Asana Hamidu (Scribe),Tommy Matt, Kat Lukens, Gillian Hunt, & Nicole Eigbrett
It was a sunny day and we met infront of the student center, exchanged pleasantries and moved on to discuss the subject at hand. Before we moved on to decoding, we went over our notes and briefly talked about the terms and concepts explored in Hall’s article.
Since Hall believes that all communication is constructed, we believe we can decode almost anything. While looking around for something to decode, our eyes landed on the “Canton Restaurant Week” banner posted above the Student Center entrance facing the bookstore. Most of us agreed the poster was very plain but the message was clear. We started the discussion by taking about the dominant, negotiated and oppositional views of “Restaurant Week.”
Decoding the “Canton Restaurant Week”
Dominant View: We are a part of the Canton community; we should support the local business. The university is very selective in choosing restaurants and businesses they want to publicize i.e. Nature Store House versus Wal-Mart or McDonalds.
Negotiated View: It seems contrived that we have to go out of our way to create a week that allows as to immerse ourselves in the local community. The event organizers might just be targeting freshmen. The activity is advertised by Thelmo, which acts as a bridge between the school/student and town.
Oppositional View: Students are going to the town no matter what. The only difference this week makes is a spike in sales. Also, why is Thelmo sponsoring this event? Are the restaurants paying the school for bringing them business?
Hall suggests that there are four stages to communication; they are production, which is “relatively autonomous”, circulation, use and reproduction. Discourse is a site of struggle and contestation and when power is added to the equation, ideology is produced and this is usually perpetuated using ideological state apparatus, in this case Thelmo and the University represent the ISA (Althusser).
The images used in the banner were of the chapel and the Nature Storehouse. By connecting the chapel, a place that welcomes many people and has become a symbol for the school (discussion for another day!), to the Nature Storehouse, it create a familiarity for the students and allow them to view the town as a part of SLU culture.
Since Hall is a Gramcian Marxist, he views cultural production as ‘production.’ This can be connected back to John Fiske who believed that consumerism was a good thing and that this type of culture can be used as a tool to bring people together. Many people on campus allow themselves to become interpellated (identification), others oppose it (counter-identification) and other reject it (disidentification).
“Canton Restaurant Week” has become part of SLU culture, meaning it has become common sense, taken for granted fact. Some may view the naturalization of this code as beneficial for the university, the community and the students but others like myself and some members of the groups are skeptical and don’t like this forced/constructed reality. Although “everyday life is political” it would be nice not to have a week dedicated to exploring the town. Perhaps this reveals the fact that most of the students still live in the “SLU bubble” and don’t interact with the town. Maybe the school is on to something! By exploring the cash nexus relationship between the students and the Canton businesses, students will be forced to engage and forge social relationship with the community. But do you really see this happening?
[Break to discuss my love for V for Vendetta and how it connects to Hall]
Decoding SLU Pride
After the break, a member of our group who is part of Sexuality and Gender Activism (SAGA), a club on campus, shared a story from the meeting. The members of SAGA are designing new t-shirts for the club members and the design they wanted on the shirt was “SLU Pride” in rainbow colors. This might be their attempt to be visible and feel a part of a community that does not really acknowledge them.
Another reason putting “SLU Pride” in rainbow colors on the shirt might be problematic is how people might decode it. In class, we talked about how “the meaning of words are arbitrary”, meaning that they must be made to mean something and this process involves power and can always be changed. “SLU Pride” to many people mean something different due to how they were interpellated or how the information was encoded.
By adopting this term and making it their own, i.e. adding the rainbow colors, they are emptying out the history or a portion of that history and filling it with their own meaning (Barthes). By changing the meaning of these words, they are asserting their presence and a need for inclusion in the definition of school pride.
Questions for the class:
- Is discourse always hegemonic?
- Can there be alternative discourses?
- What are your views on “Canton Restaurant Week”?
- Where do you do you stand when it comes to discourse and interpellation? Check all that applies (caveat: some discourses are insidious and you might not even know you have been interpellated! GASP! Those are the best ones!)
(a) Identification – allow yourself to be interpellated
(b) Counter-identification – oppose interpellation
(c) Disidentification – reject notion of the discourse
“In nature’s economy the currency is not money – it is life.” Environmental Activist, Vandana Shiva