Do we designers really make culture today? Are we just victims of pre-determined marketing? Design and culture have a very odd relationship?


I think designers are one of many that yes certainly have a hand in shaping culture. This is done by imposing our personal aesthetics and values on everything from fashion and daily consumptive objects to the architecture that dictates and molds the built environment all around us. These objects are often mass-produced and then communication designers spread the cultural taste with a broad reach using any means necessary.

Yes society is often victims of a pre-determined market in regards that nothing is original and design as Petrowski believes emerges from failure and flaws. To escape the widespread of cultural imperialism is near impossible.

Kenneth Frampton framed the case of critical regionalism and traveled around the globe to attempt to escape this pre determined market to discover the imprint of vernacular orthodox modernists that imposed a universal taste on design and architecture on a massive scale.

McCoy understands and illuminates the negative aspects of universal ideologies of design that started with modernists and extended to institutions whom then became an elitist taste through Europe, America and when mass media was established spread globally becoming cultural imperialism. By imposing this taste and aesthetics it supports planned obsolescence even labeling designers as a tool for business and shaped mass consumption. Ignoring the problem solving attitudes of Victor Papanek and the notions of good design and sustainability.

McCoy particularly supported the democratization of art and design and proposes that everyone is a designer and can be self taught to avoid the aspect of high cultural imperialism and monoculture, this is reminiscent of craft ideals of handmade, anti canon and function based design that is self expressive. Furthermore a re-emergence of a DIY (do it yourself) generation attempts to live off the grid and attain a level of self-sufficiency. These are all ideologies emerging from design practices proving how it shaped culture.  

I strongly believe designers shape culture and mold ideologies therefore should be cautious on the values, virtues and taste one imposes.

How does the government utilize design to gain power?


The government in the 1940s utilized design to gain power. By first attracting global attention this was done by hosting World’s fair in cities such as New York and Paris. These exhibitions hosted only examples of modern design and featured the newest advances in technology. Therefore the ideologies on subjects such as transportation, urbanization, city planning, architecture, art, design were all aspects that assisted governments to access power.  Chosen ideologies as being superior were therefore exported on a global scale. Designs embraced standards to ensure that the economy and government controlled raw materials such as timber, and taking into account skilled labor and influencing the public education favoring patriotism and modern technical advances. Design was also used to gain power through art propaganda and the new interest in graphic design and typography assisted to widespread political ideologies. 

How did the Aesthetic Movement and art nouveau both expand the opportunities for women and at the same time reinforce gender roles?


Decorative art societies and schools affected by the Aesthetic movement that sought to elevate craft to art, targeted women to engage in decorative arts. This provided women a new platform for work and a means of expression, however this was also keeping them in the domestic realm and traditional gender roles and unfortunately not involving them into the high art society dominated by men. Furthermore women were rarely involved in production, sales, marketing aspects and when exhibitions were held they were exhibited separately.  If they could break away from domesticity, where they could study, subject matter and medium was limited. Mary Cassatt is an example of the illusion of freedom permitted to women, she painted in pastels opposed to oils and was limited to domestic studies while her peers such as Edgar Degas was free to roam the streets as a flaneur, study the female nude and be shown in large galleries. Therefore the Aesthetic movement allowed some progress it also undermined women’s ability to use art as a political platform or to reap advantages of commercial production.

How Modernism and Postmodernism are placed in dialogue with each other?


Postmodernism is a response or critic in relation to modernism. Modernism can be defined as the machine age or international style of the 20th century. It modernized art and design by moving from the opulent taste and notion of ‘horror vacuii’ of the 19th century. Instead favoring simplicity and a rigid formalism was established. These rules and established style were rooted by institutions and canonized by Orthodox Modernists such as Le Corbusier and Mies Vander Rhone with statements such as “less is more.” The modernists embraced technological advances and Fordism, making design more accessible but also largely controlled by the state and homogenized on a global scale.

Postmodernism emerged not as an artistic or architectural style but as a set of socio economical conditions. Pop artists and architects rejected the notion of elitism and ‘high’ art. Objects appeared such as Robert Venturi’s Chippendale Chair that reintroduced decoration, historical reference, self-expression and even irony into design. Whereas the modernists ignored regional context and imposed cultural homogeny as the globalization movement flourished into the 20th century. Kenneth Frampton elaborates on this issue by exploring critical regionalism and travels to regions such as Spain, Japan and Mexico to escape the pre-determined modernist movement. Instead favoring Post modernist architects such as Tadao Ando whom have a great understanding of materiality, craftsmanship, historical and traditional values with respect to the location and consideration of the patrons that use the space.

