Race and Animals

I suspected that this week’s post would be much easier, because animal activism has always been closely related to other activist movements, including race activisms.  However, once again, the more technologically advanced discussions thwarted me somewhat.

While I did have difficulty applying the aspects of the reading to my project, I was very interested in the Loke article discussing the comments surrounding the race based murder case.  Obviously there are no 19th Century comment sections, but I am interested in the way that Loke divided the comments into subsections. I haven’t found very many newspaper articles addressing Black Beauty in America, but I think it would be interesting to expand the search (which would not be in the realm of this project) to see how news articles represented animal cruelty.  Given some of the information I found about humane societies in America, I would probably need to look at articles immediately after the Civil War through the turn of the century.  George T. Angell depicts the views of society about animal cruelty as very disinterested.  I wonder if those ideas would be supported by the news reports.

Holmes’s article could connect to my project in a similar way to Loke’s.  While I have not, as of yet, found transcripts or references to specific details of political discussions (or discussions at all) about humane treatment of animals, there must be some record of these discussions somewhere.  I suspect, as with Kennedy and Nixon during the Civil Rights Era, discussions surrounding the humane treatment of animals began in circular terms.  Instead of directly addressing the issue, most likely the people talked around it.  I am interested to see what the discussions eventually developed into.   Holmes describes Nixon and Kennedy’s discussions of race as the beginning of the idea of color-blindness in our society.   I do not know what the early rhetoric surrounding the treatment of animals developed into.

Young’s article also seemed possibly relevant to my discussion about Black Beauty.  However, I am a bit conflicted about how much I can believe George T. Angell’s description of his process.  It seems like his description of the political change that he achieved was through a form of deliberative democracy.  Angell discusses the ease of open meetings where people met and developed plans for improving society through an awareness of the necessity of kinder treatment of animals.  When his group made plans for new legislation, they would take it to their local or state representatives who would quickly move the legislation through.  There may or may not have been a lack of discussion on the legislative level.  However, at least part of this process seems to fit Young’s discussion.  The next problem comes from the veracity of Angell’s discussion.  I am not sure how accurate his representation of the process really was; his purpose in his autobiography was not only to share his life, but to inspire people to continue the fight for animal rights.  This would be less effective if he described a long and difficult process to achieve any change at all.

While these topics are not necessarily going to be developed in my current project, they may be beneficial to explore later.


What makes a farmers market a place?

Each Saturday this summer I’ve spent about 3 or 4 hours at farmers markets. Until this week, I’ve been observing without much variation in the way I process what I see and hear. However, this Saturday was different because I had supermodernity and non-place on the brain, which changed the way I thought about the market.  Earlier in the week it occurred to me that FM’s challenge the supermodernity of the supermarket. They call us back to an earlier time when markets were places, and even public spheres.

For comparison, I went to the supermarket directly after the farmers market. At the supermarket, there was very little conversation between cashiers and shoppers. Typically, the cashier asked a series of scripted questions:

  • Paper or plastic?
  • Is that debit or credit?
  • Do you need stamps or ice today?
  • (Cashier to shopper) Are these Serrano peppers?
  • Did you find everything you need?

The shoppers typically replied with one- or two-word answers. I overheard one woman tell a cashier that she liked her “style” but the cashier only responded with a polite “Thank you.”

Actually, most of the conversations longer than a handful of words were on cell phones (conversely, except for one woman sitting on a park bench,  I haven’t seen a single cell phone in more than 20 hours of observation at FM’s).

Saturday, I overheard several conversations, mostly between shoppers and vendors, and most are longer than 1 minute and shorter than 4, but several are longer.

I observed one vendor for about 30 minutes, in which time he kindly educated several shoppers on everything from how to cut an onion without crying, to how to stuff a zucchini with meatloaf, to how to let cilantro go to seed to get coriander.

I observed another vendor who explained to a shopper the difference between certified organic and organic, and the difference between soft inputs and hard inputs (the non-naturally occurring additives to soil or plants, such as nitrogen or pesticides).

I could go on… but let me sum up by saying that I have ½ page of repetitive notes from 1 hour of conversations (I left because they all sounded the same) at supermarket and 13 pages of  unique notes of conversations at the farmers market.

