Societal Benefits of Multilingual and Multicultural Education


The issue of bilingual and multilingual education is particularly challenging for most educators in any country. In South Africa’s education history, the anti-apartheid movement laid a foundation for the nonracial movement, and it is still, according to Nkomo et el (2004) the main reason the movement which was “resulted from a conscious struggle to change the undemocratic and unfair apartheid cultures and practices by replacing them with more inclusive democratic, educational ethos based on a human rights culture”. More recently, globalization has seen the focus of diversity and inclusive education expanding to also include social class, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation/preference, ability, and other differences.  Integrating South Africa’s vast population that was legally excluded from the full benefits of citizenship is a big task and it will take years to achieve. Therefore, despite the efforts that have been made in recent years, South Africa’s education system is not reflective of its diverse nature. According to Soudien, Carrim and Sayed (2004),”One size does not fit all because citizens are not located in homogeneous, symmetrical and stable social, economic, and political positions.” Although there are many definitions for inclusive diversity education among scholars or practitioners, there is a general agreement that education opens doors to financial and economic freedom, decreases poverty and inequality promotes social, economic, educational and cultural growth. Therefore, in order for a fair and democratic society to succeed it need a strong a multilingual and a multicultural education.


Language plays an important role in teaching and content in all subjects. Globalization has increased the need for cross language communication and multilingualism in South Africa. During the apartheid era, the language policy in education was used to control people of color by segregating them into many ethnolinguistic groups; it also separated Afrikaner from English learners. South Africa’s, language in education policy advocates for non-discriminatory language use thus, promoting multilingualism in education using languages (Department of Education, 2002). According to the new constitution, all learners have the right to choose their language of instruction. This is an important step in severing the unequal and oppressive ties of apartheid. While the policy provides an opportunity for extensive mother tongue-based learning, people still have the choice of English over any of the mother tongues. This is a popular choice among parents of previously disadvantaged groups as indigenous languages have gained a lower status and prestige than English and Afrikaans.  According to Motala (2013) there is a correlation between the low proficiency of the language of learning and teaching and low levels of learner achievement. Despite this a majority of South African parents still insist prefer (with their children’s concurrence) to have their children taught in English by English second language speaking. Although English is the preferred language of teaching and learning of instruction for learning(LoTL), experts agree that all learners should be given access to education should in their different Home Languages at Foundation level (Hueghs, 2002).

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South Africa official languages are each associated with a specific ethnic group with its own unique social, economic and political standards, this present complications and challenges. According to Heugh (2002) Learners find second language acquisition is easier when learners are more proficient in their home language. The current practice in government schools is that IN THE Foundation phase the LoTL is the learner’s mother tongue, with a change to English in grade four. This policy assumes that learners can translate concepts they learned in an African language into English successfully when they reach grade four. A large number of South Africa learners come from homes where they speak English as a mother tongue or a second language; these learners have the advantage of receiving education through their mother tongue throughout their school years. Learners from homes where indigenous languages are the first language on the other hand are faced with the challenge and shock of having to master a new language. This puts learners at a disadvantage and may extend the learning gap, since it lessens the child’s learning time in a language they are able to fully understand. In this case the learners may require extra support from schools and home in order to keep up with their peers. Students’ failure in literacy in the early years of primary school has a negative impact on their future educational outcomes. It is therefore vital for teachers to be equipped to handle the learners’ differing needs, skill levels, and learning history in their early years of primary school. There is a fundamental need for the development of an academic literacy ‘construct’ that promotes the use of multilingualism so that learners are not disadvantaged when they are called upon to demonstrate their academic proficiency.

It is not an easy task to solve the issues of multlingualism in South Africa because a larger number of the official languages are sufficiently represented to justify them for use in public institutions. According to research, while teachers know and are aware of the difficulties that come with teaching and learning in a multilingualism environment, however it is not reflected in their practice (Heugh, 2002). Change is also possible if we restructure the educational climate. This is drastic, but necessary step in order to make a difference. This means that schools need to hire more diverse faculty in terms of ethnicity, language, experience and background. Teachers that are currently employed could do in-service training to cope with new demands and to enable them to understand the importance of multilingualism. As a society, South Africans can advocate for schools to be well equipped with resources and for well-paid, respected and supported educators.


After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, the democratic government acknowledged the need to transform the country’s education system to develop an education system fit for purpose and this led to social, cultural, economic and political empowerment many, as well as offer direction in revolutionizing the country’s education system toward a multicultural learning system. Despite making significant radical changes in official policy and considerable investment in education in the past few decades, the level of literacy in most South African schools is not where it should be (Spaull, 2012). Even though Schools that were disadvantaged during the apartheid era may now be sufficiently resourced and effectively managed, and major policies have been implemented to mitigate those factors related to school failure, the country continues to struggle with school failure.

South Africa’s sociopolitical climate shows dynamic demographics in schools and societies with economic freedom as a driving factor. Cities and urban areas in South African are made up of previously disadvantaged people, those with different cultural and economic backgrounds from the majority, as well as those with a different native language other than the common language.  Rural areas are characterized with unique problems that affect learning in general. Zhang (2006) stated that in South Africa, reading literacy scores are significantly lower and rural schools in almost all cases have fewer and lower quality resources such as the quality and state of school buildings, the availability of equipment, resources and facilities, teaching materials and teachers’ qualifications.

