Communication and Culture | Advertising and Consumer Culture
C315 | 6865 | Rossman, M

CMCL-C 315: Advertising and Consumer Culture
Class Number: 6865

TuTh, 9:30 AM-10:45 AM,  FR C147B

Fulfills College S&H Requirement
A portion of this class reserved for majors

Instructor: Margaret Rossman
Office: C2 214
Phone: 856-5367

We like to tell ourselves that we purchase consumer goods simply
because they're useful; they fill certain needs in our lives.
Clothes keep us warm and appropriately attired. Cars transport us to
work or to classes. Computers allow us to write papers and conduct
research. But at some level we also realize that we live in a world
in which the consumer goods that we purchase speak volumes about who
we are, what groups we belong to, and what we aspire to become. Do
you shop for clothes at Abercrombie & Fitch or at Wal-Mart? Do you
actually drive your SUV over rugged terrain or, like most of us, use
it simply to get around town? Are you a Windows person or a Mac
person? The answers to these questions are meaningful: our choices
help us craft a social identity, one that is recognizable -- shared
by people "like us," but not by those who are different.

The consumption of goods and services plays a crucial role in the
American economy, but consumer culture is more than the sum of the
things that we own. Whether we're in public or in the privacy of our
homes, strolling across campus or watching television, we're
enveloped by advertising. It's the world we inhabit today—one where
it seems normal to be addressed as a potential consumer in virtually
every waking moment of our lives, where we happily turn ourselves
into living advertisements by wearing clothes that announce the
brands that we buy.

The goal of this course is to make us more aware of how advertising
operates in society and how we live within consumer culture. Some
questions we will consider: What are the goals of the advertising
industry? What information, ideas, and values are communicated in
advertising?   What role does advertising play in television,
movies, and magazines? How do manufacturers and retailers
create "brand-name" products, and why do we care about these brands?
What do advertisers know about consumers? Are we, as consumers,
manipulated by advertising or do we make independent decisions about
what to purchase? Is it possible to live in the modern world without
adopting the values of consumer culture? Is it possible to resist
the constant messages that tell us "you are what you buy”? Should we
maintain certain spaces in society that are free of advertising and
commercial messages?

This class will be based around reading, writing, and thinking about
advertising’s historical relationship to U.S. consumer culture over
the 20th century. In addition, this class will be dynamic and highly