It is the notion of universality and ignorance of humanistic values that modernism is often criticized for. Therefore postmodernism attempted to democratize art making it more accessible for the artist, designer and mass consumer. Destroying the notion of universality of one style for all and instead favoring self-expression and regional context to reduce cultural homogeny. As Robert Venturi stated, “less is a bore” simplicity shouldn’t be the goal but rather to seek the complexity and chaos, the answer sometimes will appear as simple.

How craft and materiality in architecture can act as a buffer against the reduction of design culture to a universalized commodity?


Craft ideologies serve as a buffer to universalized commodity practices in design, art and architecture in various manners. It caters to tradition and culture because it is socially produced, it is a democratized discipline, and all objects are original, therefore difficult to be mass-produced and consumed. Craft can often be described as simply and highly skilled work. Due to the fact that the artist hand is present it renders more difficult for universal style because it imposes value, individuality and self-expression. Craft is filled with humanistic values, concepts and memory. It doesn’t always have to serve function but often items are for daily use, they’re meaning can and often are derived over time.

Craft similar to post modernism is anti aristocratic and only recently in the 20th century has it been acknowledged as an art form and accepted and taught as a discipline at recognized institutions. A break in social opinions that craft was associated with domesticity and feminized it was often considered banal. Howard Risatti argued that the difference was based in materiality, the necessary skills required by the craftsman and his deep understanding and process in the material, which differed from the commodification of design. With craft it is impossible to separate the maker from the process. Eva Zeisel is a beautiful example of this notion although her objects are machine made her touch and hand is still present and difficult to mimic.

Craft has less capital value because of the process and ideology of being ‘low’ art value however that notion can be viewed as a positive effect in the area of commodity fetishism and exploitation of the designer as a tool for business and a rebellion against planned obsolescence.

Instead craft acts as a buffer a place for artists, designers and architects to reside and enjoy process, materiality, sustainability and human experience in a realm they can thrive, contrary to approaching design to serve merely as a function as Dieter Rams suggests or as a tool to stimulate the economy.

I agree with Victor Papanek’s notion of bringing humanity and culture into design is pivotal.

Rams believed that “design must conform in the best possible way to the expectations that result from the function the product fulfills.” Although functionality is important I believe there is space to create objects that provide pleasure and make life more enjoyable. Understandably by imposing too much personal taste it can render the object fashionable and accommodate planned obsolescence.

Teaching designers, artisans and architects good judgment imposes meaning and value. Understanding that beauty is subjective creates a world with vast choices and creates an economy for designers to flourish.

I agree with Papanek in the democratization of design and I support his definition of design as “the conscious intuitive effort to impose meaningful order.” The best solution to design is the meaning not the aesthetics or function. We are all designers. It is similar to craft ideologies that favor interaction with materiality, tools, process and craftsmanship that shape good design. This is a stark contrast to Petrowski and Rams emphasis on functionality and stark architecture. The problem with orthodox modernists was the pervasion of utility and embedded set of style; it ignored the environment and humanistic values.

In a capitalist fast fluctuating era we are often confused and in a state of dissonance. Our urban centers are growing rapidly and the human scale is shrinking. There is a much needed return to self sustainably and a balanced moderation and reorganization of values and reflection with ones relationship to manufactured landscapes that surround us. As Papanek suggests elegance is satisfaction derived from the simplicity of a thing. I would add not only to a thing but the value of a simple, elegant life.

What is Commodity Fetishism and how can it improve design?


Marx formulated the notion of commodity fetishism to explain the emergence of the 19th century capitalism and the shift from the feudal to the industrial age. Commodity fetishism is defined as the strategic manipulation in the practices of packaging, promotion and advertising of the object. This is achieved by manipulation of the consumer in a psychological manner of social depression, preying on insecurities of humans and providing false hopes and imposed values.

Commodity fetishism is dominantly concerned with intrinsic value, resulting in new way of thinking and new methodologies. An awareness of how goods are produced, marketed, distributed and psychological impact can actually improve design.

For example if an artist hand produces an object with honest materials that are local and sustainable, she imposes self-expression and value onto the objects and evidence of the artist’s hand. She markets the object transparent in her high skills that were necessary to make the object, adding value and educating the consumer that they are making a good choice. Perhaps even going as far as to suggest the function of the object and how it may improve their life adding value and enjoyment to their daily life style. It is distributed with environmental factors considered and a limited availability is demonstrated after all since objects are handmade it is assumed limited production adding even more value. All of these factors contribute to consumer culture but retaliate against universal homogenized design or as Marx coined commodity fetishism.

What are design methods and how do the social sciences help us define these new methods? Is sustainability a design theory or a design method?


A design method is the process that informs and structures the form, material, and context and provides meaning on the object. Furthermore through the design method values can be imposed such as aesthetics and joy.

