Aura of hashtags

Walter Benjamin talks about arua in a way that I decided could be used for the symbol of the #.  It went from being the pound key to the number sign and now to the hashtag.  It has had different lives in which each one contained a different identity then the last.  Now it is a symbol that is used to direct people and ideas in order to possibly create a mass movement based on #.

When I looked into how the hashtag has gotten groups together I was directly struck but the Occupation of Wallstreet.  This movement was turned into #OccupyWallStreet and gained a massive number of followers.  This became a global phenomenon that many knew about.  This is also interesting because one of my friends goes to school in New York City and said it was insane the amount of people who were on Wallstreet protesting for something they knew nothing about.  Once a saying becomes a global trend, people begin to get involved with it just because they feel like they could possibly be making a difference for something many people support so they should too?

Trending hashtags can lead to changes in a society, but they can also lead to people again following the dominant ideology.  Even though Occupy Wall Street was trying to stick it to the upper class, it also showed the power of conformity that occurs through using this symbol #.  It brings people together even if they don’t know why.  This is why the dominant culture is able to re-produce themselves so easily.  People buy or live like others in society in order to fit in.  They don’t ask questions because thats the way it is.

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Too much of a strech?

In my presentation on Wednesday, I mentioned that I was thinking about using Roland Barthe and his idea of Mythologies. The way I was thinking about using Barthe Myth is by prosing that your Facebook profile is you. Explained more broadly, when creating your profile, specific to you, you are creating a representation of you and by doing so you are emptying out all the past history of yourself and exposing your identity through the Facebook profile. Regardless of your privacy settings who ever you are friends with you can see the profile and all that goes a long with it (pictures, posts etc.), however if they did not know you before hand then they would not be able to see the literal history that goes a long with you.

Secondly, I am proposing to use Lous Althusser and his idea of interpellation. This idea would capture that YOU (your Facebook profile) is a subject. For example: on my FB profile I have that my name is Megan McGregor and that I study and St. Lawrence University. Those two identifications are interpellating me, or making me into a subject. Both literally and figuratively I am a subject. By advertising that I am a student studying at St. Lawrence University I am subjecting my self as a student–therefore as a student you are submissive to the teacher. (That is the role of a traditional student).

I have more theorists up my sleeve–but I just wanted to see if there were any objections to those ones that I have chosen thus far.

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Individuals and Sustainability

To be environmentally conscious as an individual is a difficult thing to do. It is extremely hard to completely change one’s ways and behaviors in order to create a more sustainable world. Although many people are beginning to recycle and bike more, let’s be honest, many people (at least in the US) live a pretty unsustainable lifestyle. I’m guilty of it too; however, I’m aware of my unsustainable practices.

While incorporating individual sustainability into my case study, I want to incorporate some of those members of society who may truly think they are being “sustainable” and “environmentally conscious” when, in reality, they are not. Take for example, a yoga class. When I am home on breaks, I like to go to this one particular yoga studio. Many people of society connect yoga to earthiness, centeredness, and “one-with-nature.” However, I can’t help but notice all of the Lulu-lemon (an expensive yoga clothing line) gear and SUVs in the parking lot. Is yoga to center one’s mind to simplify one’s lifestyle, or has it become an outward appearance trend? This also goes along with many people buying Patagonia and North Face outdoor gear, and appearing to be outdoorsy and a lover of the environment and great outdoors. Buy producing, manufacturing, and transporting all these new jackets, we are actually having a greater environmental impact as opposed to using our old jackets or going to a thrift store.

I’m not saying I am a saint in terms of being sustainable at all. I use the plastic and paper inside the Pub nearly everyday. I throw out a plastic bottle occasionally. Sometimes I even go for drives just to go for a drive. Yet, I think there is unawareness amongst society as to what it truly means to be sustainable. Some, like the Lululemon and Patagonia wearing, have the label of being sustainable. They look the part, but do they do the part? Others, the ones that you often don’t notice, are genuinely sustainable through their humble, simple, quiet lifestyle. And the best part is that these are the ones who probably wouldn’t even coin themselves “sustainable” because it’s their lifestyle, behaviors, and everyday ways. They don’t receive a pat on their back every time they recycle. They don’t label themselves.

I hope to convey that “sustainability” isn’t so easy and clear in today’s society. Some wear it as a label, while others live it everyday. Some are think they are “saving the earth,” while others think of it as the normal way to live. There are many boxes that the term “sustainability” can fit into in society today. What box do you think you fit in?

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World Wide Coverage of ‘Leftover Women:’ A Commercialized Love

We are watching you, China….your secret stigmatization of ‘Sheng Nu’ is no longer contained.  The world is not only aware of this phenomenon, but curious and baffled by it.  With approximately 3o million more men than women, one would think the label should be ‘leftover men.’

When searching for more articles about ‘leftover women,’ I came across a lot of sources from the United States, some from Britain, as well as several blogs about the topic.  In a CNN article titled “China’s ‘leftover’ women choosing to stay single,” another article by Leta Hong Fincher, she discusses the response of these targeted women.  “After years of being badgered by her parents to get married, 26-year-old Zhang Yu finally had enough.”  Fincher proves that not all women are giving in to the stereotyping by frantically searching for husbands, “some women are fighting back by rejecting marriage altogether” (Fincher, 1).  Zhang Yu is a clear example of this because she has decided never to get married and never to have children, but instead live for herself and follow her career.  After living with her parents in her rural village for a few years, she was beginning to worry about becoming a Sheng Nu, but as she read several feminist articles, Zhang began to wonder whether this stigmatization was just a push to get women back in the home to fill the traditional roles once again.  Zhang decided to move to Shanghai in search of a job and a new life to be free of her parents’ harassment.  She was hired as a sales agent and is enjoying her new single life in the city.  “Men are still thinking in the old ways, but women’s values have evolved. I feel very relaxed now” (Fincher, 2).

Although several women have fought against the China’s labeling, there has also been a huge surge of matchmaking and blind dates in China today.  Several events are held in popular places such as People’s Square, and a beach in Shanghai.  Mothers are frantically searching for bachelors to set up with their daughters, and they frequent ‘mass weddings’ as matchmaking campaigns to view personal profile boards of eligible men.  There are even QR code stickers that men and women will scan to share personal information! Walking the streets in Shanghai near People’s Square, one can find thousands of personal profiles of single people pinned up on clothes lines…

This sudden emphasis and advertisement of single people and the country’s obsession with matchmaking has created a sort of epidemic. Rather than ‘real’ love, people are falling for the commercialized love.

“This leads to a phenomenon in which A-grade men marry B-grade women, B-grade men marry C-grade women and C-grade men marry D-grade women. Only A-grade women and D-grade men can’t find partners” (Reuters).




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Can Walmart be sustainable?

One of the areas in my case study paper is exploring sustainability with business. Throughout the business world of organizations, corporations, universities, and simply social structures, I have been noticing more and more of these organizations creating “Sustainability Plans.” These are attempts of businesses to become more environmentally conscious as this environmental movement has been generating substantial movement in the recent past years. My questions always remains, are these organizations implementing a sustainability plan to really improve their environmental impact or are they just jumping on the sustainability bandwagon to appeal more to consumers?

