With: Dr. Strangelove

Class Notes Retrieved from July 6, 2011: 

The Fallacy of Semiotic Democracy:  The process of individuals collectively altering society by changing the meaning of cultural signs is known as “Semiotic Democracy.” The term was coined by media studies professor John Fiske in his 1987 book, Television Culture. In that book, Fiske noted that television treats its viewers as members of semiotic democracy capable of assigning their own meaning to images they see on the screen. In this interpretation, semiotic democracy is defined as engaging with, altering, and re-shaping cultural products. However, I find it quite difficult to assign my own meanings to many things shown through mass media since it is usually to the point.

  • Similar to porn, ads provide unreal perceptions of sexual life and use sex in order to sell. For example in the following Calvin Klein Jeans Ad:
  • Through mass media ads reproduce undemocratic system of social orders
  • Democracy is for all people regardless of their gender, class, civil status etc., however ads  portray and depict people who are elite and powerful sustaining the ‘good life’ while putting down those who do not hold that power. For example, an elder gentlemen who has a dozen of sexy young models around him because he drives a Corvette
  • Advertisements are a form of distorted communication, they distort our perceptions of what we consider needs in order to sell commodities
  • Ads enter consumer’s idea of what is actually needed in their daily lives
  • Ads create false ideologies which make people think they need something even if they do not in order to provide profits for corporations, companies and economy
  • Ads manage consumer demands which is very undemocratic
  • In the last century a consumer society has been created and transitioned from an Industrial society…new forms of popular entertainment, new vehicles of mass communication, and new consumer products of immense popularity was born
  • Significant shift in consumerism due to factories, technology, mass production (hydro-electricity)…therefore, electricity, mass media and mass production changed consumerism overtime
  • Ads have created a ‘social symbolic’ usage of products by telling consumers they need to use these products in order to express their identity…’theory of dematerialization’
  • Ads promote products which convey meanings
  • Culture = patterned behaviours
  • Marketplace = cultured system and also a patterned system of meanings
  • Ads tell people in society what is in fashion, for example, the What’s hot and What’s not column in the In-style Magazine
  • People depend on the system how to communicate and construct oneself in a consumerism culture/society
  • Products mediate personal relationships
  • ‘commodities’ = the stuff, portrays who we are by the meanings given to these products
  • Ads sanction ideas and ‘delegitimize’ them (that which is not represented)            

In this class, we discussed, how Karl Marx provides a critique on capitalism by arguing how our values and needs are socially constructed. Marx’ critics argue that capitalism and the market place is considered a natural nature of men and women, and people should not interfere with the law of nature. However, Marx does not believe that capitalism is a law of nature in any form.

Ads create wrongful illusions and have been created from a very distracting industry by making people think they need something when realistically they do not.  Ads’  main goal is to maximize profits and direct society to buy into materialistic things and to think of them as necessities.

  • ‘System of need creation’ never has an end and it must never satisfy us. Capitalism will not provide contentment (full satisfaction).


  • The Planet cannot sustain global consumerism with hyper-consumerism
  • Capitalism manipulates by touching on real needs and linking them together with unrealistic needs
  • Social practices and values get us in the game of consumption
  • Significance is not only in ads but through products which we receive a certain meaning and that is what we carry from them
  • Meaning from corporate systems are constantly embedded
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