The social sciences enormously benefit the methods of design by attributing quantitative and qualitative research that heighten the designer’s consciousness and elevate the process and methods employed. Disciplines such as ethnography provide research and explore the physical experience and insights into desires, beliefs, habits and motivations of the experiencer. This provides context and places the values back on a human scale and subjective properties. This is a shift from the industrial and modernist ideologies on design theory.

By combining practices from social sciences a new hybrid of design emerges. No longer mimicking nature or applying a set of design standards but one in which considers the environment called sustainability and new genres such as Bio design. Sustainable design should not merely be seen as an idealist theory or a tool for propaganda in advertising a fad lifestyle choice but used as a method and approach to design. One that involves ethics and responsibility. This new approach to design emerged from the 1960s beyond mimicry and appeal to be ‘green’ but to one with serious implications Factoring in the ecological impact, production and consumption to safeguard the future for all inhabitants.

How can postmodernism consciously be used to inform design process?


Postmodernism can be used to inform the design process by exploring the key elements that shaped modernism and the evolution of design. The exploration of production from Fordism to Post Fordism shapes the design process and the ability to provide standardization, accessibility to keep costs low. As Adrian Forty mentions the method of production can result in a demand response system.

Another factor that informs the design process is the understanding and rejecting the notion of ‘pure’ form that Orthodox Modernists favored.

Post modernists believe there is no universal taste and to impose individual taste contributes to planned obsolescence, lack of social responsibility and is elitist. It creates a high/low culture that pop artist and postmodernist criticize. There is no such thing as universal taste and Robert Venturi would argue that architecture and design should be complex and focus should be placed on the function or program not in attaining simple forms to appeal to popular taste. Also by rejecting the universal standards of taste established by modernists one can build on the design process that seeks flaws and improves upon them. That nothing is ever perfect because design is constantly in a state of flux. New methods, technology and demands are always changing. The responsibility in the design process is to foresee obstacles and adapt to new methods, accepting mechanization to improve costs, production and precision. Also not allowing mechanization to limit the role of the artistry and the joy in production or expression.

Lastly I believe that postmodernism can inform the design process by exploring the social responsibility of the artifact and the implications it will have on the environment such as cultural homogeny, class divide, globalization and social mobility. The designer must take all these factors into consideration in the design process.

How does class-consciousness and commoditizing oneself frame a design practice?


Class-consciousness was defined by Karl Marx and was imperative to his understanding of the restraint of our freedom, human nature and role in society. Ultimately questioning what is one’s purpose or rather our intrinsic value and how does one put a price on oneself?

The concept of intrinsic value is interesting because in a communist society that is alleviated and not based on the accumulation of property, wealth or status intrinsic value has a very different appearance.

However in a current capitalist structure I acknowledge that I am working in a proletariat class where I own the means of my labor which afforded me the ability to rise up into a bourgeoisie class owning the material wealth and property afforded me the opportunity in a capitalist society to acquire knowledge.  To ascribe a value on my concepts and design practice is difficult yet a very relevant question. It is only through spirituality that I believe one can truly transcend and adopt the abstract notions of freedom and intrinsic value of humanity and not be blinded by the realm of appearance, ego and alienation of attaching oneself to a class because ultimately to define is to limit.

I reserve the freedom and rights to establish a ‘fair’ price for my time and efforts accordingly.

Why were many design reformers against mechanization?


Many design reforms led by William Morris and John Rushkin were against mechanization because it largely contributed to capitalism, mass consumerism and exploitation. It deviated from ideologies stemming from socialism and the notion of common wealth to one in favor of individual profit. It also possessed dehumanizing aspects in regards to the division of labor alienating the artisan from his craft and arguably from the fulfillment of working with ones hand and overseeing all aspects of design and creation, limiting ones freedom of expression and individuality.

During the 19th century urbanization was a large contributing factor, rerouting rural dwellers into large cities and factories igniting loneliness, depression and enslavement. Lower class citizens, children, minorities and the environment were victimized. This exploitation of labor and resources expanded as the Industrial revolution and the growth of middle and upper class demands rose broadening these ideologies to a global scale. This resulted in fewer jobs for local artisans and craftsmen. With controlled regimes and factory values being imposed it exerted social order for the benefit of the elite, art and design were used as symbols of status and opulent taste encouraged hedonist values routing from greed and corruption.


What were the shared social goals of the design movements of the early twentieth century?


