Sociology of Knowledge and Visualization: Discovering Society's Fundamentals in the Light of Digital Change

University of Potsdam, Germany
by HerrEmil on November 1, 2016
This ad by the German Traffic Security Council is part of a bigger campaign launched in 2014. The campaign consists of three posters to raise awareness about safer driving. As a side-note I’d like to mention, that 2/3 of the posters feature male drivers and the only woman driver is shown with other females as passengers. In this post I will show three elements that raise the possibility to understand that poster and give meaning to its contents, the elements are not ordered in any hierarchical way.

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University of Potsdam, Germany
by inam on October 30, 2016
I chose this ad to demonstrate how much different types of knowledge are necessary to understand the meaning of an image. On the one hand, the interpretation of this advertisement (of all images!) is based upon the knowledge the viewer may have access to. On the other hand, you always have to note the social context in which the ad is presented.

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Reply to: Head Over Heels
12 months 2 days ago

Hello Juicycouture,
thank you for the interesting article. In your argumentation on this Gucci ad, you could also add another perspective. For instance, the fact that the woman is standing above the man and the fact that she is the one who is pulling her pants down - not him - could be a sign of the dominance of the woman. It seems like she is the one who decides what the man is able to see and what not, kind of like she is playing with him. The man in his on his knees and indeed grabbing the woman's legs, which could also lead to the deduction that he is begging her to reveal her full body to him. He looks young, soft, and even has longer hair and wears make-up - quite different from the average display of masculinity in most commercials. There, men are often displayed as very muscular, tall, and often with beards. How could this be included in the discussion about gendered world views? Again, thank you for this article and I'm looking forward to your thoughts on these ideas.

Val

12 months 3 days ago

Hi DucksOnQuack9898,
thanks for your statement! I really agree with your key message on the Calvin Klein advertisement. That Calvin Klein uses a half-naked female model to portrait seductiveness next to the portrait of a male rapper as the money maker is sexist and provokes gender stereotypes. For the woman there is also the whole body shown, while they only show the man’s face, which objectifies her. To me, the key problem in this advertisement lies in the contrast of the male and female version right next to each other.

To add to your idea on how you would change the advertisement: Making the female version less sexually suggestive is a good idea. But when you say it is not appropriate for a girl to pose with her legs spread, because someone could see her as a slut, you are only restricting woman on how they should be like. Like you said, feminism is about equality and enable woman to do what they want to do. If a man would act in that pose, I guess no one would have been concerned.

12 months 3 days ago

Thank you for your interesting, extremely suggestive ad and your interpretation.
I totally agree with you that we should be concerned about objectification of women (and men) and of the social level of ad, of course. Yes, advertisement like this one is (or can be) really triggering.

Well, personally, I don’t want to be controlled by a well-topped piece of bread – why do you think, that “the woman being controlled by the sandwich”? You argue that the sandwich clearly refers to a penis - I know what you mean but try to get a deeper look: WHY do you think that the sandwich reflect an unappetizing reference to oral sex? What kind of knowledge is necessary to understand this ad in general?

“Because of this advertisement, people are only going to focus on the message behind the real purpose of the advertisement and will not pay attention to the quality of the product.” - You write about “the real purpose of the advertisement” - What is their real purpose? What is the aim of this fast food advertising? Who is it aimed at? Is the ad solely intended for men?

All in all, that is exactly my own view: we should always reflect on what the media shows us and on what we SEE.

12 months 3 days ago

It is true that there is a huge difference between losing weight with money making products or doing it in a healthy way. So I like the idea of the slogan "Do what is best for your body" very much. With pictures like that, people are put under pressure. They forget all risks and make wrong decisions, to achieve there goals as fast as possible. Just because of an unrealistic idea of the perfect body, as you said. The Ad is of course gendered messaged and addressed to woman. Maybe because woman are more often motivated to change something on there bodies. The topic Weight loss is rather connected with female than male. Men should build muscles. In the end, there is no ideal body type for both. It is not only a question of weight, it is more a question of lifestyle which is represented in this advertising. A lifestyle the society should not support.

