors DO to persuade us). • What do the authors have to say about our consuming attitudes and behaviors and our value systems? • What seems to be the authors’ answers to the “So what?” question?