Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

The Argumentative Force of Image Networks: Greenpeace's Panmediated Global Detox Campaign

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

The Argumentative Force of Image Networks: Greenpeace's Panmediated Global Detox Campaign

Article excerpt

On January 14, 2014, Greenpeace activists stood up in separate rooms in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to hold press conferences. During these orchestrated events, they read a story about toxic little monsters to the journalists gathered. Just a few hours later, but several time zones away, another group of activists set up a makeshift factory crawling with toxic little monsters outside the Adidas flagship store in Hungary. Bystanders snapped photos and shared them on Twitter and Facebook. Still later in the day, across the ocean in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, children united to form a message made out of their own bodies pleading with companies to detox the clothing they produced. The aerial photos, which were released on Greenpeace's social media streams, combined the young bodies affected with an affective message. These image events swept across multiple social media platforms, jumping from Twitter to Weibo to WeChat to Instagram to YouTube to Tumblr in many different languages.

Interspersed throughout the day, the story about toxic little monsters unfolded over Twitter and the Chinese social media platform Weibo (one of China's leading microblogging platforms). Each hour, a new chapter to the fairy tale was released and showed up on newsfeeds in purses, pockets, and backpacks. Soon, thousands of angered citizens-turned-activists around the world were tweeting to Burberry and ZARA, posting to @Disney and @VictoriasSecret, and bombarding Adidas and Levi's on Instagram to stop polluting their clothes, water, resources, peoples' bodies, fish, algae, beaches, and air with harmful chemicals. Employing hashtags and linking with @ signs, users forced the companies into conversation.

Weaving together press conferences with the staging of image events and the dissemination of information on social media in countries across the globe in a constantly moving and changing campaign, the Detox developers are leading a creative and successful social media movement by leveraging images across the Twitterverse and World Wide Weibo. The Detox campaign's success lies in its ability to hack network pathways forged by companies (within a larger network of networks) for activist purposes and flood company social media networks with pictures and cartoons that force companies to engage with them and that move consumers to become activists by rupturing the facade of the fashion world using the very visual practices that the fashion world employs. This panmediated landscape of images that quickly flit across screens and link disparate networks is far different from the world we inhabited 20, or even 10, years ago before photographs were digital, before social media resurrected old ties and forged new ones, before images began ceaselessly circulating on public screens, and before smartphones made public screens ubiquitous.

This transformation of everyday practices is echoed in research across disciplines. Neuroscientists have revealed that "certain aspects of the process of emotion and feeling are indispensable for rationality. . . . feelings point us in the proper direction, take us to the appropriate place in a decision-making space, where we may put the instruments of logic to good use" (Damasio, 2005, p. xiii). The deeply intertwined relationship between thinking and feeling is also elaborated upon in works by Claxton (2015) and Lakoff and Johnson (1999). In a pivotal essay, "Manifesto for a Relational Sociology," that ignited the relational turn in sociology, Emirbayer (1997) noted the need to move beyond "rational, calculating actors" and "methodological individualism" (p. 284). From a different angle, through a variety of innovative experiments, the new field of behavioral economics questions the assumption that people make decisions based solely on rational thinking (Ariely, 2009; Fox, 2011). Daniel Kahneman (2013), winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work with Amos Tversky (1984) showing how intuition and emotion guide much of our decisionmaking, concluded that "rational man" or "Econs" are impossible fictions:

Econs are rational by this definition, but there is overwhelming evidence that Humans cannot be. …

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