Consumption Junction

Consumption Junction is a regular column by Recycled Minds collaborator, Lana Lynne. 
The column is a result of her interest in and analysis of consumer culture in the U.S. and around the world.

What's in Store for Reading? posted 3.9.13
Barnes & Noble recently announced it will be closing more stores over the next decade, about 20 each year, news that has been met with mixed reaction. As a proponent of small businesses versus behemoth box stores, I can’t help but feel a small sense of smug satisfaction at hearing this news. On the other hand, there is a part of me that says, “But wait. Conspicuous consumption and gluttonous spending is good if it’s a bookstore!”
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Consuming Black History: Washington, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Importance of Black Media   posted 2.22.13
Since the 1920s, February (all or part of) has been designated as Black History Month. Each year, this designation rekindles a debate about the necessity of singling out a month to celebrate or acknowledge historically significant African-Americans. Instead of segregating black history, many argue, aren’t history lessons integrated all year long anyway? Isn’t it time to move on? Others believe that such views are shaded by short-sighted idealism, and that Black History Month remains an important placeholder in the long history of race in the U.S. 
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"Forget the Money"  posted 11.30.12
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" That ubiquitous childhood refrain echoes throughout many people's lives, evolving with each new chapter of experiences. When we're young, the possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. As we get older, for many these choices begin to fit into pre-molded channels, into recognizable and attainable occupations. By the time we're "grown up," what we want to be has been replaced by what we do for money.
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Speaking with Ghosts: Literature in a Culture of Me posted 9.16.12 
This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. What does the e-reading revolution -- and the technology it employs to track reader habits -- mean for the Literary Canon?
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Nothing but money is sweeter than honey posted 5.18.12 
One of the four basic types of narrative conflicts is man versus himself (the others being man versus society, nature, or himself). This type of conflict usually involves some type of internal struggle, where readers follow the character's journey of self-realization, sometimes arriving at a realization of their own. As the tragedy of the honey bee continues to unfold on the international stage, we have a story that takes this conflict to a new level.

"A Word to the Wives" posted 3.10.12
Check out this promotional video from a 1955 home construction company, a perfect portrait of advertisers' sale of the American Dream in which two friends cook up a scheme to convince the one woman's husband to buy her a new house with a modern kitchen.

Agency and Panopticism in a Digital World    posted 1.4.12
While there are those among us who thrive in the digital world, and eagerly await the next new way to "share our stories" or to put technology to good use, there are others who have a more pessimistic (some might say paranoid) view of the virtual landscape many traverse with abandon.

Pitching Big Food   posted 11.8.11
A new report published by the Center for Food Integrity, a consumer research group formed in 2006 by food industry power players (including Monsanto) to study consumer attitudes about the food system, gives interesting insight into the marketing research of Big Agriculture. 

Women in the Workforce    posted 9.15.11
In the early 1700s, at the dawn of the commercial marketplace, author Eliza Haywood published her first novel, Love In Excess, to great critical and mass acclaim, earning it equal billing with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Caruso as one of the most popular novels of the early eighteenth century. The novel was a somewhat racy exploration of women's private and public lives. Not much biographical information is known about Haywood, other than that she wrote professionally and acted in the theater to support her two children.

The Pursuit of Happiness, Part II   posted 8.6.11
A recent Al Jazeera article written by James Ridgeway opens with the question, "Has America become a nation of psychotics?," and goes on to explain how antipsychotic drugs have become the best-sellers in the U.S. in the therapeutic drug class.

The Pursuit of Happiness   posted 7.3.11
Complicity hath reached a new level, dear patriots. A recent study published in the journal Psychology and Marketing looked at the practice of retail therapy, whereby advertisers promote the happiness quotient of products, and consumers buy things to make themselves feel better. Through surveys and diary-keeping, the study found that the negative mood that prompts a therapeutic retail excursion is indeed improved -- whether from the subject having followed through with a purchase or from the subject having exercised restraint from purchasing (the strategy for mood-lifting depended on the individual's rules for him- or herself).

Digital v. Analog    posted 6.11.11
Old-fashioned, cumbersome, time-wasting, paper-wasting, obsolete relics that can't keep up with our fragmented, hyper-consuming, surface-grazing culture?

The Intersection of Mrs. Consumer and Ecofeminism    posted 4.25.11
In the early 20th century, advertisers gave birth to the conception of “Mrs. Consumer.” Historians of consumer culture note how the “Fashionable Woman” of the 19th century, whose passion for luxury was curtailed by moral criticism, was supplanted in the 20th century by “Mrs. Consumer,” a secularized image constrained by a workplace rationality.

Owning the Digital You   posted 3.31.11
If we take social media networks as part of popular culture, and we believe that popular culture maintains power structures beneficial to consumer capitalism, then we can view these networks beyond what they appear to be on the surface.

The Bee Decline Worsens    posted 1.08.11
Last month, an EPA document leaked to a Colorado beekeeper shed light on the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder that has been plaguing honeybees since at least 2006. The document, dated November 2, 1010, details how the pesticide Chlothiadin, produced by the German agrichemical mogul Bayer, was found to be toxic to honeybees:

Information Dissemination    posted 12.18.10
Guernica Magazine published an interesting piece, "Public Disinterest" by David Morris, on the history of the United States Postal Service, situating it as a public commons through its role as a public institution and a means of mass communication. Through various Congressional rulings, ranging from postage rate decrees (newspapers paid less for news and more for advertising circulars) to structural changes, its role as a commons has been eliminated. The dissemination of information is no longer prioritized, as evidenced by the favoring of large media corporations over nonprofit periodicals.
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Join the Revolution  posted 10.17.10
Check out this interesting essay from 1983 on advertising and global culture. As consumerism became an increasingly popular field of study in the 'seventies and 'eighties, critics turned from its effects on the U.S. and other western cultures to look at the bigger picture.
Author Noreen Janus looks at why a Brazilian advertising executive chose "Join the Pepsi Revolution" over "Join the Pepsi Generation" for ads in Brazil, and the implications of the ad man's insight: "most people have no other means to express their need for social change other than by changing brands and increasing consumption."

Urban Growers in Philadelphia   posted 9.27.10
A recent Grist article by Tom Laskawy gives an informative overview of the urban farming going on in Philadelphia, PA, these days, spotlighting three urban farming organizations that are "putting Philly on the urban ag map": Weavers Way Co-op, Greensgrow Local Initiative for Food Education (LIFE) CSA, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's Growers Alliance.
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The Craft Beer Movement   posted 8.27.10
In a country raised on a Protestant/Puritan work ethic, where hard work and diligence is mashed together with an unhealthy dose of individualism and aesthetic abstention, it is ironic that consuming alcohol is considered by some to be the nation's first national pastime, and unsurprising that this pastime has had such a storied history. The era that perhaps stands out the most is Prohibition and the simultaneous explosion of illegal alcohol sales, when alcohol's social meaning was imbued with iconic images of moonshine and mobsters. (Literary side note: At the same time, alcohol and Prohibition informed the work of a generation of writers. Take, just as one example, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In criticizing the moral decline of a society consumed by artifice and excess, the book offers numerous instances of alcohol consumption to contrast the moralizing efforts of its Prohibition setting.)
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