In this article, Cardell argues that selfies are a form of travel writing and add to the cultural narrative of travel. This is a refutation of the generally accepted societal notion that looks down on selfies. The notion that selfies somehow pollute and decrease the value of the travel narrative. Nobody wants to be the tourist with the selfie stick. But Cardell argues that selfies actually show a more authentic view of the places where they are taken because they tell the story of the person in the selfie in the context of the location. It’s a form of “autobiographical travel” without the pages and pages of text, months or even years of writing and editing until publishing, and without the cost of publishing a book. Instead, this is the experience of the average traveler in a snapshot. Cardell also refutes the idea that selfies are always vain and self-centered. In the example of the selfie at Anzac Cove, the selfie-taker is looking away from the camera and into the water, so that the attention isn’t on her but on the location behind her. In the caption, she also makes sure to describe to her audience where she is and the significance of the place. By purposefully taking attention away from her by looking away from the camera, she emphasizes her surroundings and what she’s looking at, which achieves the goal she is looking for: turning her audience’s attention to Anzac Cove.
While Cardell and Douglas make some valid points about selfies can be complex and have meaningful value, I believe these pictures are mainly still taken with nothing but a vain purpose behind them. In their writing, the two authors go in-depth about people taking selfies when on a trip, specifically in historical sites where it can be deemed as insensitive. When talking about one of these places, the ANZAC Cove in Turkey, they mention that
“Visitors to this site are drawn to the particular national context and complex history of the site, but they are also increasingly tourists, equipped with mobile devices and engaging in performances of documentation and memory-making that exceeds, or extends, the commemorative function of the site in its geographical location”
Because of this, tourists are prone to take pictures and selfies no matter the place. They argue that while it can be seen as impolite and careless, these pictures can be taken with the purpose of reflecting on the meaning of said place or to teach a certain audience about it.
While this is a strong point, I believe they are being too optimistic about it. Yes, some people do take selfies with the intent to tell a story or educate others, many tourists take selfies to post on social media for others to see where they are. I’m sure we’ve all taken a selfie before while on vacation, and I’m also sure we haven’t thought “I’m going to post this to teach something about the place I’m at.” Instead, most of the time we’re thinking “I’m going to post this so people close to me (or whoever follows you) can see where I’m at” or “I’m going to post this so I can look back on this moment and the place I was visiting.” I admit I’m part of this, if you look at my Instagram it’s filled with travel pictures where the main focus is myself and not the place, which I posted with no real purpose except wanting to share where I was at and remember it. There’s a sense of vanity that comes when taking a posting a selfie, whether we admit it or not. As the authors themselves mention,
“The selfie in everyday life, as in travel, is evidence and “bragging” in the context of “I was here”
After all, the main focus of the picture is us and not the place we’re visiting, which attests to our purpose when taking and posting said image. Would we focus the picture on ourselves if the goal was to bring attention to the place we’re at, or to teach others something about the place? There’s definitely nothing wrong with posting a travel selfie. In the end, it’s our account and we have the liberty to post whatever we want to, as long as it follows the guidelines. However, we shouldn’t think there’s a greater purpose for what we’re doing in order to make ourselves feel better about it. While I do agree that we take selfies with the intent to share our experiences with those who follow us, I don’t think that in most cases this has any other greater purpose behind it except letting others know about our fun vacation.
Rhetorical Flaws of Jamaica Kincaid
In no way is Jamaica Kincaid’s anger invalid, untruthful or dramatic, but her emotional blanket statements disvalues her rhetoric in her short story, A Small Place. I would first like to emphasize that her points are truthful and she should be taken seriously. In different places throughout the short story she seems to go on a tangent of rage toward the English or oppressors in general. This pathos in her story is an integral aspect but the frequency of it and the generalizations she makes forces her argument to be erratically emotional which does not give power to her argument. In her conclusion she remarks, “Not too long after, [Antigua] was settled by human rubbish from Europe, who used enslaved but noble and exalted human beings from Africa (all masters of every stripe are rubbish, and all slaves of every stripe noble and exalted; there can be no question about this.)” (p.80) These large blanket statements are not completely true on both the oppressor and oppressed sides. She uses extremely harsh language that juxtaposes her praising language, in a way that does not help her argument. While her anger and harshness is valid it does not help her argument. If you do not believe me think back to an argument you have had. If you discussed your points and communicated your anger how did that differ from screaming blanket and personal statements about the opposer. Even though the personal blanket statements may have truth to them, it does not help one’s rhetoric to carry red hot rage. Overall, it is not about what you are sharing. Kincaid should share her anger, it’s an important aspect of A Small Places’s pathos but it is more about how she shares her rage.