The power shift in South Africa will take time to attain a satisfactory balance. This is without doubt the situation when it comes to education in the country. In arguing a concept she calls “culture power” Delpit, states that teachers often do not consider how their personal social locations affect the less powerful groups in their classrooms. She speaks about how so called “elite educators” may denounce the benefits of their own privilege because it makes them uncomfortable. All societies have their own special set of rules and code for partaking in power, these rules reflect the rules of culture of those in power. Culturally non-dominant learners have to learn the rules of language and communication in order to succeed into the society they live in.  According to Delpit, there is a momentary increase in self-esteem resulting from indiscriminating affirmation of non-dominant learners’ cultures for marginalized learners. However, this does not prepare them for the many challenges they have to face. She also mentions the role of education in getting society to be more culturally accepting. More specifically, how a universal education system can help deter racism and related issues. However, this may only be beneficial to learners within the “culture of power”.  If universal education succeeds then children from non-dominant cultures may be silenced by cultural notions and standards that do not suit them. Therefore, culturally non-dominant learners have to be taught acceptable cultural and linguistic competences to avoid having problems gaining access to tertiary education, work and other forms institutional and economic opportunities. This doesn’t mean that these learners are required to conform to the dominant culture, or even that their ways should not be acknowledged and valued or should be changed. Instead, Despite suggests that teachers be responsible for teaching them the rules of the culture of power while working to change the unequal structures of power. When designing curriculums stakeholders from non-dominant children’s cultures should be consulted because they are best positioned to understand the importance of valuing and preserving one’s own culture while having to learn how to operate within a new culture (of power).

According to Delpit, the real issues lie in cross cultural communicating and in addressing some of the more essential issues of power, of whose voice gets to be heard when deciding on what’s best for poor children and all children from non-dominant cultural groups. She does not focus on how is meant to, she focus on how it is. All efforts to promote a multicultural society should include educational efforts that respect and preserve learner’s cultures and teaches them how to understand and work with culture of powers that are not their own. This type of education will help learners to become more successful. Teachers need to keep in mind that learners are not clean slates, and that they bring with them prior knowledge to the classroom, this includes knowledge of their societies and family lives, which is their culture. Therefore, if learning and teaching becomes more culturally relevant then real connections can be made and the true process of learning can begin. Furthermore, in order for schools to be able to help create a better world, they have to be actively involved in training educators and learners on how to be culturally sensitive and respectful to others who have different cultural traditions from theirs.




Department of Education (2002). Language policy for higher education. Pretoria: Department of Education. [Google Scholar]

Heugh, K. (2002). The case against bilingual and multilingual education in South Africa: Laying bare the myths. Perspectives in Education, 20(1), 171–196. [Google Scholar]



Musical History And Societal Influences Music Essay

The definition of music is defined in many ways; Websters definition is as follows an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, or harmony. There are many theories regarding when and where music formed. Many agree that music began even before man existed. Researchers point out that there are six periods of music and each period has a certain style of music that made what music is today. Here are some resources for you to better understand the history of music. (Estrella 2001)