I read somewhere that people are 10 times more likely to have a conversation at a farmers market than at a supermarket, but that article said nothing of the quality of the conversations at each place. I know that Auge made no distinction about conversations in places and non-places, but clearly what came out of my observations is a that place-building is connected to community, identification, social culture, memory-making, and so on. This will be the focus of my thoughts in the coming week as I try to sort out what exactly makes a farmers market a place.

Application problems

I struggled with a blog this week.  There were several problems for me. First, this week’s reading was highly theoretical which is always difficult for me to understand.  Next, the application that we saw was very modern (or post-modern, or super-modern). Both of these issues make it difficult for me to really apply these readings to my work with Black Beauty.

The Cintron article discussing how graffiti and other gang symbols work acts as an application of the theoretical discussions about spaces and places and non-places.  Augé wrote of places and non-places (and supermodernity), differentiating the two by describing non-places as “spaces which are not themselves anthropological places and which, unlike Baudelairean modernity, do not integrate the earlier places” (78).  Augé discusses de Certeau’s theory of spaces, but does not completely follow de Certeau’s points.  According to Augé,  de Certeau “does not oppose ‘place’ and ‘space’ in the way that ‘place’ is opposed to ‘non-place’” (79). Augé explains that, to de Certeau, space “is ‘a frequented place’, ‘an intersection of moving bodies’” that shows a “parallel between the place as an assembly of elements coexisting in a certain order and the space as an animation of these places by the motion of a moving body” (79-80).   The articles we read by de Certeau looked at these ideas in reference to urban living and tactics versus strategy.  Foucault’s article, which I expected to be most easily applied to my project because it starts with a discussion of the 19th century, focuses on space (as opposed to place?) .  Foucault discusses different spaces, such as utopias (which have no place) and different types of heterotopias (which are real places).

While I believe these theories could be applied to Black Beauty and/or the American Humane Education Society, I have not been particularly successful in doing it.  In some ways, I thought Black Beauty could be aligned to the graffiti that Cintron discusses.  Certainly it is working in a more complicated way than many people consider it to be possible for it to work.  While the novel was not considered a children’s book in the 19th century, today, we overlook it as such.  This idea seems to be anachronistic, or my focus on it would make it seem that way because the novel in the 19th century was not a children’s novel and I am most interested in the use of the novel during that time.

I’m still struggling to understand the ideas of space vs. place vs. non-place which again makes it difficult for me to apply these ideas to my work on Black Beauty.  I’m interested in the ideas of tactics vs. strategy in this instance. As I am still struggling to figure out where the American Humane Education Society fits in the public/counter-public discussion, I am struggling with whether I can say that using Black Beauty was tactical or strategic.  In a more modern setting, institutions like the ASPCA and various Humane Societies are viewed as being part of the structure of the public.  If they used a text to support their movement, this would be strategic.  However, the question is whether the American Humane Education Society had that much power in 1890 when it brought Black Beauty to the attention of an American audience.  Foucault may also be appropriate for a discussion of Black Beauty and the American Humane Education Society.  However, I do not know quite how to apply his theories; I just suspect that they would be appropriate.

Hopefully, as I keep thinking about these readings, I will be better able to apply them to my project.

Graffiti & Tattoos


Here’s a link to a news blurb about Hernandez’s possible gang-related tattoos that got me thinking about the correlation between graffiti and tats, which changes the entire space/place discussion entirely because permanent ink takes away some of the ephemerality we had discussed. Furthermore, the space/place of a tattoo is simultanesouly both more and less fixed. Grafitti is typically on a building or wall that doesn’t move (fixed), where a tattoo is on a body that is in almost constant motion (less fixed); and graffiti on a wall is often removed (not fixed), where a tattoo is generally permanent (less fixed).

Another interesting point of discussion might be the public/private mediums for the discursive practices of gang-related graffiti and tattoos.

No conclusions yet, just pondering these questions.

Any thoughts?


The majority of class focused on Dean’s article describing how the internet is a zero-institution, meaning that it is not a public sphere. I’m not quite sure that I understand or agree with her. She makes the distinction between the internet as the physical network and the web as the information contained there. The internet seems just as real and able to promote influential ideas and diversity of opinion as any concrete public space. It is certainly a great equalizer of voice. Today anyone can tweet or blog their opinions, where in past this was reserved for journalists, the elite educated classes, and those sanctioned to communicate by the powers that be.