The common goal for the twentieth century of design was a desire for socialism. A freedom of expression was afforded to artists and designers. In a sense a hope that a new society would form and the hierarchy of art would be abolished and the privilege of appreciating and creating art would be democratized. In this new society a possibility for interdisciplinary studies was made possible, such as El Lissitzky who was an artist and engineer. There was also an appreciation for the craftsmen in art and furthermore with artists such as Kandinsky a new exploration in the spirituality and metaphysical world, influenced by the birth of psychology, which affected art and design.


How does the government utilize design to gain power?


The government in the 1940s utilized design to gain power. By first attracting global attention this was done by hosting World’s fair in cities such as New York and Paris. These exhibitions hosted only examples of modern design and featured the newest advances in technology. Therefore the ideologies on subjects such as transportation, urbanization, city planning, architecture, art, design were all aspects that assisted governments to access power.  Chosen ideologies as being superior were therefore exported on a global scale. Designs embraced standards to ensure that the economy and government controlled raw materials such as timber, and taking into account skilled labor and influencing the public education favoring patriotism and modern technical advances. Design was also used to gain power through art propaganda and the new interest in graphic design and typography assisted to widespread political ideologies. 


Philosophy of Western Political Thought

Exploration of human nature and social contract theories

Spring 2015


Investigating diverse philosophers one can gain insight into the historical ideologies that shape our beliefs of humanity and how societies are organized as well as political and socio economical structures.

Plato and Machiavelli had vastly diverse understandings of human nature that shaped their political theories and both greatly impact views on contemporary politics.

Plato’s ideologies emerged from an ancient Greek society; one that is considered organic. An organic society is often described as one in which the individual does not exist on its own; identity is formed on the premise of the collective society and pre-exists a capitalist society.

Plato is an idealist philosopher because his understanding of human nature is optimistic. He suggests that human beings are naturally moral, just and virtuous. If society provides a foundation of basic necessities and education, individuals can reach their optimal potential because they are guided and supported by reason. Plato ranked justice with virtue and wisdom and injustice with vice and ignorance. (Plato P.27).

Universal equality is an important factor in an organic society. Therefore, children are raised communally and anyone has the ability to become ruler, even women. In order for this to flourish, Plato understood that man should not be fooled by the realm of appearance and should  “satisfy only his necessary desires and refrain from any other expenditures, his other desires he regards as frivolous and keeps in subjection.”(Plato P237). Furthermore, he described anything that “is bad for the body, for the insight and temperance of the soul as unnecessary.” (Plato P.243). He suggested that communal property for the rulers would ensure the unity and happiness of the citizens.

With this in mind, Plato separated society into three classes. The first class, the artisans, produced material goods and provided basic necessities; the auxiliary class that was led by courageous individuals served to protect society; and lastly, the philosopher kings led by reason, served to rule society. Due to this division, everyone was equal in so far as they served their function to society and “where permissible principle rules, each man will arrange his own life to suit himself” (Plato P241) Citizens could exercise free will in choosing which class served their purpose best and the ruling class was led by reason not desire, power and greed. Plato believed that “no art or government provides what is for its own benefit, but as we said prescribes what is for the benefit of the subject, seeking the advantage of him who is weaker, not the advantage of the stronger… no one of his own will becomes a ruler and undertakes to set straight the misfortunes of others. “ (Plato P22), thus forming a democratic society  that favored the common will and justice. “In a democratic city men will tell you that liberty is their fairest possession and that therefore theirs is the only city where a man who has a free nature can rightly dwell.”(Plato P.246). In Plato’s idealistic vision, his society was free and just where leaders ruled for the benefit of society in general regardless of personal desires for power and greed.

Machiavelli differed greatly in regards to his understanding of human nature. Perhaps this is because he wrote the Prince during a chaotic, unstable period during the 14th Century Italian Renaissance while in exile.  He is considered a political realist; one of the first modern thinkers in an emerging capitalist society and favored individual interests instead of Plato’s organic feudal society.     Machiavelli is much more pessimistic; he believed human nature to be self-interested, greedy and fuelled by desires stating, “In a world where most people are not good, you’ll end up badly.”(Machiavelli P.60).

Instead of favoring reason, moderation and the realm of form, he favored brute force “when people stop believing in you, you must be in a position to force them to believe”(Machiavelli P.23), materiality luring noblemen with generous salaries and appealing to the realm of appearance “the crowd is won over by appearances and final results.” (Machiavelli P.71) A ruler “mustn’t be concerned about bad reputation that comes with those negative qualities that are essential if he is to hold onto power.”(Machiavelli P.61).