After class thoughts:
After discussing this and revisiting some other passages I would like to point out where she does a fantastic job of using her rage to be persuasive. Page 32 is a great example when she discusses language. So my entry doesn’t exactly fit a refutation because I missed some areas where she does a great job of using emotion, so I am not exactly arguing against her rhetoric. I will say I remember the parts where she becomes especially erratic and not the parts where she does a good job, like on page 32. Which does say something about her rhetoric.
Advertising History and Gendered Environments. By: Diane S. Hope
While the majority of Hope’s arguments are valid and backed up with firm evidence there is a small claim she makes that is not true. In the beginning of the section titled “Advertising History and Gendered Environments” she argues that advertising companies in the 20th century were aware and did not try to cover the harmful effects of advertising commodity consumption. She writes, “ advertising did not hide the production process nor its effects on nature. Advertising’s paradoxical images extolled the benefits of modernity and mass production while insisting that commodity purchases reaffirmed traditional values.” While her argument that advertising caused environmental despair is correct, she negates to share that advertisement companies did in fact hide the “production process” and its effects on nature. Proven by the example of the Crying Indian advertisement.
The Crying Indian advertisement was produced by the Keep America Beautiful and anti-littering foundation, in 1971. The scene opens on an American Indian rowing in a traditional canoe down a scenic river, the background then shrifts from lush trees to factories and smokestacks. The American Indian docks his canoe on a shore bed and the background shifts again to traffic, a man throws his trash out of a car and it lands at the American Indians feet. The camera zooms in on his disheartened face as a single tear trickles down his face, while the deep voiced narrator says, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”
The Keep America Beautiful foundation was made up of the biggest plastic polluters in the world. Comprising thirty companies total, some notable figures are Dixie Cup Co., and Coca Cola but before their contribution the company was founded by American Can Co. and Owens-Illinois Glass Co in 1953.
These companies were not just trying to help clean up what they produced, they were actively against many environmental initiatives. Including the “bottle bills”, a set of proposed bills to mitigate the use of one-use plastic bottles. Keep American Beautiful lobbied so hard against these bills they once labeled the bottle bill supporters as “communist”. Even ten years before the Crying Indian premier, Keep America Beautiful coined the term “Litterbug”.
Joining with the Ad Council in 1960, a character, Susan Spotless, prompted anti-littering tag-lines such as “Don’t be a litterbug” and “Every litter bit hurts”. This foundation and foundations like it shifted the responsibility of keeping the world clean from the producers to the consumers and it has remained a deeply systemic problem since. The power for change was no longer in the multimillion-dollar corporation but instead it lied on the shoulders of the individual American. Because of these advertising efforts the bottle bills were dropped, and one-use plastics skyrocketed.
This example not only exemplifies Hope’s argument that advertising companies forced American consumers to switch from traditional long lasting commodities to easily replaceable products while still supporting “traditional values”, but it also shows that companies were intentional about subliminal messaging. They did try to hide their intentions. They created companies that fought for one value when in reality they were trying to distract and deter people from the real issue. This contradicts Hope’s point that, “advertising did not hide the production process nor its effects on nature.”. They did try to sweep it under the rug, and distract the consumer from their real intentions. While that one claim is not valid, the evidence that proves its validity also supports her main aim that advertisement companies shifted the way of buying and selling consumer goods.
In general, I agree with the idea of semiotics with regards to tourism and culture, which Culler describes in detail. He writes that we see cultures, landmarks, and the people we encounter through a foreign, fantastical lens, choosing to see them most romantically or charmingly. In this way, different aspects of the culture we visit or emulate become so-called “signs,” and so the image of a tomato signifies Italieneity, a sombrero Mexicanness, blue-jeans Americanness, a Mini Couper Britishness, and so on. This concept is intuitive and accurate, but there are some ideas of Culler’s that I take more issue to.
Culler writes that “the tourist is interested in everything as a sign of itself, an instance of typical cultural practice: a Frenchman is an example of a Frenchman, a restaurant in the Quartier Latin is an example of a Latin Quarter restaurant” (Culler 2). This seems an overly reductive way to look at the mind of a tourist, almost assuming the tourist to be a mindless, ignorant brute who makes wild assumptions wherever he goes. Having been a tourist on countless occasions, as has nearly everyone else, I can’t think of many times when I’ve sat in a restaurant somewhere and thought of the place, “this is what it’s all like!” Perhaps someone has that mindset, but I haven’t had that thought on many occasions outside of situations where it is the obvious schtick of some attraction to appear in that way, such as a themed historical site.