The Arab Spring has relied heavily on the internet and social media, as face to face organizing is impossibly dangerous. Via WikiLeaks Edward Snowden shared classified documents that demonstrated mass surveillance by the government. Neither of these uprising would be possible without the internet, nor would the conversations that followed.

Her argument then continues describing communicative capitalism, which argues that the web is not the great equalizer instead that it “undermines political opportunity and efficacy for most of the world’s people.” While the majority of the world’s citizens may not access the internet via computers like those in the US, many people do have access via mobile devices

I acknowledge that the web is not completely egalitarian, but nothing is. People tend to naturally cluster around others who hold similar political, social and economic views both in-person and digitally. Those who visit FOX news are likely a very different demographic than those who read the Economist.

 I agree that the internet itself might not be a public sphere, but the people who generate, read and comment on the content certainly are.

 For my project I’m going to primarily analyze 3 news outlets: the Houston Chronicle, the Cancer Letter and Nature News. These three sources have different readership bases and likely discuss the same issue from different perspectives, with different goals and will therefore have variation in word and phrase level occurrences. I went to the website of each source and searched for “CPRIT.” I collected all of the articles and associated comments into individual RTF files. The news cycle is currently in a lull on the topic because the bond was reformed and refunded by the legislature on May 31st and there is no controversy currently. So I’m not worried that I will be missing any critical information in the coming weeks as I analyze my corpus of data.

  • Nature News Blog – impartial reporting for scientific audience (14 articles)
  • Cancer Letter – investigative journalism for oncology community; collaborates with the Houston Chronicle against MD Anderson (15 articles)
  • Houston Chronicle – The health and science reporters have covered CPRIT extensively and have been driving the stories through freedom of information acts, as MD Anderson is a state agency (70 articles)

Using Gerhards and Schäfer framework I will code the above articles based on this framework:

  • Standing: the various speakers within the article (journalist, politicians, scientists, general public)
  • Positioning: sentiment analysis (neutral, positive and negative)
  • Framing: interpretations expressed (Scientific-medical, Economic, Political, Socio-ethical)

I will use QDA miner to compare similarities and variations between the key words in each publication. I will use wordle.net to visually display the results. 

I would also like to examine the corpus longitudinally. Three controversial events were at the heart of the scandal.

  • March 2012: Houston based UT MD Anderson Cancer Center was awarded $20M, which was later retracted after improper review was alleged.
  • November 2012:  Dallas based Peloton Therapeutics was awarded $11M, which came under scrutiny after it was determined that no review was conducted on its application.
  • February 2013: Clinical Trials Network of Texas, which was initially awarded $25M, collapsed after improper management. 

To help readers better understand the situation, I will generate an operational model that includes key personalities and key events.

I would argue that the ‘investigative’ journalism by the Houston Chronicle and Cancer Letter fueled by Freedom of Information Act Requests, which is presented on the internet for the public to consume has created a public sphere of discussion around the issues of government funded cancer research, prevention and commercialization. The implication of the discussion on the internet directly effects cancer researchers and clinicians, as well the people who face a diagnosis with this disease.







Eat the View!: An online campaign and a public

Most people are aware that the Obamas planted a White House vegetable garden. (Here’s an interesting aside: While the garden is actually organic, rhetorically it is not; the FLOTUS and the White House press initially touted the garden as organic, but quickly backed off the term—though not the practice—because they got backlash from conventional growers.) Despite a common awareness of the garden, most people don’t know or have forgotten that it is in large measure the result of an online campaign launched in 2008 called Eat the View!, a grassroots effort to get people to replace manicured lawns and other typical landscaping with gardens, a proposal that included the White House lawn. Eat the View! is the brainchild of Roger Dorion who submitted his pitch to a contest asking for ideas on what the POTUS should do on Day 1. Dorion’s own online efforts, combined with the publicity from the contest, generated a whollotta buzz around the potential for a White House garden. Vegetable gardens weren’t new to the White House—Thomas Jefferson was an advocate for self-sufficiency and the White House led the way in the WWII victory gardens movement, for example—but the White House hadn’t grown any food on its grounds since the peanut- farming prez was in the Oval Office.

While reading Monday’s readings related to the Internet and Web, I also read a book chapter about the Eat the View! campaign (cited below), which explains that Dorion’s group (Kitchen Gardeners International) gathered 100,000 signatures in an online petition, won the ‘Climate Matters’ video contest, won the OnDayOne.org contest, launched a dynamic website, and was featured in more than 500 newspapers including the NY Times and Washington Post. “The Eat the View! idea was voted grand prizewinner of the On Day One contest and was thus formally submitted to President Obama on inauguration day. Two months later, on March20, 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted a large organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn” (p. 298).