Virtue for Machiavelli was described as necessary skills to lead. “It’s seeming to be virtuous that helps; as for seeming to be compassionate, loyal, humane, honest and religious and you can even be all those things, so long as you’re always mentally prepared to change as soon as your interests are threatened.”(Machiavelli P70) Power and private interest are praised.  Politics and the ruling class were no longer led by reason, ethics and common interest, but good sense according to Machiavelli was “to choose the lesser of the various evils”, rather force and power to satiate worldly materiality for a minor few, turning humans into slaves and governing power into a tyranny.  An oligarchy as Plato saw it “resulted when uncontrolled pursuit of that which oligarchy has made its good, namely, the necessity of becoming as rich as possible…meanwhile fixing their eyes to the ground and pretend not to see them, go on stabbing with their money any one of the other citiziens who fails in the struggle, levying their interest till it exceeds by many times the parent so, and so make the drone and the beggar common in the city.” (Plato P.239), outlining the downfall of tyranny and creating a large class divide. Plato described the tyrant as “a parricide and a cruel guardian of the aged”

Machiavelli believed that not all humans were virtuous. He believed that the virtues that were taught were not always the virtues necessary to preserve the state. Machiavelli thought that a leader had to maintain his state, and oftentimes, that required the leader to use force and instill fear not only in foes but in allies as well. For instance, although one is taught not to kill, sometimes it is necessary to kill to preserve the state. It is one of the reasons that nations have armies. Machiavelli believed that in politics there are no easy, virtuous choices; sometimes hard decisions have to be made for the security and well-being of the state in general and that takes a leader who can take a “hard and sometimes unjust stand.”

One hopes to favor with Plato on the side of human nature that it is only a rather taught behavior that emerged out of capitalism in which citizens have become self interested and greedy. Organically a society that is just and free and ruled by reason and wisdom, where society and leaders in particular have the courage to rule by the honorable rather than persuasion and force as Machiavelli claimed was sometimes necessary.

In a contemporary society that mimics the rapid fluctuations of the Renaissance and human enlightenment perhaps we can study our flaws in placing hierarchy of values on materiality and favoring the realm of appearance above man and man above nature and god. If humanity continues on this nihilistic journey, we are all doomed.



Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2009. Print.

Plato. The Republic. New ed. Vol. Seventh. New York, New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1906. Print.

The Power Within the Artist Through Shamanism


In David Whitley’s book, Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit, he explores the origins of religion, shamanism and art. Religion, he explained, is a product of human biological and mental evolution[1] (p209), thought to be a part of what makes us human. Evolutionary psychologists cannot give a specific date to the origin of religion because religion and humanity are inseparable. Shamans used altered states of consciousness as a means for contacting unseen senses such as the supernatural and the ability to enter different realities. Trance was a means for communicating to different spiritual presences which are shaped by our daily perception. Shamans used many mediums to master these spirits such as tales, songs and dances, but they primarily used art to physically materialize their spirit contacts. By creating a visual image or object, Shamans left a remarkable record of these events; they created something in the real world to illustrate what was intangible. In contemporary age, when religion has been overshadowed by materialistic culture, the modern artist has taken the role of shaman to help us connect to these beliefs and explain the unreal. This essay will explore how Wassily Kandinsky and Max Ernst used shamanism, will draw examples from contemporary artists who use shamanism, and will explore the ways in which shamanism has affected Dadaism, Surrealism, and Abstract art.


The cave art of northern Spain and southern France has been around since the beginning of time if measured on a human scale. Archaeologists date these paintings and low relief carvings to the upper Paleolithic period roughly thirty-five thousand years ago [2](p25). Many theories have emerged concerning the origins of cave art. The first theory suggested that cave art was a practice to increase subsistence practices and give hunters more luck often described as “hunting magic”, this theory dates back to the first half of the 20th century[3] (p29). The second theory was for religious reasons due to its remote locations. Depictions of half-human, half-animal ritual performers not of hunters replaced the first theory by the second half of the 20th century. There was little correlation between bones of animals found and the animals that were depicted in art. The compositions implied a more symbolic structure, which lead to a third theory that it was purely art for art’s sake - the desire for artistic expression perhaps purely aesthetic. A new theory presented by David Lewis Williams emerged in 1980; he explained that Paleolithic cave art resulted from Shamanism, a religious system associated with contemporary and historical hunting and gathering people worldwide. Shamans act as functionaries in such religions and ceremonial activities based on direct interactions with the supernatural realm. The paintings in the Chauvet and Lascaux caves are visionary images that illustrate the spirits and events of the supernatural realm in all cases almost certainly painted after the artist’s trance experience. Paleolithic artists sought to touch the faces of the gods; they apparently looked into themselves to find their deities, not to the world around them. [4](p72)

