Monday, March 28, 2011

The Removal of the Question "Why?"

What I found most fascinating about Sut Jhally's analysis of image-based culture was the discussion on how advertisements have become less and less reliant on text and narrative to justifying consumer need. Jhally argues that previous to the establishment of our consumer culture, marketers and advertisers needed to establish sophisticated justifications for the consumption of nonessential items. Thus, advertisements were a combination of written and visual material which literally taught society "how to read the commercial messages" (Jhally 78). Currently, consumption has become so natural to our social and political existence that the need to justify production and consumption has dropped considerably as is reflected in the advertisements themselves. The "infomercial" or 30 second spot seems rather antiquated. Instead, contemporary advertisements operate enthymematically by assuming that audiences members are already inculcated with the desire to purchase and the belief that the marketplace is the principle source of satisfaction. Jhally describes this strategy as the "vignette approach" where the reasons to consume are "subsumed under a rapid succession of life-style images [...] that directly sell feeling and emotion rather than products" (84). This allows ads to be so incredibly truncated that we almost don't recognize when we are being sold something. As Jhally correctly points out, the image-based culture is not likely to fade any time soon so what do you make of this development? (85). Is it possible that our growing apathy for lengthy advertisements makes lengthy political deliberation less appealing? Is the short ad conditioning us to reject dialogue?

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