Deciding essay questions

Well, I’ve not spoken at all about my fourth module this semester, so I guess it’s about time that I do that, especially considering it’s the only lecture I’ve got this week.
The module’s called “Propaganda, PR and Misinformation”, and ultimately it’s a social science module, that often looks at history and makes comparisons with the modern day to highlight what defines propaganda, the intended effects of propagandists and the consequences of propaganda on a society both in retrospect and in modern culture.

[Famous image by El Lissitzky, the father of Soviet constructivist art, a movement born from propaganda]

Sounds like a barrel of laughs, right?
In all fairness it’s actually a really interesting module, but it’s difficult to try and twist it to centre more on design’s role within propaganda through the ages, and how contemporary design and branding techniques are now being incorporated in how governments and nations represent themselves, and how this affects the citizens of that nation.
Propaganda can be summarised as three things, these being Rhetoric, Myth and Symbols. In some ways these factors are all connected, but it’s mostly symbols which have relevance to studies in the visual arts, as these are a nations arguments, rhetoric and representations of cultural myths all conveyed wordlessly, through the use of imagary and through manipulation of connotation. And the meaning behind these symbols is far from fixed. Quite the opposite actually.
A symbol’s cultural connotations are easily changable, depending on a number of factors. For example, the image of Ché Guevara, the Argentinian famous for his role in the Cuban revolution, was a symbol of rebellion, and of independant thinking. Now, after countless plastering onto t-shirts, stickers and badges that meaning has been undermined, and has shifted. Now the iconic image of Ché Guevara in many ways symbolises corporate abuse of imagery, and of a hollow use of the word ‘revolution’.
The old meaning of this image and the word revolution, much like the ideals of the original punk movement, have been used so much that people have stopped hearing the meaning behind the words, as they are so used to them, arresting them of their impact.

[Famous facial design of Ché Guevara by Jim Fitzpatrick]

So how does design come into this? Well, in the modern era a government’s identity is treated much like a brand. In the USA a presidential candidate must have a slogan (Obama’s “Yes, We Can!”, Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again In America”), and now administrations are looking into art to see if they can use it to manipulate people’s perceptions of their leaders or potential leaders, compared to a few decades ago, when the style and aesthetic of art was not grasped as important by world leaders.
But how do I sum all this up in an essay question? Well, we’ve been given 2 questions to choose from, so it’s more a matter of manipulating these questions to fit points like the ones above. The questions are:

– Critically evaluate the role and application of PR industry techniques in the construction of modern propaganda
– Critically discuss the manner with which propaganda constructs enemies

To me the former question focuses on how a nations brands itself, the latter with how it brands its opponants. The former question is perhaps the one I’d prefer to look at, from a design perspective, and I’d also like to keep the essay more focused on modern-day propaganda, as opposed to the stereotype of what propaganda is (ie. Soviet Russian posters and old Nazi wartime films).
I’d just mainly like to focus on the newfound manipulation of art style, compared to propaganda once acting as a catalyst to artistic experimentation (Constructivism and the US Miliatary’s First Animation Unit as examples).

Okay. Rant over.

Listening t– so propagated resp– okay, no, done.

Listening to: Magna Encarta by Errors


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