The connection between shamanism and contemporary art is often overlooked. Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky wrote on this art theory in On the Spiritual in Art in 1911. He emphasized the need for artists to seek their inspiration internally rather than to look externally. Kandinsky therefore started creating art with no subject matter, the lines and color became the subject matter and he is often described as one of the founding figures of the abstract art movement[5](p72) Kandinsky had studied with Siberian shamans that taught him about the centrality of inner visions. Kandinsky arguably influenced the development of contemporary artists to rediscover shamanism; the same method explored by shamans in the Chauvet cave over thirty thousand years ago. Often art critics argue that the inability of viewers to appreciate abstract art is due to the business of their mind being consumed by the external materialistic world. Kandinsky in On the Spiritual in Art states “The ultimate triumph of the spiritual over the material.” [6](p25)


Impression III (concert), 1911, Oil on canvas 30x39, Kandinsky


In this piece, the artist stresses the importance of color. He morphs the objective forms into abstract outlines; the piano appears as a large black swatch of color and shapes represent figures. Kandinsky is highly influenced by his background in music and tries to capture the visual tone using primary intense colors to express emotion; he breaks away from the conventions of figurative reality and narratives. Kandinsky, like many Shamans, had the ability to see past the objective reality and see the essence of our internal reality.


Another example of a contemporary artist that explored the interior realms of his psyche was Max Ernst, a German Dadaist artist. Seeing, for Ernst, was a principle function of art; “Direct, true seeing has been lost in the lumber of centuries. But in every period there have been painters able to recover it. They are the true revolutionaries of art.” [7](p51)By seeing into the inner realms of psyche, he realized the relationship between inner and exterior worlds. Early in childhood, he experienced measles, and the fear of death provoked hallucinations. He took pleasure in being afraid, and visions later provoked hallucinations. He learned to let his imagination go.  Joan Halifax described in, Shaman: The wounded healer, “the realization of power occurs most frequently in the ordeal, a crisis involving an encounter with death. It comes suddenly, in an instant...The entrance to the other world occurs through the action of total disruption.”[8] (p43). Ernst explained by exploring these states allows one to see and live as if “reality” does not exist. Ernst was greatly influenced by the philosopher Nietzsche who was also exploring “reality”. Nietzsche explained that the notion of “reality” stems from a mass delusion produced by habitual consensus of naming a point that is continually reiterated. According to Andre Breton, Ernst’s colleague, Ernst questions that acceptance of objects and this had an important influence on the surrealist movement. Ernst was believed to be a seer, since childhood he provoked hallucinations. Levy explains seers as “those who live in nature as though they were flowers, the seer moves from an I-It relationship to an I-thou relationship with the object”[9](p11). In Shamanic art, birds appear frequently as an important symbol of seeing because of their ability to fly over large distances and observe things. Birds act as an important ally to the shaman who needs a detached and overall vision of reality. Levy explains, “Shamans often converse with their power animals in a trance state, the animal responding through elliptical body language, ambiguous images or even irrational human speech.” [10] (p58).


Loplop Introduces a Young Girl, 1930, Oil, Plaster and various materials on wood 195x89cm, Max Ernst


In this piece, Loplop, an imaginary character, makes its appearance for the first time as that of “enlightener” [11] (p47). Ernst admittedly identified with birds because of their ability to fly above and see multiple dimensions. Ernst uses a variety of materials to represent objects from multiple realities without providing a sense of reference. He does this to break the “law of identity” which was discussed previously in relation to Nietzsche. Ernst uses styles such as collage and frottage to aid this shift in realities to build texture and distort and confuse the eye. He claimed that frottage and collage intensified the visionary experience and the hallucinary contradictions of images and textures.


Through this exploration, one can denote that the origins of Shamanism, religion and art have been intertwined for centuries. As outlined further by Mark Levy’s book Technicians of Ecstasy, artists use methods such as seeing into inner realms, dreaming, hallucinations, trance, flying, near death encounters and tricksters in performance art to aid their community and explain the supernatural realm. The role of the artist is to provide meaning and understanding, to explore perceptions of the world and eventually to materialize this understanding, to record a permanent moment in time and to act as a healer in a society filled with trauma. As Levy describes “the shaman can operate genuinely only in a society that is still intact because it lies in an earlier stage of development. Our society is far from intact, but this too is a necessary stage.”[12](p58)

Work Cited

Bischoff, Ulrich. Max Ernst. Germany: Benedikt Taschen, 1994. Print.

Levy, Mark. Technicians of Ecstasy. Connecticut: Bramble Books, 1993. Print.

Messer, Thomas M. Kandinsky. Library Of Congress: Harry n. Abrams INC., 1997. Print.

Whitley, David. Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit. New York: Prometheus Books, 2009. Print.