So I decided to look at one of the largest corporations in the world; hence, it has a ginormous environmental impact simply through production, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, etc. Its name is Walmart- I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I went to Walmart’s website and, low and behold, it has a whole website section dedicated to its sustainability practices. It even has The Green Room blog and the Walmart Sustainability Hub for suppliers to connect and engage about sustainable products and practices. The Walmart environmental mission statement declares:

Environmental sustainability has become an essential ingredient to doing business    responsibly and successfully. As the world’s largest retailer, our actions have the          potential to save our customers money and help ensure a better world for   generations to come. We’ve set three aspirational sustainability goals: to be supplied 100% by renewable energy, to create zero waste, and to sell products that sustain people and the environment. (

I don’t know about you, but I think those goals seem pretty lofty to accomplish as one of the world’s largest retailers and corporations. Even as an individual, I think those goals are pretty difficult to achieve. I would love to see Walmart prove me wrong and be successful in achieving those measures; yet such statements are difficult to believe. This was exactly the kind of example I was looking for. I’m sure many organizations are truly following through with their sustainability plans, but I can’t help but wonder if others are simply putting the label of sustainability on their brochure to appeal more to society. This solidifies the half-incorporation aspect of sustainability that Gramsci acknowledges through the hegemonic bloc, which includes the dominant ideology involving some of the views of the alternative group.

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The Interestings on Summer Camp



After using a lot of historical examples of summer camping practices and rituals for my case study paper, I turned to a more modern text on summer camp to help me think about and process my ideas. I recently finished reading Meg Wolitzer’s new novel, The Interestings, which details the lives of a group of New Yorkers who met at a summer camp in the Berkshires. I think the way Wolitzer portrays summer camp, which is a very central aspect of her plot, ultimately does a lot to support Raymond William’s theory relating to alternative and oppositional cultures.

After examining Althusser, I turned to Williams for what I thought might be, perhaps a more positive theoretical interpretation of American summer camping. Williams, through his notion of alternative and oppositional cultures, might argue that summer camp is indeed a means of interpellating youth, but that this interpellation does not necessarily have to be an expression of dominance. Williams is of the belief that, “we have to recognize the alternative meanings and values, the alternative opinions and attitudes, even some alternative senses of the world, which can be accommodated and tolerated within a particular effective and dominant culture.”

If camp comes to be known as “alternative”, according to Williams’ definition of the term, then American summer camp could be considered an entity that is truly unique from the dominant culture. Smith would agree that summer camping can be considered an alternative culture, as he states that, “most [summer camp leaders] were not…anti-modern, they were (and are) rather, counter-modern, exalting something more ‘natural’ and more ‘real’ as a means to being modern in a different way.” Often, camps provide a sanctuary, of sorts, for children to escape from the frustrations and challenges of everyday life. The idea that camp is intentionally different from society, but is not necessarily “anti-society”, fits nicely into Williams’ vision of an alternative culture.

Certainly, in The Interestings, Wolitzer’s characters are experiencing an alternative culture of sorts, in that their camp never changes each summer that they return to it. The author describes the conflict, envy, and frustration apparent between the characters when they return home to New York city each school year. Yet at camp, all of these tensions disappear completely and the characters are able live as though the “real world” doesn’t exist at all. I am unsure if i will use The Interestings in my paper, but it did help me rethink about summer camp as a cultural practice, and one that is clearly still very relevant today.

Ally Friedman


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Final Post from Cafe Group (Beau, Andrew, Grace, Natalie, and Anna)


The wolf pack minus Beau

So, it’s the holiday season, what does this mean for us at St. Lawrence? Free cider at the bookstore, formal season, finals, negative degree weather, and puffy jackets. It also means gift-giving and receiving, as act of consuming is heightened during this time of the year.

With formal season and ugly sweater/ dress parties, the thrift stores around Canton have been flooded with students seeking to find an old, ugly sweaters. In our culture ugly sweater parties are the new emergent, social practice. As we go thrift shopping, we glorify the practice. The way consumers use the product gives meaning to it, and cultural identity (thanks Raymond Williams).


This semester has taught us a lot about the critical nature of theory and how it can be applied to our lives through the analysis of the texts, forms, institutions, and practices that sustain the dominant culture.


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Selfies and Foucault

As I began my analysis of selfies using Foucault’s theories, I realized how deeply power/knowledge affects the “rules” of selfies.

Selfies are part of the complex social media power structure. Although anyone can join in, only a selected few become successful. Those on top create a truth regime around selfies, which dictate what is acceptable to post, what is trendy, what is right, etc.