Likewise, Culler uses an example from a book by Walker Percy, in which a tourist travels West across the US and stops to see the Grand Canyon, though he cannot truly see it because it “has been appropriated by a symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer’s mind” (Culler 7). Culler refers to this idea as “semiotic mediation,” and it is a concept I find highly unlikely and obscure. As I see it, anyone with any sense of self-awareness can form their mental frame for observation and can view a sight from outside of the lens of some tourist poster. Perhaps you may reference the classic loud, oblivious tour bus full of selfie-stick wielding, sunscreen-smeared globetrotters, who will only actually “see” the sight through their phone camera. Then, maybe you could argue they cannot see the Grand Canyon, as they are blinded by the propaganda of travel media, but I still believe this is false, perhaps because I have some faith in human capacity. This theory is unfitting, largely because I think Culler gives too much credit to the tour company or the travel catalog. Far fewer people than Culler would have you believe have been absorbed into a mindless, capitalistic trance in which destinations exist as destinations alone. Instead, the tourist existing in Culler’s semiotic cage is the exception rather than the norm.
John Urry’s article, “The Tourist Gaze Revisited,” is an interesting piece breaking down why he believes that people travel and the cultural appropriation that these travelers bring with them intentionally or unintentionally. However, this is a highly critical piece on tourists that talks about how their “tourist gaze” is actually aesthetic appropriation. I find this to be an interesting take as I quite disagree with his overall opinion.
I agree with Urry on how advertising and certain rhetorical imagery has painted certain places to be these wild landscapes that one must see. This paints a picture that you should just travel to these places to see the view which causes a domination of the other culture. However, I believe that the general populous does not travel just to go see some view that is advertised throughout the country, rather, they just enjoy going to explore places for what they are. A majority of people travel either to just get away or to find themselves in some way they feel they’ve been lacking; it seems quite stereotypical to assume that people are traveling just to see some great view and then use it to appropriate an entire culture. Urry states,
“Much tourism becomes in effect a search for the photogenic, it is a strategy for the accumulation of photographs.”
While back in the 1900s I believe travel was more directed towards this feeling, nowadays it seems the sentiment has changed. Travel is more widely available, and people can see photos online of the most beautiful areas they want to see, so traveling has evolved more into getting to escape from your current life in my opinion.
Type of Progym: Refutation
Even though Urry makes some great points in his piece about what he calls the “tourist gaze”, I couldn’t help but find myself disagreeing with some of his arguments. He seems to have a cynical and almost negative opinion about traveling just to see the sights a place has to offer. One of his main points is that
“there has to be something distinctive to be gazed upon, that the signs collected by tourists have to be visually extraordinary.”
Personally, I disagree with this claim. There’s something calming and refreshing about experiences sights that are familiar when traveling. While many tourists do go traveling for “visually extraordinary” sights, I think many tourists enjoy the simple views some places have to offer. However, they tend to be overlooked because the majority do travel with that “tourist gaze” Utter talks about. Yes, sightseeing is extremely fun, but not everywhere we go will offer an out of this world experience, and I think that’s fine. As we’ve already learned, many people go on trips to find themselves. If you travel with the goal of learning more about yourself and looking inward, sightseeing wouldn’t be something you’d be preoccupied with. For many people, traveling is about being able to escape a certain place, no matter where the destination is. For those who travel for themselves and not with sightseeing at the forefront, whether a place is astonishing or not is not important. The extremely overused phrase “it’s about the journey, not about the destination” would be the perfect way to describe this. For many, it’s not about looking at the best views or monuments, it’s about looking at parts of themselves they wouldn’t discover if they wouldn’t have traveled. Urry seems to forget about this type of travelers when speaking about tourists, which does a disservice to them in general since it portrays them all in a bad light.
To Travel or Not to Travel
The reason an individual travels can vary, yet the pull to adventure is felt similarly between all explorers. I, among many others, have felt this pull to the unknown, the exotic or culturally different. To experience what I could not experience in the valley I grew up in. To smell, taste and breath a different kind of life.