[1] David S. Whitley, “Cave paintings and the human spirit”, 2009

[2] David S. Whitley, “Cave paintings and the human spirit”, 2009

[3] David S. Whitley, “Cave paintings and the human spirit”, 2009

[4] David S. Whitley, “Cave paintings and the human spirit”, 2009

[5] David S. Whitley, “Cave paintings and the human spirit”, 2009

[6] Thomas M. Messer, “Kandinsky”, 1997

[7] Mark Levy, “Technicians of Ecstasy”, 1946

[8] Mark Levy, “Technicians of Ecstasy”, 1946

[9] Mark Levy, “Technicians of Ecstasy”, 1946

[10] Mark Levy, “Technicians of Ecstasy”, 1946

[11] Ulrich Bischoff, “Max Ernst”, 1994

[12] Mark Levy, “Shaman as a Gifted Artist”, 1988


Cultural Imperialism

In the article Not Yet the Post-Imperialist Era by Herbert Schiller, it is argued that cultural domination remains prevalent today. The powerful and influential ideologies of America are pushed onto the global community through the use of mass media having various effects while changing the social landscape. Schiller believes ‘active’ audience resistance is necessary to overcome cultural homogenization.

The foundation, according to Schiller for cultural domination was established approximately twenty-five years ago when the international order was introduced. This was achieved by separating the globe into three hierarchal categories of the First World, which gained power from US Capitalist entities, the Second World, led by the Soviet Union’s nuclear capabilities, and lastly Third World, which consisted of collapsed colonial empires.  The other influencing factor was the development of television and mass communication.  Decisions are made by elite powerful corporations and transmitted through the media to a mass audience with the hopes of instilling certain political and cultural ideologies. This model of communication targets vulnerable Third world countries because of fragile economies and homogenized cultures.

three main examples which include the role of television and the rise of private broadcasting, American shows, and the spread of the English language and broadcast times, as well as the intrusion on public spheres such as sporting events and theme parks.

He strengthens his argument by describing Imperialism’s dominating stranglehold as “a system of exploitative control of people and resources” (p250), furthermore separating power into hard and soft. Hard power focuses on tangible resources whereas soft power consists of intangible aspects such as culture, ideologies and the communication mediums.

To support this notion of Imperialism and ‘hard power’ Schiller poses the case that most of Africa, Asia and Latin American states continue to experience economic, financial and even military domination. He further reinforces this argument by presenting the deployment invasion of 400,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia to establish control over valuable regions and resources.

One instance that Schiller demonstrates the concept of ‘soft power’ is by illustrating the case of the top 500 Global Industrial corporations in the world 167 are American. People worldwide are exposed to consumer culture rather than community interests and needs such as social programs. This increase in corporate involvement and international agency presence forces not only cultural ideologies upon other nations, but also the spread of the English language and changes to global time.  Schiller backs this example with the case of Brazilian television, saying that although it broadcasts the least amount of American shows, the funding is provided by top US corporations such as Coca Cola and the semantics of the shows are rooted in American ideologies. He then goes on and compares themes in Brazilian soap operas to programs shown in the US. 

Schiller’s opponents however believe in an active audience or a Neo-liberalism perspective stating, “the idea cultural diversity, for example, enjoys great popularity among many cultural observers. The central assumption that many diverse cultural tendencies and movements operate, with no one element dominating.” (p.249) This theory supports the notion that the audience chooses the meaning behind the message, a call for autonomy or from the post-modernist perspective places emphasis on the individual rather than the collective group. Neo-liberalists believe that imperialism is dead and that the focus ought to be on researching the effects of the media.

One must define the masses and assume that they are educated enough to make rational and well informed decisions. However, it is unclear that making individuals making educated decisions would they have enough democratic power to change the message through the medium. Schiller is not saying that the audience should mindlessly consume but with neo-liberalism and free markets cultural domination is exerted upon the masses on a global scale as it exploits resources, labor wages, enforces and suppresses various ideologies. All of this ultimately leads to the loss of languages and cultural homogenization in the exploited areas. 


  1. As we have discussed in class, some people believe that globalization is the expansion of Western civilization and the world capitalist system (e.g, Sanchez-Ruiz’s article). Explain the basic concept of this argument and your opinion on this. Second, discuss the differences between what Mexico and Canada negotiated under NAFTA regarding cultural industries, and the impact, if any, as a result.  What are the implications generally of regionalization as a form of globalization (regional integration such as NAFTA and EU).


According to Sanchez Ruiz globalization is a process that is overpowering and dominating regarding the world economy. Globalization is the current phase of capitalism that unites nations in the interest of dominant or often referred to as first world countries. Cultural industries struggle for sovereignty under globalization to keep up high standards and extreme international competition.