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Music is traced back as far as ancient Israel a thousand years before Christ; King David composed and sang hundreds of songs called psalms. A few of them are written in the old testament in the book of Psalms. But music as we know it now, as having structure and form, may have begun in the 10th century with the Gregorian chants. These chants were organized and detailed with soloists and small groups singing distinctive parts. The music we are more in common with began around the year 1200 and soon after, troubadours singing “folk” music starting to appear in parts of Europe. In the 14th century, sacred music (church music and hymns) was quite common (but secular music had begun to take hold as well). During the renaissance (around the year 1500) one of the most significant events occurred-the birth of the composer. The appearance of composers, of course, spawned instrumental music and the creation of the instruments such as the piano and lute. (Ezine Articles 2005)
The years 1750 to 1820 is considered the Classical period with the piano being a composer’s instrument of choice. During this time, Mozart wrote his first symphony, Bach performed in London, and Beethoven was born. Many of the symphonies we enjoy today were written during this time. Music has truly evolved since this period though. By 1900, a man named Scott Joplin had composed and published the “Maple Leaf Rag,” an event many see as the beginnings of the music we know today as popular music. Soon after, new musical forms were taking hold. Jazz in the 1930s (Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday), big band music in the 1940s (Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington), and rock-and-roll (Elvis Presley, Chuck Barry) in the 1950s. Other countries (most notably France and Spain) were creating their own popular music during this time. (Ezine 2005)
The three time periods I want to focus on is Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary. This is all known to us to day as Opera, R&B, Rock, Hip Hop, Soul, etc. Music has been around for years and can be broken down into many stages or cycles. People everywhere all over the world make their own style of music. Ever genre, sound, melody is different in some way.
When we look at the medieval music, we are dealing with the longest and most distant period of musical history. “Saint Gregory is credited with organizing the huge repertory of chant that developed during the first centuries of the Christian church, hence the term Gregorian chant”. He was pope from 590 to 604, and the medieval era continued into the 1400s, so this period consists of almost a millennium’s worth of music. One of the principal difficulties in studying medieval music is that a system for notating music developed only gradually. The first examples of musical notation date from around 900. For several centuries, notation only indicated what pitch to sing. The system for notating rhythm started in the 12th or 13th century. Gregorian chant is monophonic, meaning music that consists of only one melodic line without accompaniment. The beauty of chant lies in the serene, undulating shapes of its melody. We do not know who wrote the melodies of Gregorian chant. Like folk melodies, the music probably mutated as it was passed down through generations and eventually reached its notated form. Polyphony, music where two or more melodic lines are heard simultaneously, did not exist (or was not notated) until the 11th century. Unlike chant, polyphony required the participation of a composer to combine the melodic lines in a pleasing manner. Although most medieval polyphonic music is anonymous–the names of the composers were either lost or never written down at all–there are composers whose work was so important that their names were preserved along with their music. (Ezine 2005)
Renaissance is reflected by the changing role of the composer in society. Unlike most of their medieval times, the great masters of the Renaissance were created in their own lifetimes. The technique of printing music, while slow to evolve, helped in the “preservation and distribution” of music and musical ideas. Sacred music was still predominant, though other music became more prevalent and more sophisticated. The repertory of instrumental music also began to expand significantly. New instruments were invented, including the clavichord and virginal and many existing instruments were improved. Masses and motets were the primary forms of sacred vocal polyphony. Other vocal forms included motets, madrigals and songs (generally accompanied by lute or a small instrumental ensemble or “consort”). Instrumental pieces were usually short polyphonic works or music for dancing. (Ezine 2005)
Compared with the medieval style, Renaissance polyphony was lush and sonorous. The era between Josquin Desprez and Palestrina is known as “the golden age of polyphony.” Imitation–where one melodic line shares, or imitates the same musical theme as a previous melodic line–became an important polyphonic technique. Imitation was one method composers used to make complex music more easily comprehensible and give the listener a sense of structure. Imitative polyphony can be heard in the masses and motets of composers from Josquin onward and is featured in instrumental music by Byrd, Gibbons, and the Gabriellis.
Baroque music is often “highly ornate, colorful and richly textured when compared with its predecessors”. Opera was born at what is considered to be the very beginning of the Baroque era, around 1600. This unique form combines poetry, theater, the visual arts and music. It came about because a group of Italian intellectuals wanted to recapture the spirit of ancient Greek drama in which music played a key role. The first great opera was “Orfeo, by Claudio Monteverdi”, first performed in 1607. Music’s ability to express human emotions and depict natural phenomenon was explored throughout the Baroque period. Vivaldi’s famous set of concertos, The Four Seasons, is a famous example. Although imitative polyphony remained fundamental to musical composition, homophonic writing became increasingly important. Homophonic music features a clear distinction between the melody line and a subsidiary accompaniment part. This style was important in opera and other solo vocal music because it focused the listener’s attention on the expressive melody of the singer. The homophonic style gradually became prevalent in instrumental music as well. (Ezine 2005)
Many Baroque works include a continuo part in which a keyboard (harpsichord or organ) and bass instrument (cello or bassoon) provide the harmonic underpinning of chords that accompanies the melodic line. New polyphonic forms were developed, and as in the Renaissance, composers considered the art of counterpoint (the crafting of polyphony) to be essential to their art. Canons and fugues, two very strict forms of imitative polyphony, were extremely popular. Composers were even expected to be able to improvise complex fugues on a moment’s notice to prove their skill. The orchestra evolved during the early Baroque, starting as an “accompanist” for operatic and vocal music. By the mid-1600s the orchestra had a life of its own. The concerto was a favorite Baroque form that featured a solo instrumentalist (or small ensemble of soloists) playing “against” the orchestra, creating interesting contrasts of volume and texture. Many Baroque composers were also virtuoso performers. For example, Archangelo Corelli was famous for his violin playing and Johann Sebastian Bach was famous for his keyboard skills. The highly ornamented quality of Baroque melody lent itself perfectly to such displays of musical “dexterity”. (Grieg 2002)
The word Classical has strong meaning, mixed with the “art and
Philosophy of Ancient Greece and Rome, along with their ideals of disciplined expression.” The late Braque was complex and melodically different. The composers of the early Classical period changed direction, writing music that was much simpler to understand. Homophony music, another part of classical music in which “melody and charm are distinct, and has dominated the Classical style is another form of classical music. New forms of composition were developed to accommodate the transformation.” Santana Form is the most important of these forms, and one that continued to evolve throughout the Classical period. Although Baroque composers also wrote pieces called sonatas, the Classical sonata was different. The essence of the Classical Sonata is difficult to understand. A highly simplified example of such a conflict might be between two themes of “contrasting character”. (Grieg 2002)
This contrast would be found during the course of the sonata, and then resolved. Sonata form allowed composers to give pure instrumental music recognizable dramatic shape. Every major form of the Classical era, including the string quartet, symphony and concerto was molded on the dramatic structure of the sonata.