I originally assumed I was like many others, but I discovered that beyond my community there was a longing of comfort instead of experiencing the unknown. Robert Louis Stevenson touches on this difference in his short story An Autumn Effect. As he recalls wandering through the english countryside with fun stops along the way. This passage is beautifully written, almost poetic. Instead of highlighting the obvious and lavish aspects of visiting a new place he touches on the subtle curiosities. These little curiosities, personally, are more gratifying than the picture worthy stops when traveling. I find this aspect of this story to be fundamentally very important, but there are aims in the story that I disagree with.
At one point Stevenson describes a family eating dinner, and explains how mundane going through the motions of everyday life can be. More importantly he writes about these people in an arrogant and demeaning way. He states, “It is a salutary exercise, besides; it is salutary to get out of ourselves and see people living together in perfect unconsciousness of our existence, as they will live when we are gone.” (Stevenson, 1875). Stevenson says it is salutary to see people acting unconsciously which implies that what he is seeing is unpleasant, but it makes him feel better for his curiosities. This is not morally right to impose that one curiosity, the need to travel, is ultimately better than another curiosity, raising a family or cooking. Even though I agree with this statement, I disagree with looking down on it. It is a preference to feel the call of adventure, and the lack of that preference does not mean those people are any less.
It is frustrating to relate to the need and urge to travel, but to see people like Stevenson look down on others who do not feel that urge. I could not understand why people would not have that curiosity, but when I marinated in thought about it I realized people find solace in the mundane. And more importantly there is nothing wrong with that comfort. If the whole world wanted to discover the unknown and feel that importance of solitude. To follow in the footsteps of Stevenson, Edward Abbey or Chris Mccandles, then there would be much less specialization. Less unknowns to experience. Yes, nature would be intact, ready for discovering, but that urge to isolate and push away from the unconscious norm would lead to loneliness. Really it is a balance. Following the urge to discover the little curiosities out of your neighborhood, valley or home, but to also appreciate the intricate little aspects of a mundane life. I would like to see Stevenson appreciate the comfort of the known, and push the importance of discovery.
A Side Note on Rhetoric
This is one hundred percent one of the most beautifully written passages I have read in a while. After reading it then reading The Rhetorical Situation I could appreciate Stevenson rhetoric even more. Bitzer, the author of The Rhetorical Situation, compares rhetoric to a tree, but includes that unlike a tree, rhetoric is fully dependent on its soil. The soil being the text that rhetoric is playing through. I love this metaphor because I can understand that rhetoric is not just situational but also magically sewn through a piece instead of being a stark and obvious factor. It is not something separate from the text but it is really an aspect of the text that can prove its power or lack of power. One aspect of An Autumn Effect is its poetic sentence structure. While the sentence structure is not the rhetoric the beauty of the words put in that order adds to the rhetorical power of that passage.
Another aspect of An Autumn Effect are the tangents about trees and their beauty. These tangents do not add any fact to the story but the way they are described adds to the substance of the passage. The tangent highlights the importance of what these trees mean. Describing their beauty adds to the aim Stevenson is trying to prove. And in doing so adds to the rhetorical power of the passage.
My Attempt at Ekiphrase
The visual analysis of a rock in the desert southwest
From a memory of an experience I had a month ago:
The smell of dust filters through the window or air conditioning as my tuck barrels down a pin straight desert road. I keep my eyes peeled for the unmarked left turn I have only seen once before and my friend scrolls through song choices. We are just south of Moab, a town I have grown to know well. As a child my family would pass through on our way to raft the Green or San Juan Rivers. Both rivers give me a visceral connection to the desert Southwest. Accept, this is only the second time I have passed through without parental or teacher supervision.
I finally spot it. Our camping destination. A large bolder about 100 yards away. A colorless mole on the desert visage. To me it is quite boring after being desensitized by canyon walls, arches and buttes. On the other hand my friend exclaims, “look at how cool that rock is! It’s so big”. I chuckle and respond, “that’s the backside you haven’t seen the cool part”. I turn the truck left onto a less maintained road. Our bodies sway and correspond with the bumps as the massive rubber wheels trample the sand and spit dust out behind them. The road becomes particularly sandy and the gas pedal loses all weight as the wheels lose traction. I switch it to four wheel and the truck jolts out of the sand. I see it as a little warning from the desert not to mess around. We have arrived.