Reply to: An "Easy" Ride
12 months 3 days ago

Hearing the campaign’s slogan, one would think of something extraordinary, something passionately desired. It gives the idea of a thing, or more specifically an item – being the car advertised or not – that many would want to have. Even so, seeing the poster itself, one finds out which association is to be made, so does the author of the post octobersveryown.
Observing the picture for the first time, it is hard to ignore the fact, that the sexual intercourse is standing in the middle of the campaign. ‘Sex sells’, some would say and so does it here. But is it so? The way the author describes this selling strategy shows, that it is not all about the sex. It is something more like ‘Sexism sells’ and this is the main point in octobersveryown’s analysis that I want to discuss. The author succeeds in describing the illustration, even though he does not analyse the position in greater detail. It is important to note, that it is considered as one of the most intimate ones, because kissing is easy accessible and the way the lovers lie, allows them a constant eye contact. This connection is broken by the magazine lying on her face – it dehumanizes her completely. It is questionable if he cares much about the intimacy in the act, as stated. The closeness is supposed to be between two human beings and the passion is being transferred to a non-living object. In return, the objectified woman is holding his neck, establishing a warm and familiar connection. This way, the campaign indicates the closeness and her unwillingness to let him go – just the relationship an automobile enthusiast would have with his brand-new BMW.
Assuming women and men must have such physics and pointing out how attractive this is, allows the ad to target a specific group of customers. Their youthful look and their romantic act symbolize vitality, passion, energy, also fun. It is often used by ad campaigns to appeal to younger people and elder ones, who wish to give their evergreen spirit a second chance.
It is said, that women belong to men. They must obey and take care of everything men wish for. This thought is being summoned in the reader’s mind while reading the text. Their effort, love and generosity is compared to a service a car could deliver. It is their duty to do so, ‘whenever [men] ask for it’.
Considering the year, the ad was released, it is sad to find out, that BMW was not the only manufacturer who has used such means to get to the customer. It was published 14 years ago and it would still succeed. Human beings not only like to see nudity; they seek for it. It is more likely for one to purchase, if their interest has been awakened. Young women and men with retouched half-naked bodies seem to be much more ‘beautiful’, if they meet society’s ideals – thin, sporty, healthy, chic and willing. ‘Normal’ people are too ordinary to get buyers’ attention and this is the reason such campaigns benefit from it.
Therefore, ads incite big discussions and it is supposed to be like this with all its pros and cons, reflecting our imperfect society, which allows such advertisements to prosper. Most people are easily being manipulated by commercials and the sadness lies in their incapability of willing to change that. They can hardly escape while being steadily attacked by the marketing industry. Known issues are hardly overcome and that is a problem today’s society must solve.

Reply to: ID, please?
12 months 3 days ago

I like your text because it addresses a concerning problem in our contemporary society. Pictures like these are part of the reason why we are constantly discussing the "gender problem". This picture represents the image of a female in an incorrent way. No sixteen- year old girl should convey this typ of feminity. Rather, pictures like these should exemplify that there is so much more to achieve for woman than just to look good.

1 year 13 hours ago

Hi Gelato!
Thank you for your interesting post. Maybe you can find some more proposals for your interpretation by asking some more questions.
Try to think about the relationship between the image (of the women) and the text. You began to focus on the first part of the text – but why only the phrase “The Perfect 'Body’”? Try to think about the other words. E.g. why is BODY set in quotes? And, what does it mean: “Perfect fit.”, “Perfect comfort.” “Perfectly soft.”? The perfect fitting of the BODY? Can a BODY be perfectly soft and comfort? “Explore the collection” - What type of collection is to explore? The collection of lingerie or the collection of perfect bodies or the collection of women etc.? What kind of knowledge do you need to understand the text?
In which social context is the ad presented? You wrote about eating disorders, diets and cosmetic surgeries – what else? What other cultural associations or conventional codes come to your mind when looking at the ad? I like that you emphasized the fact that ads such as this do not only affect the minds of impressionable young girls, but all women. Ask yourself “why?”. And, what about men looking at this ad? What do they see?
Try to think outside the box. ;)

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