One of the most important developments of the Classical period is the growth of the public concert. Although the aristocracy would continue to play a significant role in musical life, it was now possible for composers to survive without being the employee of one person or family. This also meant that concerts were no longer limited to palace drawing rooms. Composers organized concerts featuring their own music, and attracted large audiences. The increasing popularity of the public concert had a strong impact on the growth of the orchestra. Although chamber music and solo works were played in the home or other intimate settings, orchestral concerts seemed to be naturally designed for big public spaces. As a result, symphonic music composers gradually expanded the size of the orchestra to accommodate this expanded musical vision. (Grieg 2002)
Just as the word “Classical” “conjures” up certain images, Romantic music also does the same. Whether we think of those romance novels with the Romanticism implies fantasy and sensuality. The Classical period focused on emotional restraint. Classical music was expressive, but not so passionate that it could overwhelm the work “Beethoven, who was in some ways responsible for igniting the flame of romanticism, always struggled (sometimes unsuccessfully) to maintain that balance.” (Greig 2002)
Many composers of the Romantic period followed Beethoven’s model and found their own balance between emotional intensity and Classical form. Others reveled in the new atmosphere of artistic freedom and created music whose structure was designed to support its emotional surges. Musical story-telling became important, and not just in opera, but in “pure” instrumental music as well. The tone-poem is a particularly Romantic invention, as it was an orchestral work whose structure was entirely dependent on the scene being depicted or the story being told. Color was another important feature of Romantic music. A large palette of musical colors was necessary to depict the exotic scenes that became so popular. In addition to seeking out the sights and sounds of other places, composers began exploring the music of their native countries. Nationalism became a driving force in the late Romantic period and composers wanted their music to express their cultural identity. This desire was particularly intense in Russia and Eastern Europe, where elements of folk music were incorporated into symphonies, tone-poems and other “Classical” forms. (Wagner 1999)
The Romantic period was the days of the “virtuoso”. Gifted performers and particularly pianists, violinists, and singers became enormously popular. Liszt, the great Hungarian pianist/composer, reportedly played with such passion and intensity that woman in the audience would faint. Since, like Liszt, most composers were also virtuoso performers, it was inevitable that the music they wrote would be extremely challenging to play. The Romantic period witnessed a glorification of the artist whether musician, poet or painter that has had a powerful impact on our own culture. (Wagner 1999) This style of music became known as being romantic.
The “evolution” of music is at least partly shaped by the influence one composer has on another. These influences are not always positive, however. Sometimes composers react against the music of their recent past (even though they might admire it) and move in what seems to be the opposite direction. For example, the simplified style of the early Classical period was almost certainly a reaction to the extreme intricacies of the late Baroque. The late Romantic period featured its own extremes: sprawling symphonies and tone-poems overflowing with music that seemed to stretch harmony and melody to their limits. It is certainly possible to view some early 20th century music as an extension of the late Romantic style, but a great deal of it can also be interpreted as a reaction against that style. 20th century music is a series of “isms” and “neo-isms.” The primal energy of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring has been called “neo-Primitivism”. “The intensely emotional tone of Schönberg’s early music has been labeled Expressionism”. The return to clearly structured forms and textures has been “dubbed neo-Classicism”. (R. Strauss)
These terms have been employed in an attempt to organize the diversity of styles running through the 20th century. Nationalism continued to be a strong musical influence in the first half of the century. The study of folk songs enriched the music of numerous composers, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams (England), Bela Bartok (Hungary), Heitor Villa Lobos (Brazil) and Aaron Copland (USA). Jazz and popular musical styles have also been tremendously influential on “classical” composers from both the United States and Europe. Technology has played a increasingly important role in the development of 20th century music. Composers have used recording tape as a compositional tool (such as Steve Reich’s Violin Phase). Electronically generated sounds have been used both on their own and in combination with traditional instruments. More recently, computer technology has been used in a variety of ways, including manipulating the performance of instruments in real time. (R. Strauss)
So as you can see, music has been around for centuries. Many people have helped music evolve over the years. The six long periods of music that were discussed above really helped music become what is today. Although each individual listen to various types of music they all started the same, with either a rhythm or beat. Music was originated long before humans even existed and grew from there. Music in general has made the world a better place. It gives people a way to express themselves. Music has been called ‘The International Language; a very simple thought with much meaning behind it. Even if you can’t speak the language of a country, you can move, sway, dance and most of all enjoy the music of the country. We may not understand the words of a musical selection but we do understand the beauty. (Ruth 2008)
Music’s interconnection with society can be seen throughout history. Every known culture on the earth has music. Music seems to be one of the basic actions of humans. However, early music was not handed down from generation to generation or recorded. Hence, there is no official record of “prehistoric” music. Even so, there is evidence of prehistoric music from the findings of flutes carved from bones.
The influence of music on society can be clearly seen from modern history. Music helped Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence. When he could not figure out the right wording for a certain part, he would play his violin to help him. The music helped him get the words from his brain onto the paper. In general, responses to music are able to be observed. It has been proven that music influences humans both in good and bad ways. These effects are instant and long lasting. Music is thought to link all of the emotional, spiritual, and physical elements of the universe. Music can also be used to change a person’s mood, and has been found to cause like physical responses in many people simultaneously. Music also has the ability to strengthen or weaken emotions from a particular event such as a funeral.
People perceive and respond to music in different ways. The level of musicianship of the performer and the listener as well as the manner in which a piece is performed affects the “experience” of music. An experienced and accomplished musician might hear and feel a piece of music in a totally different way than a non-musician or beginner. This is why two accounts of the same piece of music can contradict themselves. (O’Donnell 2001)
“According to The Center for New Discoveries in Learning, learning potential can be increased a minimum of five times by using this 60 beats per minute music. For example, the ancient Greeks sang their dramas because they understood how music could help them remember more easily). A renowned Bulgarian psychologist, Dr. George Lozanov, designed a way to teach foreign languages in a fraction of the normal learning time. Using his system, students could learn up to one half of the vocabulary and phrases for the whole school term (which amounts to almost 1,000 words or phrases) in one day. Along with this, the average retention rate of his students was 92%. Dr. Lozanov’s system involved using certain classical music pieces from the baroque period which have around a 60 beats per minute pattern. He has proven that foreign languages can be learned with 85-100% efficiency in only thirty days by using these baroque pieces. His students had a recall accuracy rate of almost 100% even after not reviewing the material for four years.” The article above discusses how the history of music not only helped human beings but impacted their lives greatly to where we learn better and think better. (O’Donnell 2001)