Globalization stemmed from historical movements whose principals paved the way for modernity through the internationalization of capital and mediation of economic goods and labor. Therefore globalization has become a system in which nations rely on each other in terms of capital circuits. The expansion of globalization has grown since the widespread of technology and neoliberalism.

Culture is fast becoming a multinational accumulation of diverse parts that can be read by many, free of territorial boundaries. However although many can access cultural industries it does imply that it provides equality. According to the UN two-thirds of humanity have not benefited from the new economy, especially in terms of income and GNP (gross national product).

The process of globalization can be attributed recently to the signing and enforcement of the 1994 NAFTA agreement. This trilateral agreement between Mexico, Canada and the US has significantly altered the landscape of economic production.

Canada has differentiated itself from Mexico regarding its resistance and protection of cultural industries. Since the development of technology systems and mass means of communication, Canada has held the belief that cultural industries are an important aspect of maintaining cultural sovereignty and the power of ideologies should be regulated. However Mexico signed a bilateral agreement with its northern US neighbor and the results are significantly different, for example their cinema industry has drastically declined since signing the agreement.

The safeguard of citizens rights such as health care, universal education, protection of cultural diversity and income equality has only valued the cultural sector after the American domination had been secured. The notion of a free market cannot realistically sustain itself. The state has often had to intervene to solve extreme social problems and regulate the market, especially due to dropping employment rates.

            The difference between Canada and Europe oppose to Mexico is that they protected and safeguarded their cultural industries by regulating their local markets and to ensure labor stays within the country to protect its citizens and culture. Globalization has not promoted competition or improved standards other than the viewpoints of the dominant corporate powers which has undoubtedbly been the United States. 

3. Feminism Critique


 Gender roles are not inherently biological but rather constructed by culture and society. All societies form gender roles through social patterns such as the distinction between male and female, the division of labor and power, and the devaluation of women’s domestic and maternal roles. According to these three distinctions presented in the Media Gaze societies are shaped by and for men. Media is prominently gendered because of the male gaze, consumption and the expectations created by the media.

Due to the politics of a patriarchal media the effects are not surprising. The result is the misrepresentation of women and their roles in society. The dehumanization and objectification of women is extremely harmful viewing them often as the second sex. Therefore the feminist ideology has been manifested in television entertainment for a variety of ways over the past twenty-five years and to presume the flexibility and adaptability of hegemonic practice and to acknowledge its inability to contain completely the possibilities of social change.

However the landscape of media diversity is changing due to the emergence

of women as eager consumers with hefty amounts of disposable income, spending power and control over financial economic decisions. As well as the increasing amount of women’s involvement in Internet is reshaping the social media networks. But the media landscape especially in Hollywood is still dominated by men and their sexualized fantasies of women. Young women are being raised in a hyper sexualized media cultures and although women are becoming active in many diverse areas such as politicians, they are nonetheless stereotyped.

A general concern for many feminists is regarding cultural globalization especially regarding feminists is that women and particularly women of color have less access to resources and have little control of the means of production. This results in a decline in local cultural values and ideologies and instead adopting the dominant ideologies. One cannot discount the disproportionate amount of cultural commodities are produced by men operating in a capitalist industrialized country. Nancy Fraser suggests the distinction of representing genders stemmed from the duality of spheres.  Assuming that the public sphere is held more valuable then the domestic sphere in which women have traditionally dominated. Feminist scholars such as Marilyn Waring point out how capitalism is naturally male bias because it values traditionally masculine ways of organization and knowing. This androcentric structure shapes our way of knowing and how we conceptualize questions. In essence, political economic research is much the same as it often ignores the gendered nature of capitalism, privileging some aspects of the economic production rather than others consumption (p347)[1]

Gender is a complex construction of deep-rooted social factors including race, class, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, age and more. Economists determine the well being of society based on economic factors such as modes of production and social relations that contribute to the well being of the nation. However as Marilyn Waring’s acknowledges this is does not adequately represent women because of the reproductive labor that is not factored into the equation, such as cooking, cleaning and childcare when looking at the GDP.  Feminist political economist looks at how women’s work is often deskilled and underpaid. Furthermore examining how corporations use women either as a commodity audience to sell to advertisers as a niche or as a sex object used to attract a demographic niche that becomes the commodity audience. Meeham’s research drew attention the assumptions behind advertisers that revealed institutional sexism where men were more valuable than women.

Liberal feminist who believe that the structures of society can remain the same while achieving equality are living in a state of denial. Gender inclusiveness will be the key in closing the gap between what women want and what media deliver. Media institutions must improve both their representation of and responsiveness to women for expectations to match reality. Liberal feminist who believe that the structures of society can remain the same while achieving equality are living in a state of denial.


[1] Ridordan: Feminist Theory and the Political Economy of Communication