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Reading Culture

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It is beyond reasonable doubt that culture influences our social stratifications to a significant extent. In addition, culture also gives a sense of identity and belonging. This is indeed very true as has been indicated in the Reading Culture by John Trimbur and Diana George. This paper provides an overview and response to the ideas presented in the article.

Primarily, the article attempts to explore how social institutions such as the learning institutions influence individuals that subscribe to such institutions. In addition, institutions, such as schools, determine an individual’s ability to criticize what their society presents them. To do this, authors effectively uses imagery to present what most critics have referred to a visual culture. With this concept, individuals are able to criticize various aspects in the society.

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With this in mind, every individual in any given society is tasked with the looking around their social environment and finding out what they are expected to respond to the different situations presented to them. Further, the use of imagery induces readers to be evaluative and critical in discerning what is happening around them. Admittedly, Trimbur and George are successful in passing the message and eliciting a strong response from readers of their text. The ideology that culture plays a pivotal role in shaping how individuals respond to various social phenomena is agreeable to a very large extent.

Trimbur and George also try to show the place of schooling in the society and how it helps in shaping our identities. For instance, the authors show that some social behaviors can be collected from the educational institutions and become a living part of an individual. This includes resposibilities and being conscious about oneself. It is while in school that one feels that he or she has become an adult after spending a semester or two on his/her own without much intervention on what he or she does.   

The article also attempts to induce students to use critical thinking in analyzing issues in the society. This is emphasized by use of images in the article. The intended purpose is to provoke the imagination of the reader by using imagery. The images primarily focus more on women and their role in the society. This implies that a young girl who is growing in any society has some stereotype ideas about what the society expects of her. A good example is the hip hop style which says that people may identify themselves according to the style they are popular with. Their behavior and mode of dressing is greatly influenced by the style of choice.

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Public space and how people use it also determines their social identity. This is well explained in John Fiske story Shopping for Pleasure: Malls, Power and Resistance. Stories that one has heard can also influence on how one behaves in a society. A person who has been exposed to so many stories on gangs and violence may identify himself as a gangster or choose to refrain from violent acts. It is agreeable on how all the factors mentioned in the reading determine how culture influences our identities.

Fiske tries to prove how shopping influences the modern culture. In his article, Fiske laments “rituals for exchanging money for goods have become an equivalent of holy communion”. His message is that people in the modern culture are worshipping shopping as if it was a religion. In his piece, Fiske has used metaphors to show how shopping has influenced modern cultures. For instance, he coompares cathedrals with shopping. This means that consumers are forced to purchase for a number of reasons. For example, if one is in the company of a number of friends who have been shopping and they stood there empty-handed, one would probably feel left out. They might be forced to buy something in order to fit in the group. However, it is inappropriate for Fiske to compare us with sheep because, at times, we purchase items because we need them. This is not necessarily motivated by TV adverts. Fiske tries to differentiate between the employed and unemployed people in the society. Personally, I agree with him because a person who has lost his job and wants to go for a stroll may come across an advert on a video game. They might decide to buy it despite the economic problems they might have to deal with all in an attempt to console themselves. True to his word, I have not come across an advert that says that people who are unemployed should keep off from the malls where the items are selling. It is for this reason that people may feel obligated to buy.

However, Fiske’s short fall comes in when he starts diverting from his main course and starts to address issues that contradict his earlier thoughts. He contradicts himself by giving other reasons as to why people go to shopping malls other than being coerced to by adverts. In his article he says: “mothers take children to play in their air conditioned comfort in hot summers, and in winter older people use their concourses for daily walks” (Fiske). This means that not everybody who visits the shopping malls is lured to do so by adverts. Instead, some shoppers visit malls because they want to satisfy their needs regardless of external factors. However, on a broader platform, his opinion that adverts and other external forces are the reasons that make people to visit shopping malls is agreeable.

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