Societal Effects of Digital Cultures

The transition from oral to print culture is a very defining moment in the history of mankind because of the substantial changes it had on society. The Internet has been the catalyst for digital culture, just as the printing press was the catalyst of print culture. With inventions like the Internet, the World Wide Web, smartphones, and other technologies the amount of information we can now categorize, save, and access instantly is seemingly limitless. The rapid pace of advancement in digital technology is no longer making electronic devices just pieces of technology, but interactive technologies that hold a much greater role in our communication and society than print ever did. We have been, for some time now, undergoing the shift from a print culture to digital culture that is similar in impact, if not more than, the transition made from oral to print culture. Communication as we once knew it is no longer primarily made by speaking face-to-face or sending letters and texts, instead it is experienced through the technology itself. The invention and widespread use of the Internet, mobile devices, and wireless networks gives us the ability to be connected to the media, our technology, and the globe, at all times. Hyperconnectivity, instant gratification, and decentralized collaboration are just some characterizations of digital culture. However, these characteristics could have serious repercussions for the foundation of our society and how individuals view it, as well as themselves. It is essential for everyone to be aware of the current, and future, effects digital culture is having on our society.

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The digital media revolution has moved beyond the virtual world and has transformed all facets of modern lifestyle and culture, and almost all aspects of modern society have been altered to adapt to the new digital culture. Communication technologies now hold a much larger role in human interaction than they ever did in print culture. But what impacts do these new mediums and increases in reach of audience have on our culture, our perceptions, and the way we manage ourselves? Studying the impacts of media on culture began with Marshall McLuhan publishing Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In this work he coins the term “the medium is the message” and further expands on his theories in The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. McLuhan states, “societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication. The alphabet, for instance, is a technology that is absorbed by the very young child in a completely unconscious manner, by osmosis so to speak. […]It is impossible to understand social and cultural changes without a knowledge of the workings of media” (pg 42). I agree with McLuhan’s argument that you must understand the format, or “medium”, and the way it projects, communicates, or demonstrates ideas and shapes the message being interpreted. I think too often we never have full understanding of our medium, therefore never fully grasping the message being given. Since today’s digital devices demand almost constant attention, and act as mediums for most people, this can negatively effect the ways in which we interact, work, entertain, gain knowledge, conduct business, and communicate. Nevertheless, I concluded from McLuhan that digital culture’s roots begin with the human interaction with electronic devices.

Modern communication technology is not only more powerful and efficient, it is also more interactive between the technology and its user. The heart and soul of digital culture is the very human interaction with technology that offers wide varieties of platforms for communication and interaction with other humans via their connected electronic devices. Traditional communication technologies differ from social media because being online “allows users to create, share, and collaborate on content in new ways” (Government Office). However, the dynamics of communication change in cyberspace because people are more open and do not use as many filters as they would in face-to-face communications. Since hyperconnectivity is still fairly new, and its’ future still very unclear, we must be very aware of this phenomenon. “Hyperconnectivity is the use of multiple communication systems and devices to constantly stay connected to information systems and social networks. The attributes include always being connected, easily accessible, information rich, interactive, and virtually unlimited storage capacity” (Fredette, et al. 115). As of September 2013, 73% of all Internet users use a social networking site, and 90% of Internet users age 18-29 use a social networking site (“Social Networking”). The amount of personal information on the Internet is unfathomable because of all the people that are actively participating and continuously creating, sharing, and collaborating on content. However, there are different rules for digital medias than there are for print because technically, you are “sharing” this information. This means that in some cases, the photos, videos, and comments you share on social networking sites can be retained by the website. As a user of social media, you must be very attentive and conscious of any personal information shared online, with the awareness that it can be retained and used by others. Policy makers have been slow to develop laws surrounding online content and ownership, but with more breaches in privacy and advancements in the field of “big data,” policy makers will soon be forced to write new legislation regarding personal ownership and property rights online.

Overall, everything connected to digital culture is exponentially faster than before. Technological advancements with transportation, communication, and supply deliveries, consumer electronics now have reduced wait times for basically everything. Of course, there are positives from this increased efficiency, so much so that sometimes we have trouble imagining how we ever got by without all the new advancements in technological. However, instant gratification as a result of our digital culture has negative consequences as well. While improvements in technology continue to limit or eliminate wait times, we see the effect on individuals in relation to patience. Now that we have instant access to the majority of our life needs, our conditioning for “delay discounting” is deteriorating. Delay discounting is “the willingness to postpone receiving an immediate reward in order to gain additional benefits in the future” (Cheng, Shein, & Chiou 129). It has also been confirmed that delay discounting effects health, wealth, and happiness. The transition to digital age is also leading humans towards an intensive “continuously present” culture, defined by “doing” rather than “being”. The continuous present is “at work when the individual is occupied in some way, and time for contemplation and reflection is blocked” (Voase 2). Our constant connection to electronic devices means that we are almost always ‘doing’ something, which limits our ability to think about the future or partake in delay discounting. The inability to remove yourself from the present and reflect on the past, or think of the future, has devastating impacts on all parts of one’s life, especially with young children and teens.

As previously stated, digital devices demand our constant attention, completely changing the ways we are interacting, working, advertising, etc. Now that ideas flow faster, companies are beginning to realize that managers are needing to communicate with younger employees in a whole new manner. Businesses are not understanding the explosiveness of the digital communication network, and can often find themselves struggling to “catch up”. But how can businesses stand out in what is considered an “equal playing field”, where anyone and everyone can create a website or blog, and say what they want? Possibly, by observing the way athletes and celebrities interact with fans today, companies can adapt and improve how they reach out potential employees in a whole new way. While celebrities and their fans may be focused on gossip, beauty, and popularity, business managers can use these very same outlets to build similar relationships with their consuming public.

The digital revolution has also given us the ability to easily copy and replicate things, and while this may be helpful with championing a product on the digital highway, it also means managers will need to work harder to protect original ideas, product innovations, and copyrighted insights. Culturally, the digital age has changed the way we identify with one another and form communities. While 20th century consumers usually bonded in close-knit neighborhoods, today’s target demographics bond in global communities like online chat rooms, YouTube communities, and online forums to provide advice or share personal stories. Corporations will need to investigate how they can do more to include these new communities in order to find advocates and influencers who can help them create and build their brand message.

The Internet holds a parallel relationship to digital culture as the printing press had to print culture. Both technologies, hold massive weight within their respective cultures and are responsible for turning a transitional period into a cultural revolution. However, with digital culture still being relatively new, these characteristics and definitions of this culture can not be seen as “concrete”. However, there have been few consistent characteristics within its short timespan, and one is its constant and rapid evolution. The speed at which the World changes can be diverse at times, but to put it into perspective, it took over 1500 years from the creation of the Semitic proto-alphabet to get to the creation of the printing press, 500 years from the invention of the printing press to the development of the Internet, and only 10 years from the World Wide Web to the creation of the smartphone. It is difficult for us to imagine a time so long ago, that was so different from today, having such similarities in the impacts on culture that we are experiencing now. The change to digital culture has had such profound effects on our daily lives and will only continue to do so, but we must continuously examine the current, and future, implications of our new digital culture. Further expansions within language, knowledge, and relationships between humans and technology could become overwhelming. When McLuhan said that “The goose quill put an end to talk,” (pg 48) in the same sense, we should be asking ourselves what else will the internet put an end to?

Works Cited 

Cheng, Ying-Yao, Paichi Pat Shein, and Wen-Bin Chiou. “Escaping the Impulse to Immediate Gratification: The prospect Concept Promotes a Future-Oriented Mindset, Prompting and Inclination Towards Delayed Gratification.” British Journal of Psychology 103.1 (2012): 129. Web. 24 November 2018.

Fredette, John, et al. “The Promise and Peril of Hyperconnectivity for Organizations and Socities.” The Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyperconnceted World. Web. 24 November 2018.

Government Office for Science of the United Kingdom. Foresight Future Identities. HMSO, 2013. Web. 24 Nov 2014.

McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Gingko Press, 2001 p.42, p. 48

Ong, Walter J. Information and/or Communication: Interactions.” Communication Research Trends 16.3 (1996): 10. Web. 24 Nov 2018.

–“Orality, Literacy, And Medieval Textualization. (1984): 1-12. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 24 Nov 2018.

“Social Networking Fact Sheet.” PEW Internet. PEW Research, Sept. 2013.Web. 24 November 2018.

Voase, Richard, ed. Tourism, Roads, and Cultural Itineraries: Meaning, Memory and Development, June13-­‐15, 2012, Quebec City, Canada.Web. 24 Nov 2018.             


Societal Impacts of Obesity

Obesity and its Effects on Society Introduction

‘ America is fat’, this is a statement echoed by many people in and out of the health industry and if you don’ t believe them, maybe the following statistic will change your mind. According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, obesity rates grew 74% between 1991 and 2001 (Ward-Smith 242). Do you believe now? When most people read that statistic, they have a single burning question in mind and that question is ‘ why?’ Why is the rate of obesity growing so rapidly? Is it our diet? Is it our way of life? Or are Americans simply lazy? There are many answers to these questions and in this research paper I will explore several of them. But first, why is obesity such a big deal? Why is it important?

Understanding obesity is important because the CDC also found that the range of obesity in American states fluctuates from as little as 18% to 32% (Ward-Smith 244). What this means is that almost one in every five people are obese in the slimmest state in America and that one in every three are obese in Americas fattest states.

It also means that obesity is a national disease and it threatens the lives of every American. This growing rate of obesity doesn’t bode well for the future of American health because if Americans are gaining so much weight, within such a short period of time, one can only wonder what effects it will have on American society. It’s common knowledge that there are dangers to obesity, it is currently the number two cause for preventable death and in a few years, it will overtake smoking as the number one cause for preventable death (Bean, Steward, and Olbrisch, 214). But the question still remains, how will all these statistics affect us as a society? The answer is simple. If America doesn’t get a handle on the rampant weight gain, then obesity will have an adverse effect on society. Obesity is a major health concern because it is a leading cause for diabetes and heart failure and it is a leading cause for preventable death.

Obesity also affects America as a society, because it demonstrates how un-restrained Americans can be when it comes to consumption. Americans also lead extremely sedentary lives and seemingly go out of their way to be inactive.

Finally, obesity is an economic factor, because it affects healthcare and it has negative impacts on the economy. America promotes obesity and at the end of the day, America has only itself to blame for this pandemic.

Dangers of Obesity

Obesity is a disease that attacks American society across multiple fronts, the foremost and most important being health. The CDC defines an obese person as a person who has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above and such people face multiple health-related challenges, the most severe being diabetes, heart failure and premature death (Ward-Smith 244). These two diseases are extremely common among obese people and they are the consequence of a combination of poor diet and a lack of exercise.

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Diabetes is when your body can no longer handle the sugar within your blood. This will then cause the sugar in your blood to damage organs and other parts of your body. There are two types of diabetes, diabetes type-1 and type-2. Type-1 diabetes is mostly unpreventable and you are usually born with it. Type-2 diabetes, on the other hand, is a different monster; type-2 diabetes is acquired during adulthood, meaning you aren’t born with it and it is brought about mainly due to lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet (Mettenburg 11). For example, eating tons of sugary foods and drinking sodas and sugary juices on a constant basis places you at serious risk for diabetes. Eating a lot of processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon also increase your chances for diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease because it can lead to other, more serious, complications such as: kidney disease, amputations and blindness (Mettenburg 11). If we know that diabetes is caused by unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise, it is obvious that the best way to treat it is with exercise and a balanced diet. However, it appears that knowing isn’t half the battle, since the rate of diabetes continues to surge nationwide. Diabetes is only one of the many diseases caused by obesity. Heart disease is another major disease and area of concern for obese people.

Heart disease is a lot like ice-cream; it comes in many different flavors. It comes in the form of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stroke, or rheumatic heart disease. Heart disease is also a leading cause for death among the adult population and obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Now, to be fair, it is possible to have heart disease without being obese, however, obesity (along with diabetes) have been discovered to be MAJOR contributors to heart disease (Miller, Lavie, and White 162). When dealing with heart disease, culprits are separated into two groups, major risk factors and contributing risk factors. Major risk factors are factors which are determined to actually increase your chance of heart disease, while contributing risk factors are those that the doctors believe may lead to an increased chance of heart disease. Based on this system of classification, it has been medically proven that obesity does in fact increase a person ‘s chance for heart disease.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in blood cells and that is produced by the liver in order to create cell membranes and high cholesterol is listed as a major contributor to heart disease. It is caused by an unbalanced diet consisting of food that comes directly from animals. Eating too much food that comes directly from animals, such as eggs, milk, cheese, butter and red meat will drastically increase your cholesterol level and that could then increase your chance to have a heart attack (Morgan). Once again, it’ s important to notice the correlation between eating unhealthy and picking up diseases which could potentially end your Life.

The third danger that obesity poses to American society is premature death. Currently, smoking is the number one cause for preventable or premature death. Obesity isn’t to be outdone, however, as it is closing in on the top spot with unprecedented haste. Studies conducted by the journal of internal medicine also indicate that the higher a person’s BMI, the higher the chance that they will die (Orsini, Bellocco, Bottai, Pagano, Michaelsson, and Wolk 446). It’ s amazing that obesity is rising in the USA at such drastic rates when the ultimate result is untimely death. Why is this happening? Why are people purposely eating themselves into their graves ahead of schedule?

                                        America‘s Promotion of Obesity

To find out why this is happening, we need to look no further than into America’s own food industry, which promotes over consumption, dishing out serving after serving of some of the unhealthiest foods imaginable for a marginal price and rewarding customers for buying in­ bulk. Then we’ll look into America’s acceptance of obesity, including the promotion of plus size models. Last but not least, we’ll also look into the American sedentary life-style and how that also promotes obesity.

Over consumption is when a person or a society uses resources in a manner that is extremely wasteful. America is a staunch proponent for over consumption and most Americans do not even realize it. When it comes to food consumption America has no equal. With that knowledge, there should be no surprise that there are so many fast food restaurants in America, especially in urban areas. For example, when I leave school, I am constantly surprised by the sheer number of fast food restaurants that are stacked up one after the other during my trek to 95th. I understand that companies must compete for customers, it makes sense to set up restaurants next to each other. I also understand that it makes perfect sense to give people a choice in what they want to eat, but at what cost? People are actively eating themselves to death and fast food restaurants encourage that habit by opening up 3-5 fast food restaurants on each block and keeping longer hours. In fact, McDonald’s drive-thru is now open 24 hours a day, now isn’t that convenient?

The ease with which we can get unhealthy food in America would bring a glutton to tears of joy. According to Trenton Smith, “Americans obtain 16% of calories from added sugar, and 60% of adults obtain more than 10% of calories from saturated fats” (Smith 387). That obviously doesn’t make for a healthy diet and is in fact, extremely unhealthy. Why is America such a junk food nation? The blame lies within the food industry; they purposely promote over consumption. If it does not sound believable that the food industry purposely promotes over consumption, then all one needs to do is turn on the television. One would see ads for fast food on every channel, ads that promote unhealthy products non- stop. Trenton Smith says again ” Consumer advocates have long argued that too much advertising, especially television advertising, manipulates consumers into buying products that are detrimental to health or well-being” (Smith 403). Ever since cigarettes were determined to be harmful to the health of people, they stopped advertising cigarettes on T.V. (Gray 1264). Why can’t fast food ads get the same treatment? They are also proven to be harmful to the health.

