Media and Cultural Analysis


Media and Cultural Analysis, Spring 2018

Browse Exhibits (4 total)

"Reasons Why" - A Look at Photos Banned by Instagram

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With over "500 million monthly active users and 300 million daily active users" (Boorstin 1), Instagram is considered to be one of the largest media platforms of the 21st century. With a large amount of popularity, Instagram seeks to "find a good balance between allowing people to express themselves creatively and having policies in place to maintain a comfortable experience for our global and culturally diverse community" (Caputo 1). Yet although their rules and regulations states "[one] may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service" (Instagram Help Center). it is hard to distinguish whether or not certain photos have a right to be banned by the platform. 

"Reasons Why" serves to examine an archive of photographs that have been banned by the social media platform Instagram and to understand many of the possible reasons that a photo was taken down and thus "banned." Instagram's policy does not require that they inform an individual why the photo was removed from their site, so our counter-archive serves to categorize these photos based on possible reasons they may have been taken down. To understand our methodology, please review the "cross-reference" page.

An Alternative Billboard Chart


The goal of this archive is to showcase the lack of female representation on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. As the standard measure of popularity within the music industry, the Billboard Charts are an important contributing factor to an artist's success. While examining the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for the week of April 15th, we noticed that the only female artist represented in the top 10 was Taylor Swift, who was featured on a song that was not her own. Out of the total Hot 100 Chart for the week, only 14 songs had a woman as the lead artist. This trend was not only evident during our chosen week; it was seen in several of the following week's charts as well. Although there are several women who are represented on the charts, our examination of the Billboarch Charts has shown us that the women that do make it, rarely reach the top Also, their presence on the charts is much more scarce than their male counterparts. Through our archive, we attemp to counter the male-dominated charts by creating a Hot 10 Chart that only showcases female artists. 

Banned Books


The Library of Congress created an exhibit titled Books that Shaped America, which ultimately explored books that have had a profound effect on American Life. A fascinating aspect of our research was recognizing that a significant number of books that have "shaped America," according to the Library of Congress, have ironically been banned by American educational institutions.

The purpose of our archive is to focus on this paradoxical relationship at play by exposing books that have been banned, at some point, by academic institutions in America. To emphasize this relationship, we used New York University's Elmer Holmes Bobst Library archive as the main archive we have chosen to counter.

The banned books have been separated into the following categories: books banned because of racism, books banned because of sexually explicit content, books banned because of indecent or immoral content, books banned because of blasphemy, and books banned for political reasons. 

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Evolution of Beauty Standards


A counter-archive exploring the evolution of beauty standards throughout history.

Subject to a culture industry where behavior and ideology are commodified into a “formal freedom” (Adorno, 370), mass media forces women to conform to an ideal beauty standard. Manovich highlights that “the most mortal of sins is to be an outsider” (Adorno, 371) within a society of conformist consumer. Our archive demonstrates the ways in which media dictates female body pedagogy through advertisements and images. Our project demonstrates media’s influence over individual agency, and its role in using “psycho-technology” (Adorno, 381) as a means of manipulation.

Media’s role in fabricating female body pedagogies has, for the most part, favored the thin, tall and white skinned. Whether it be runway or magazine advertisements, the public is rarely confronted with a body type that does not conform to those qualities. When considering what society deems ‘beautiful,' it is necessary to recognize the role media plays in establishing a beauty standard in addition to the influence this beauty standard has on female identities. In this case, we are specifically focused on photographs and the ways in which “The press photograph is a message. Considered overall this message is formed by a source of emission, a channel of transmission and a point of reception” (Barthes, 15). Our counter-archive thus presents fashion advertisements as a source of emission, mass media as a channel of transmission and consumers as a point of reception for the fabrication of female body pedagogies.  

To challenge the stagnant and outdated narrative of thin, white and young ‘beauty,' our counter-archive highlights the increased representation of fuller, colored and more mature women in media. By featuring diverse body types in media, our counter-archive demonstrates the rise of a new and inclusive discourse of beauty. Due to the fact that media dictates social norms, individual behavior and assigns identity, the variety of shapes and sizes represented in our counter-archive argues for the normalization of an inclusive beauty standard which welcomes diversity. For example, the representation of older women in media communicates to consumers that the process of aging can also be beautiful and that a woman is not only beautiful in her 20’s when her body is undeniably young and vibrant. This, in turn, externalizes new discourse of beauty and transforms the outdated ‘universal’ beauty standard. Our counter-archive thus argues that with increased representation of varying female bodies in media, society’s definition of beauty is transforming. With this, it is necessary to recognize the spillover effects of inclusive representation on varying female identities. Rather than being ashamed or feeling excluded for not conforming or belonging to the ‘thin, white and young’ qualities of ‘beauty’, revolutionized body pedagogies are normalizing the beauty in diversity. This in turn allows for and encourages women to feel more comfortable in their bodies, and to accept and embrace their identities.