A juniper tree grows at the base of the rock, speckled in jean colored berries that look too dry to be even close to nourishing. A good thing too being that they are poisonous in large quantities unless distilled into gin, which funnily enough is also poisonous in large quantities. A ring of rocks that make a fire pit sits at the base of the tree. People have added to the structure since the last time I visited. A large log has disappeared, but besides that it looks the same. We step out of the air conditioning we have been enjoying for the four hour drive. The heat kisses our pale skin like the inside of an oven when the door is open. Smells drop in the dry air but I can just make out dust and sage. The rust color rocks radiate the heat back up to us, emphasizing this oven effect. But it is dry heat, and I am not bothered. It makes me nostalgic, I feel very much at home. A weird feeling since the harshness desert does not make it easy to love. Just read Desert Solitaire and you’ll understand.
I turn back to the rock and tell my friend to “flow me”. We still haven’t seen the good stuff. We round a corner of the bolder. I take my shoes off so my feet can meld with the warm sandstone. It has always shocked me how perfectly my soles and sandstone fit together. It makes me think of how even rock and a human can have a connection. It reminds me that even though I am living and the rock is not, we both have energy and are made from the same star billions of years ago.
There it is. What would normally be a sloping face of a bolder resembling the other side is instead concave. A massive amphitheater reaching 100 feet high. Right now we are alone but I explain how this is a popular climbing site. People will hike up the side, shimmy through a small crack I can barely make out and repel the 100 feet. Then the climber can hike to the back of the inside wall, sinch the rope tight and swing. It is most spectacular at night. I remember holding the rope behind my back, taking a breath and pushing off. Once I passed the ceiling of the rock I felt like I jumped into an ocean of stars. The Milky Way barreling across the sky. The concentration and sheer number of stars was otherworldly. I have trouble finding the words to describe their cosmic power. So shocking I almost cried.
My friend bursts into laughter, “Holy shit this is so much cooler than I thought it was!” “Right!” I respond, “and No one is here!”. I let out a howl that echoes off the wall and radiates into the vacant air. The most spectacular part of this massive rock is far to the left. The fin of the bolder over time couldn’t bare the wind, so it gave way and let it pass through. Creating an arch. the sun peeks through it’s hole making it difficult to look at and gives it its name Looking Glass Rock. We hike into the belly of the bolder. Slipping on sand, weaving through sage, and saying Hi to the shuttling lizards. I find one doing push ups, one of my favorite childhood memories, and I feel proud that a lizard wants to show his muscles to me. “You wanna sit in the arch or set up camp?” I ask. “You can sit in it!!” She responds. “Yes, and you don’t even need a rope” we continue on and get to the sandstone where it is slightly too steep for sand to pile comfortably. I smear my foot and start to walk straight up. I feel like a desert creature scaling this rock with ease. When I realize that my friend, from Manhattan, does not have this nostalgic connection with the desert. Even though she will soon discover it’s magic. I tell her to hair pin up the side. Instead of walking straight up she walks along the side at a slight incline then switches making an s shape as she climbs further. We reach the hardest part and take a break. We watch swallows dart in and out of their homes. Flapping their wings in a bat like fashion. This five foot area between us and the arch is the most daunting part. Still not very hard as my friend brought his guitar and a six pack up on our last visit. It’s slightly steep and my anxiety spikes but I smear my foot into the side and trust my traction. I take a few careful steps. Placing my foot in the shallow bowls, the wind and carved out and then I am there. Inside the arch. I look up and see the thin ceiling. It’s deep rusted red band with sharp edges cuts through the bright blue sky. I see people have etched their name into the rock. How could they deface something so much older, bigger, and profoundly more important than them. I investigate the carvings one says ROCK and another says Kyle and Sarah. I wonder if Kyle and Sarah are still together, they didn’t even bother to add a heart. I turn to help my friend across the tricky steep bit by going below her and having her use my hand as a foot hold. Then we are both in the arch. The bottom is flat and comfortable to sit. With two ledges that resemble stairs. “Wow” is all my friend can say.
The view is also spectacular. I can see for miles. I can see highway 101 to my left and to the right is a sea of sage and some scarce juniper. The olive colored bushes fit well with the orange sand. Some other large boulders sit further to the left with the backdrop of the dark blue La Sal mountains. The sun shoots rays into my eyes when I look to the west. It is two hours from setting. We retreat and set up camp, but as our pasta is cooking I notice it’s almost golden hour. We return to the arch to watch the sunset and the colors which were dry get flooded in a caramel film. Enhancing their contrast in a shocking way. The rust red turns to skin peel orange. Not the yellow on the peach but the darkest orange a peach can be. The bright blue sky is charged with pinks and oranges and the sage even glows with renewed contrast. I burst into tears, in a time where I have felt trapped like many others in quarantine. I am overwhelmed with the daunting but exciting feeling of solitude and freedom.