If as power is everywhere, according to Foucault, then power is also in social media.

Selfies  follow rules. Those rules include positioning the camera at certain angles in order to create the most flattering angle. It is imperative to show off one’s breasts or muscles. Hashtagging the selfies encourage one to buy into certain social norms in the hopes of getting more likes (or validation).

These rules act as a truth regime. The discourse of selfies demands that users create these self-photographs in order to appear successful, enticing, and advanced. A selfie in which a person posing on the streets of Manhattan dressed in high fashion apparel symbolizes power, success, and “having made it.”

This truth regime was formed by those in power. Such famous instagram users as Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, and Justin Bieber perpetuate these ideals. By showing off their own bodies as status symbols through selfies, they are continuing this truth regime, which encourages the average person to follow suit. If an average joe posts a selfie shirtless showing off his ab muscles and tags it “photooftheday” (one of the most popular hashtags on instagram), he too is successful and advanced and desirable.

Finally, a truth regime works when average people, not just the ones at the top and in power, buy into it and accept it. Most users on instagram will post selfies at some point and believe it is acceptable to do so, which gives authenticity to the truth regime and cements it as such.

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At the Risk of Being Naive

As I continue working on my case study, I have become increasingly aware that my argument runs the risk of seeming very naive. I have knowingly dismissed a spectrum of critiques that can be leveled at philanthropy and wealth. For the sake of my argument, I feel like it is necessary to acknowledge this and to elaborate upon the reasoning behind doing so.

There seems to be a negative connotation that is associated with extreme wealth and giving. A more critical Marxist critique would highlight this. Giving on this scale and magnitude can easily be argued as just another means of dominance. By illustrating the inherent power relationship that comes with philanthropy, especially when the philanthropic  dollars are coming from the elite of the elite, the case study lends itself easily to this kind of critique.

You could argue that those who sign the Giving Pledge control not only the business and economic sectors, but by entering philanthropy that they are now moving into the social sphere, merely extending their total dominance of society. They use their power to set the agenda of philanthropy excluding issues that they see as unimportant. This is problematic and an exercise of power relationships and one that a more critical Marxist would highlight.

Yet, I find it problematic to see philanthropy this way. By defining philanthropy as merely an exercise of power by the super-wealthy and a means to control and dominate the lower classes takes away from the goal of philanthropy. There is a disjuncture between a Marxist critique and the objective good that a private philanthropist can do for the world. By this I mean that how can someone see philanthropy as insidious when someone like Gates is mere years away from eradicating polio from the world and that in the last ten years malaria has been cut down almost 50%.

When you understand that philanthropic dollars are utilized for the good and betterment of the world, it is extremely hard and increasingly uncomfortable to use a more critical theory. Yet, I feel like it is necessary to acknowledge within my argument and my paper as I move forward, otherwise, I run the risk of being naive.

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tattoos in the work place: “no longer the kiss of death”

After my presentation, I began to reflect on peer feedback, specifically social scenes where tattoos have been deemed very unaccepted. Some are situational, and there is some wiggle room. But in general, I can’t say I’m that surprised. But it does seem to contradict the notion that tattooing has become a socially acceptable and common practice.

“At one point in time tattoos and piercings were not listed in employee handbooks. Now because of the major increase tattoos have been implemented. When the trend began the policies were along the lines of no tattoos. Others gave some flexibility and said nothing visible. Back then these companies were few and far between. Now tattoos and piercings have grown on some companies. Others have limitations, while the minority still says no.”

Forbes published an interesting article which argues that it might not be as common for tattooed employees to be discriminated against in the work place as it used to be:

“According to Bank of America Spokeswoman Ferris Morrison, Bank of America has no written rules or restrictions when it comes to inked corporate employees.  ‘We have no formal policy about tattoos because we value our differences and recognize that diversity and inclusion are good for our business and make our company stronger,’ she said.”


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