Digital Imperialism and Corporate Colonizing

Two videos found on AdBusters show what some might see as an extreme view of our hyper-digital and -marketed world: "All that is Solid Melts into Google," by Peter Woodbridge, and a trailer for the Oscar-winning "Logorama." Placed beside one another, the videos give us something else to think about: that while we are worrying about "digital imperialism" and being "e-slaves," our other reality has been colonized for a long time now.

Check out the videos and tell us what you think:

all that is solid melts into google from Peter Woodbridge on Vimeo.

Henry Giroux on Public Intellectuals and the Crisis of Language

Henry Giroux's recent article on brings to light the importance of a public role for academics and intellectuals, and the tension that arises in accusations of elitism and convoluted discourse. Following are just a few excerpts we pulled out, but be sure to check out the whole thing here.

From the beginning:
"The presupposition that academics no longer function as critical public intellectuals willing to connect their knowledge and expertise to larger public issues is now pervasive. Many factors have contributed to this alleged withdrawal from speaking to public issues, ranging from the demands of academic professionalism and the suppression of dissent to a simple lack of time to address such work."
A breakdown of his argument:
"First, I argue that academics should assume the role of critical public intellectuals. Second, we must repudiate the popular assumption that clarity is the ultimate litmus test to gauge whether a writer has successfully engaged a general educated audience. In this regard, I insist that the appeal to clarity has become an ideological smokescreen for a notion of common sense and 'simplicity' that have become excuses for abusing language as a marker of the educated mind. Third, I argue that public intellectuals need to take matters of accessibility seriously in order to combine theoretical rigor with their efforts to communicate forcefully and intelligibly to a larger public about the most pressing matters of the day. In short, I want to scramble the opposition between the work of public intellectuals and the alleged simplicity of clarity."
Lastly, a very interesting take on the work language does:
"One of the things that I therefore see as an extraordinarily useful job is to make people sensitive to the uses of language, not as a kind of arcane classification of languages in let's say the jargon of mechanical engineering versus the jargon of political science, but rather the way in which language carries forward values, does work. It does actually work, it performs services of one sort or another and above all, how language can change perceptions and indeed in the end change the world in which we live. And unless we have a sense of the way in which language can in fact change reality, instead of the other way around, which we always assume, then I think we're committed to a use of language that is dead and passive."

World Water Day and the Story of Bottled Water

From the makers of the excellent short film, "The Story of Stuff", comes a new short (8 mins) video called "The Story of Bottled Water". Released on World Water Day, it makes the argument against drinking bottled water (at least for those in the U.S.), and for the safety of your city's tap water. Also of interest is the concept of "manufactured demand" - a scheme by the corporate world to sell a product for which there is no real need. If that doesn't make you rethink your bottled water choices, consider that much bottled water is actually filtered tap water, and that the entire water industry is among the most environmentally unsound of all industries.

Also consider visiting the petition "Think Outside the Bottle" from Corporate Accountability International that seeks to demand clean and safe public water systems for everyone. Click here.

Check it out:

2010 Society for Applied Anthropology Meetings

I'll be taking a break this week so that I can attend the annual meetings of the Society for Applied Anthropology. These meetings are usually pretty fun, and they're often held in some unusual spots. This year we're headed to Merida, Mexico, which should make for an excellent break from a semester of teaching. I've got two papers to present on two very different topics, and I thought I would share the abstracts. I would love to talk/email more with anyone who wants to know more or has something to share, as both papers represent some longer-term research and personal interests. Here are the abstracts:

Moving with Maya: the Filming of a Social Movement

Abstract: After 500 years of enduring violence, exploitation, and marginalization, Maya peoples throughout Central America have begun participating in perhaps the most extensive pan-Maya movement to date. Maya from throughout the region have converged for an annual event at the ruins of Tikal for Maya Day, a reclaiming of the Columbus Day holiday. This paper details the 2009 experience of filming the procession to Tikal with a small group of Q’eqchi’ Maya healers from southern Belize. These healers intend to use the video for educational purposes at home and abroad to further the movement’s visibility and vitality while highlighting the importance of contemporary Maya culture.

The above paper will be part of the following session of papers:

Gaining "Visibility" through Visual and Media Anthropology: Theory and
Practice in Collaborations with Marginalized and Excluded Populations

Neoliberal globalizing capitalism creates new inequalities, and exacerbates existing and enduring ones. Concurrently, the globalization of media allow for the images and stories of vulnerable and excluded groups to be seen and heard by more people than ever before, creating "mediascapes" in which such populations compete for "visibility" on an imagined global stage. How do people in marginalized groups theorize about the use of media, especially those that have a global reach, in their attempts to gain "visibility"? How can media anthropologists work collaboratively with marginalized populations, joining their struggle for social justice as well as
producing rigorous scholarly research?

