Reading the Henry Jenkins piece in conjunction with the Bibby Sowray article proved to be extremely thought-provoking. Although the readings are separated by nine years, it is notable that they both struggle with a certain tension between consumer abuse and consumer power while also surfacing the role of consumer “communities” prompted by interactivity. Those involved directly in the advertising, seem keen on justifying their motives via a false notion of inclusivity, of community, which really just acts as a marketing strategy apart of their larger pursuit of maintaining lasting relationships with buyers. As Coca-Cola’s director of interactive marketing states: “They’re having fun, they’re learning about music, they’re building a sense of community. . . and it’s all in a very safe and friendly Coke environment”(72).
What are the implications of using consumers as a means for advertising? What happens when these advertisements become embedded within, and potentially disguised/abstracted by, a larger landscape of images? In the case of Instagram, advertisers are using a consumer’s image to proliferate their own product in a space curated both by the sponsor, in that they choose who will promote their product, and by the “chosen one,” whose fabricated photo stream becomes home to the advertisements. Although the monetary outcome seems to benefit both parties involved, I am a bit skeptical of this relationship functioning as mutually advantageous.
The highly controversial artist Ryder Ripps had a show last year that involved him digitally disfiguring the Instagram pictures of the model Adrianne Ho and then reproducing them as large-scale oil paintings (actually painted by Jeff Koons’s assistants). This multi-layered consumer-centric project I think deals with a lot of the uncomfortable and convoluted territory surrounding visual and material consumption. Ho, an Instagram user who gets paid by major sponsors to promote their products (as discussed in the Sowray article), is being used by Ripps (her image physically manipulated) in a way that I feel not only speaks to, as Ripps puts it, the fact that “we’ve chosen how to mediate our own realities” but that advertisers have picked up on this and have started mediating with us, yet now in our own curated environments instead of the “very safe and friendly Coke environment”(72).
***if you’re interested****
Ryder Ripps talks to Vice about his project:
The project on Ryder Ripps website: