Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The "Self-Shaping" of Culture and Its Ideological Resonance: The Complicity of Ethos and Pathos in the Japanese Advertising Disco

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

The "Self-Shaping" of Culture and Its Ideological Resonance: The Complicity of Ethos and Pathos in the Japanese Advertising Disco

Article excerpt

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"Japanese advertising has clear links with another, much older aspect of the country's culture: haiku, the beautiful one-line poetry whose best-known proponent among westerners is probably Basho. This is an art form entirely based on symbolism. The Japanese are skilled at reading between the lines so the audience can extrapolate from a single image."

Mark Tungate, AD Land. A Global History of Advertising

"The best example for what is ostensive ideology is represented by advertising, which has become the encyclopedia and the art of modernity."

Aurel Co dob an, The Empire of Communication. Body, Image and Relation

Theoretical Background: The Rhetoric of the Advertising Discourse

If any cultural model and any act of social behaviour involves communication, in a new image of the contemporary world, which seems to maneuver humanity from the episteme of knowledge to that of communication based on a diversified code, convertible to the various functions of language and adaptable to factors of time and space,1 advertising not only reflects society, but also builds it. A cultural artifact,2 the advertising discourse is, at the same time, a sign connected to a certain representation of social reality.

Defined as a practice of communication through mass-media channels, the advertising message can be seen as a "norm-image"3 that reflects social dynamics, influencing human behaviour and its social aspect through means different than those of scientific knowledge or art. Being an act of communication in the anthropological sense of the term4, through the advertising discourse people can influence other people, engendering intersubjective relationships that ultimately lay the foundations of society. But the "humanisation" of communication5 in the advertisement implies the intervention of a speaker and a listener involved in an assumed discourse, while both of them try to show themselves to the other in a moment of self-becoming. Although it initially seems to be at the service of consumer ideology, advertising surpasses its economic function and thus "acts" on social structures, as it can be used to promote certain ethics and morals at the level of the masses, considering that intersubjective communication is possible by overlapping not only linguistic messages, but also social and cultural knowledge. It is precisely from this viewpoint that advertising is considered a mass culture that can cause multiple social effects. Using language built on the propaganda logic6 of "exultation" and "highlighting", indeed, most often only for objects and services that are incorporated in quotidian practices, the advertisement can become a form of social coercion. The advertising discourse contains a manifest message and a latent one,7 and owes its power of influence over society according to the received interpretation. And if the decoding is made by the consumer on a value background common to that of the offerer, understanding that the latter gives the product symbolic value alongside objective value,8 the advertising discourse turns into a "genuine social phenomenon",9 a catalyst for the activation of the participatory function of communication. As it presents features given by immediate intake and the instantaneity of receival, considered through the filter of relative simultaneity10 realised between the production of the message and its consumption, the advertisement becomes an efficient instrument of mass communication.11 Its new definition seems to emphasise the construction of relationships rather than transmitting information,12 outbidding the relational and affective side in the communicative process.

Initially enjoying an analysis from a research perspective that combined the theory of signs propounded by Charles S. Peirce13 and that of the model of communication affirmed by Roman Jakobson,14 the advertising discourse has been, in recent years, subjected to minute examination of various types: sociological, psychoanalytical, anthropological, etc. …

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