The Eat the View! campaign is a great example of an online public working together to promote awareness and change. Dorion celebrated the campaign’s success saying, the “country’s most emblematic landscape [is now] a symbol for health and sustainability.” The campaign demonstrates how online dialogue and consensus building (or at least majority-vote building) can indeed produce effects similar to, if not more powerful than, the same results one might find in a traditional public sphere. Admittedly, the two videos—“This Lawn is Your Lawn” and “Garden of Eatin’”—fail to meet the criteria of public sphere; however they encouraged  a dynamic and on-going conversation about their content and so served as a catalyst for lively discussions among multiple publics (albeit mostly asynchronous).

Gathering petitions is not enough to constitute a public, and online petitions are often criticized for being nothing more than armchair activism; however, the Eat the View! campaign is a model for coalescing online efforts with a embodied practices. “Eat the View! marks a new era in Internet activism by providing connections through activists in local places” (p. 309). Being a member of the Eat the View! public requires more than paying attention to messages and media—it requires attention in one’s own kitchen, garden, and neighborhood, and it encourages face-to-face connections with other members. Although the media has given a lot of attention to a particular garden—the one the Obama’s planted—Dorion still emphasizes that there are about 90 million other houses that have a plantable yard, suggesting the Eat the View! membership is elite, but not exclusive, and is action-driven (reminds me a lot of Rai’s article).

Citation: Todd, A. M. (2011). Eating the view: Environmental aesthetics, national identity, and food activism. In J. M. Cramer, C. P. Greene, & L. M. Walters (Eds.). Food as communication, communication as food (pp. 297-316). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

Connecting the Electrotyping of Black Beauty to the technology of the Internet

This week’s reading proved somewhat difficult for me to use to address my topic.  The internet is clearly not an issue for the distribution and use of Black Beauty in the 1890s and early 1900s. However, technology does present an important role in the use of the novel.

I have been working on finding contemporary sources (newspaper articles, etc.) to find out how Angell was using the text in the work of the American Humane Society.  Some books I have found about the development of American humane societies or the American humane movement addressed the use of Black Beauty and the importance of George T. Angell in these movements, but only very generally.   However, the first newspaper article I read noted that Angell had a number of free copies of the book available to any drivers who came to pick them up at the office of the American Humane Education Society in Boston.  This article, printed in the Daily Inter Ocean on May 24, 1890, noted that between Angell’s ability to have the novel electrotyped and Mrs. William Appleton’s donation, sixteen hundred copies could be provided to drivers free of charge.  Angell’s hope was to provide a copy for every household in America.

The electrotyping is the technology that I would like to discuss here.  While I realize I am being anachronistic here, I wonder if the views of some of the readings from today would be applicable to the views of people about electrotyping at the time, or at least about electrotyping for the purpose that Angell used it for.  I am generalizing the views of the authors from this week to a very simplistic negative view.  Dean says that “the notion of the public sphere is not only inapplicable to the Net, but also and more importantly,…it is damaging to practices of democracy under conditions of contemporary technoculture” (95).  Her concerns are that the Net lacks the norms of a public sphere and that “it is an ideology of publicity in the service of communicative capitalism” (98).

Some of the concerns about printing books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc. cheaply were connected to the masses gaining access to these sources.  This was the exact plan of George Angell.  He wanted the working class especially to gain the knowledge about the effects of the mistreatment of horses on those animals.  The workers could most easily change the treatment of horses because they worked most closely to them.  Dean explains the views surrounding the inclusiveness of the internet in two ways.  First, she discusses the way that scholars see the internet as falsely inclusive and then she discusses the way that scholars see the internet as overly inclusive.  Each of these issues revolves around a problem with the idea of rationality.  This is especially relevant for issues concerning the expansion of availability of printed work.  Privileged people were concerned that the economically and educationally less fortunate would be incapable of thinking critically about the texts they gained access to.

This may be a stretch, since I feel like books/texts of this kind are more of a tool than a public.  However, the connection made sense to me as I read and thought about the readings.  The other readings were too closely focused on social media for me to be able to clearly connect them clearly to Black Beauty and the American Humane Education Society.