My second paper is something a bit different, and is a product of a collaborative effort with a fellow anthropological researcher:

Immigrant Health Care Niches: Exploring the Role of Botanicas in Tampa, FL

Many immigrant populations in the U.S. face a range of difficulties in accessing health care. Botanicas represent a unique health care resource in many U.S. cities for immigrant populations from Latin America and the Caribbean. Known as sites where various regional
medical traditions are maintained and practiced, botanicas provide access to affordable and familiar health care for many immigrants. This study examines botanicas in Tampa, Fl, focusing on the populations they serve and the common health needs they meet. The mapping of botanicas with other health care institutions further reveals the service niche that botanicas provide.

Check out the SfAA meeting program here >>>

The Grocery Gap Report

A few posts ago, we made a case for improving the food system in the US. Our interest in and research on the food system points to the reality that unhealthy system leads to an unhealthy populace. Our argument has been strengthened by a joint report from Policy Link and the Food Trust that was released this week. The Grocery Gap: Who Has Healthy Food and Why it Matters details how the color of one's skin and the income one earns has a drastic effect on the food choices that are then available. This in turn has a direct affect on health, as evidenced by the numerous studies cited in the repot. Some of the incredible findings revealed in the report:
- 23.5 million people in the US lack access to a supermarket within a mile of their home.
- eight percent of African Americans live in a census tract with a supermarket, compared to 31 percent of whites.
- Nationally, low-income zip codes have 30 percent more convenience stores, which tend to lack healthy items, than middle-income zip codes.
- For every additional supermarket in a census tract, produce consumption increases 32 percent for African Americans and 11 percent for whites, according to a multistate study.
- Residents who live near supermarkets or in areas where food markets selling fresh produce (supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, etc.) outnumber food stores that generally do not (such as corner stores) have lower rates of diet-related diseases than their counterparts in neighborhoods lacking food access.

These are just some of the findings revealed from this report that has reviewed and compiled hundreds of studies from across the US on the issue of food, food availability, and health. The evidence continues to grow, that having access to healthy, fresh food is a privilege that falls along racial and economic lines. Further, the lack of such foods has grave consequences for people's health and well being, which only places greater stresses on all of our social institutions. It is becoming clear that through vast improvement of the US food system, there may result a much healthier nation.

You can read the executive report at the Policy Link website here>>>

Read the full report in our Scribd Library here>>>

photo courtesy of Civil Eats

The Placebo Effect in a Magic Trick

TED recently posted an entertaining and interesting talk by magician Eric Mead about the placebo effect. Using his craft to think about what happens when "something fake becomes something real depending on someone's perception of it," Mead forces us to examine our reaction to something we know is a magic trick. Check it out:

Plantations to Penitentiaries: Race and the U.S. Prison System

by Lana Lynne on March 12, 2010
Over a year ago, headlines across the country blared news of two Pennsylvania judges who were accused of accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks to incarcerate juveniles (read our post about it here). The outcry turned much-needed attention to the relationship between incarceration, class, and race -- an issue that occasionally gets spotlighted in the national media with cases such as the Jena 6, Mumia Abu Jamal, and the Angola 3, to name a few.

But the cases, the concerns, the activism, and the scholarship about the racialization of the prison industrial complex continue, whether they ripple through the mainstream consciousness or not. Recently, Angola 3 News interviewed Nancy A. Heitzeg, Ph.D, professor of Sociology and co-director of the Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity program at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The issues raised in the interviews -- for instance, how a former slave plantation now functions as the State Penitentiary of Louisiana at Angola (once known as the "bloodiest prison in America"), or how the South transformed slave labor into prison labor following the enactment of the 13th and 15th Amendments -- give horrifying historical insight into how race and ethnicity play out in the modern U.S. prison system. Following are just a few excerpts from the two-part interview.

From the first interview, which deals with the history of the modern prison system, specifically through the lens of the prison at Angola:
Slave Codes became Black Codes and criminalized a range of activities if the perpetrator was black. The newly acquired 15th Amendment right to vote was curtailed by tailoring of felony disenfranchisement laws to include crimes that were supposedly more frequently committed by blacks. And, the liberatory promise of the 13th Amendment – “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in the United States”- contained a dangerous loophole- “except as a punishment for crime”. This allowed for the conversion of the old plantations to penitentiaries, and this, with the introduction of the convict lease system, permitted the South to continue to economically benefit from the unpaid labor of blacks.

