Monday, March 14, 2011

Image Event

I would be really interested to hear everyone's thoughts on the effectiveness of using image events as a protest strategy. Deluca's analysis provides dozens of fascinating examples of the implementation of unorthodox campaign strategies to gain public attention. However, the spectacle created can often detract from the actual message being expressed. What I found particularly interesting is Deluca's comment that it is possible to measure the success of image events by the backlash they inspire (6). I tried to find a link from an advertisement I witnessed last year, but it seems like it has been removed. Anyways, it was a campaign to end the procedure of "live gutting" where fish have their guts removed while they are still alive. The advertisement started with a woman burlesque singer performing in front of a small crowd in an old-time theater. Then, out of nowhere, this fisherman comes on stage, strikes her in the head with a mallet, and begins to clean her like a fish. Then a message comes on screen- "You wouldn't do this to a person, so why are we doing it to fish?" Obviously, it was an incredibly traumatic advertisement, and thus, perhaps inherently counter-productive. It is true that the Belgium animal rights group received a lot of attention, and even now one year later I still am able to clearly recall the campaign. However, the advertisement did not leave me with a good impression of the group or their message. So, is the image event a self-defeating strategy? Or, does it create space for more traditional groups to receive recognition? Which is more interesting, the fact that many movements for social change select such approaches? Or, that many times in today's mediated society it requires such measures to receive attention?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jessy,
    This reading also caught my attention. I immediately thought of some recent documentaries such as "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The Cove." In a way, these are image events too because they uncover misdeeds by whatever industry they are filming. I think these events do create space for groups to receive recognition because most people watching the documentaries choose to watch them because they have an interest in the subject matter. It's a way to strengthen relationships with people who likely already support a cause. Graphic, traumatic images are expected, so you don't have the backlash you would see if these images were on a billboard or on a commercial where people don't necessarily choose the images they see. To me, that's where the image event could be ineffective. People have to be willing and mentally prepared to receive potentially traumatic images or they will react negatively. And, this brings me to an example of an image event my coworkers and I experienced last week in a meeting at work. For background info., every day our staff meets at 8 a.m. to discuss random "educational" topics. Since many of us put on 60,000+ miles of driving a year, one of these topics is driving safety. My boss is a big fan of "image events." He thinks the only way to get our attention on the importance of driving safety is to grab at our emotions. So, after one of my co-workers got into a minor traffic accident the previous day, he decided to mix in a few extremely gruesome accident scene photos with the day's driving tips. We've watched emotional youtube videos before about traffic victims, but never something like what he showed us that day. How well do you think we reacted to this at the start of a work day? Not to mention, a few of us had immediate family members or friends killed in car accidents. We weren't expecting to see those images, nor was it appropriate for a workplace meeting. My co-workers reacted very negatively to the images and were very angry at my boss for his decision to show them. Productivity was also non-existent that day as everyone was fuming over the incident. This defeated my boss's original intention to motivate people to be better drivers by showing them what could happen if they didn't. Everyone instead focused on his decision to show the images.

    So, I do think image events are effective, but I think it's important to be tasteful and thoughtful when the message is controversial or graphic. If people are exposed unwillingly or unexpectedly to the image it may not produce a favorable outcome.