Wednesday, May 21, 2008

MetaPost: Writing about Writing about Obama and Semiotics

Taking a step back from reading representations of Barack Obama in popular culture in order to read the process and politics of such a project reveals a great deal about how we already see our culture.

Marshall McLuhan argued in the 70s that we live surrounded by media; that we are always already inside its grasp and its gaze. It stands to reason, then, that our readings of media and media culture probably also fall within the parameters that we and the media have mutually established. To step outside those boundariess, though, to read icons, media, and public discourse on our own terms is more complicated and can be seen as elite or overly abstract.

In the case of Barack Obama, though, it's just fun. How often do we see a person and that person's politics infiltrate so many aspects of popular culture? Without question, Obama has literally altered the semiotic topography of America and American culture beyond what some have called "the Obama effect."

So prevalent is his image and so utterly altered is the political and social terrain post-Obama, we can now, officially, talk about what we at SemiObama call an "Obamized" landscape and the "Obamazation" of popular culture.

The French philosopher Michel Foucault describes revolutionary action as confronting "the relationships of power through the notions and institutions that function as their instruments, armature, and armor.” As our culture has migrated so thoroughly to the realm of the visual, the politics of semiotics have become more and more important. Obamizing shoes, t-shirts, billboards, pins, posters, YouTube, web pages (perhaps even this blog) can be seen as a kind of semiotic revolution--an alteration of the signs, symbols, and images we tend to associate with authority, power, and dominance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's your point and what is it's value? I'm nearing 60 yo and never imagined I would see this country so directionless, clueless, and helpless against itself and it's leaders. Why don't you address the issues instead of the tennis shoes? Are you waiting for tenure and improved benefits? Nice writing but altogether worthless outside the graffiti covered walls. Go try and get a job.