The patterns established in the old south have proliferated and expanded throughout the US, as African Americans are disproportionately policed, prosecuted, convicted, disenfranchised and imprisoned in the prison industrial complex. There has been a corresponding shift from de jure racism codified explicitly into the law and to a de facto racism where people of color, especially African Americans, are subject to unequal protection of the laws, excessive surveillance, extreme segregation and neo-slave labor via incarceration—all in the name of “crime control”. It is the current manifestation of the legal legacy of the racialized transformations of plantations into prisons, of Slave Codes into Black Codes, of lynching into state-sponsored executions. The “imputation of crime to color” that Frederick Douglass warned of 125 years ago continues to the present.
And from the second interview, which broadens the scope of Heitzeg's (and others') analysis of the prison system:
Prison has become a source of profit. The prison industrial complex is a self-perpetuating machine where the vast profits (e.g. cheap labor, construction contracts, job creation, and continued media profits from exaggerated crime reporting and crime/punishment as entertainment) and perceived political benefits (e.g. reduced unemployment rates, “get tough on crime” and public safety rhetoric, and funding increases for police and criminal justice system agencies and professionals) lead to policies that are additionally designed to insure an endless supply of “clients” for the criminal justice system. These self-serving policies include enhanced police presence in poor neighborhoods and communities of color; racial profiling; decreased funding for public education combined with zero-tolerance policies and increased rates of expulsion for students of color; increased rates of adult certification for juvenile offenders; mandatory minimum and “three-strikes” sentencing; draconian conditions of incarceration and a reduction of prison services that contribute to the likelihood of “recidivism.”
Read the entire interviews and more at

The photo is featured with the interviews and is from, the website of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, by Douglas A. Blackmon.

(Sub)Conscious Consuming and Neuromarketing

In a culture in which reality is often overlayed with a no-less-real virtual reality, it seems fitting that we can now talk about "conscious consuming's" Orwellian double-meaning.

Neuromarketing, the practice of using neuroscience and medical technology to tap into people's subconscious desires, is becoming more popular, and perhaps less cost-prohibitive, with companies such as Microsoft, Google, Frito-Lay, The Weather Channel, and MTV signing up to reap its benefits. Thus the idea of conscious consuming has taken on a new meaning -- literally, are the products you buy and the policies you support your wants and your beliefs, or are they the byproduct of a brain study that found what factors stimulate your hypothalamus?

Sure, marketing manipulation has been the lifeblood of modern advertising since its inception -- whether through fear of the mundane (peer-approval) to the serious (death), class mobility, race and/or ethnic identification, or subliminal messaging, to name a few. Even more nowadays, this latest turn for advertising should come as no surprise given the vast amount of less-than-innocuous information gathered from our internet browsing and social networking.

Nevertheless, certain organizations are speaking out against the ethical issues that accompany neuromarketing. This video and petition from the World Business Academy is one example worth checking out:

And here is a link to their petition to Congress to "hold hearings to investigate the commercial and political uses of neuromarketing so the public can learn which companies and political candidates are using neuromarketing research to manipulate consumers’ and voters’ choices."
Given that political campaigns are evidently deeply threaded with neuromarketing strategies, it will be interesting to see how the petition goes over.

Image from The Guardian

Why We Need a Healthier Food System

Here at Recycled Minds, we like to think of ourselves as "conscious consumers," especially when it comes to the food that we eat. We love food, we love cooking and creating, and we also love going out and sampling what others create. We have our fingers in the various food movements, from organics to supporting local producers, to vegetarianism, to a conscious fish catch and consumption. All of these movements have their positive sides, and offer something for all of us to strive to improve in our own lives. There are also many constraints that people from across the social-economic spectrum face that keep many of these food movements on the fringes of the mainstream.
Having just come across a recent article about the price of food-borne illnesses in Utah, has us wondering if new findings could push us towards a healthier food system for everyone. We're talking about the health implications that stem from the diets that we keep, as well as the system that produces the food that we consume. The article from the Desert News reveals that people in Utah spend $1.2 billion dollars on health care costs (and lost wages) because of food-borne illnesses. The article refers to a new report from the Make Our Food Safe Coalition, so we went and found out what they were talking about.

What we found was at once startling and not all that surprising, and it certainly put the problem in perspective - this is something that needs to be addressed! The study "estimates the total economic impact of foodborne illness across the nation to be a combined $152 billion annually." This is an incredible sum, especially in these times of economic distress. This is $152 billion lost because of the food we eat to survive. They have produced an informative interactive map that details these costs by state. The coalition further reports:
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 76 million new cases of food-related illness—resulting in 5,000 deaths and 325,000 hospitalizations—occur in the U.S. each year. The ten states with the highest costs per case are: Hawaii, Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, the District of Columbia, Mississippi, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey."
While many of us are lucky enough to engage in the support of alternative food production strategies, the dominant corporate food production still reigns supreme, and most people have no choice but to consume the products of this system. This work makes it abundantly clear that while the citizens of the U.S. may be getting cheap food, they are paying for it with their health.

Visit the Make Our Food Safe Coalition here>>>

Read more about their report here>>>

Check out their interactive map of the costs of food borne illness here>>>

And do your best to support the various alternatives to corporate food production.

Comic Image courtesy of