However, what is more troubling is that the target audience for these ads are children, the fast food industry entices them by demonstrating how eating a double cheeseburger can lift a person’s mood or how biting into a big mac can bring a smile to a persons’ face. Fast food ads also develop characters that can relate to children, such as Ronald McDonald the clown and the toys that are stuffed in every happy meal. All these advertising strategies work to entice viewers into believing that the food they consume will benefit them in some way (smith 403). In addition to these advertising tactics, the fast food industry also advertises on channels that are viewed mostly by children. If you turn on cartoon network and watch a 30-minute show, you are certain to find advertising for any major fast food retailer. This is a dangerous tactic, because it brings children into the pattern of eating unhealthy foods from a young age and leads to increased cases of childhood obesity. Is it, then, any surprise that many of these children grow up to be obese? And who suffers the most from these tactics?

 Obviously, obese people suffer the most, because the foods they should be avoiding are so conveniently located right down the block from them. The sad thing is, it’s always the unhealthy foods that are advertised. When was the last time you saw vegetables advertised? There has been no time in history when a restaurant decided to invest millions into advertising vegetables or healthy products. According to Smith, 50% of Americans consume no fruits or fruit juices, and only 16% of Americans eat vegetables (Smith 387). If America didn’t promote obesity they would most certainly put severe limitations on the amount of advertising that the fast food industry promotes.

 It’ s unfair, however, to pick solely on fast food corporations, after all, if you eat too much of any sort of food, you’ll definitely gain weight. Retailers are also to blame for the rapid surge of obesity across the nation. Retailers now reward buyers for buying items in bulk by giving them steep discounts. For example, children who love candy are now encouraged to buy additional candy bars, because you can buy two bars of snickers for $1.00 instead of paying 69- 89 cents for one bar. Bulk retailers such as Sam’ s club have seen a massive increase of over 15% in sales since 2009 (Heylar 158). When customers are rewarded for buying more, isn’t it only logical they also eat more? The 74% rise in obesity shouldn’t astound anyone, because what else would one expect when American businesses operate under a system that is more concerned with profits than the welfare of their customers?

 The second way American society promotes obesity is through accommodation. There are certain things that a society shouldn’t overlook, and a disease that affects one in every five people in the slimmest states is certainly one of those things.  The accommodation of obesity is an important factor in keeping obesity as a major danger in America. When American society makes obesity acceptable and ignores the health concerns of obesity to be politically correct, then I believe the society is accepting of it. An example of this promotion can be found in plus size models.  For a long time, women rallied against the modeling industry, saying that it encouraged women to develop eating disorders (Ahem, Bennett, Hetherington 295).  Now that obesity has become such a widespread disease, we see and hear people everywhere making excuses for obesity, instead of finding solutions for it. Plus size models have become revered in the eyes of women; they are seen as women with ‘figures’ who aren’t afraid to show off their curves. How exactly is having an obese woman in the modeling industry any different than having anorexic women in the same business? At the end of the day, neither anorexic nor obese models promote a healthy lifestyle. It isn’t fair to glorify one above the other for the sake of public image or acceptance. Obesity isn’t something that we should make excuses for, nor is it a phenomenon that should be covered up under the guise of courage, Obesity is a curable disease. If Obesity was any other disease no one would be saying the proper thing to do is accept your disease, our goal is to cure diseases.

 Last but not least, America promotes obesity by being inactive. Adults do not get enough exercise and children sit at home on a daily basis, glued in front of the tv playing video games and computers, while parks remain desolate.  According to Nation’s Health, the Surgeon General released a report and it stated “more than 60 percent of adults do not achieve the recommended amount of physical activity, and 25 percent of adults are not physically active at all” (Nation’s Health 5). The standard of life in America is so tailored towards comfort that everything is within reach. If you are craving for a pizza, you don’ t need to go anywhere, simply pick up your phone and have it delivered. Once children get used to doing little to no exercise, they will grow up that way and continue living their sedentary lifestyles, they’ll continue driving short distances, instead of walking, they’ll always take the elevator instead of taking the staircase. Sedentary lifestyles go hand in hand with obesity to increase mortality rates among the general population.

                                 Implications of Obesity on Society

We’ve seen how obesity affects the society physically; we’ve seen how obesity is also promoted by the American society. Now we will see how obesity affects our healthcare, who it affects and society’s view on it.

Obesity is a disease that acts as a gateway to other more life-threatening diseases, as such; it has adverse effects on American healthcare and the American tax-payers pays for it. A new study found that obesity costs the American healthcare system a whopping $147 billion annually (Finkelstein, Strombotne, and Popkin 2). That’s a massive price-tag for a disease that is preventable. It’s more disconcerting because 10 years ago, that number was at $78.4 billion. It means that the cost of treating the same disease has doubled within 10 years. Medicare has also upped the cost of coverage for obese people to more than an additional $2,000 a year (Finkelstein, Strombotne, and Popkin 3). What do these statistics mean? It simply means that more money is being redirected into treating obesity and if obesity continues to scale the way it is currently, it will increase demand for treatment for the diseases which it promotes.

 Obesity is also a major concern for employers because workers who are obese and call in sick account for lost days and lost revenues and they also increase the price of health insurance for the company. What is being done to curb it? In 2002, the American Obesity Association (AOA) successfully convinced the IRS to recognize weight-loss treatment as something that could be tax deductible. What this means is that patients who underwent treatment programs were able to write off their treatment costs as tax deductible, but more importantly, it marked a change in the stance of the government towards obesity. For the first time, obesity was recognized as a disease that was worth treating. Despite that, however, the rate of obesity continued to soar because the government refused to put in place a system that would reduce the increase of obesity. It wasn’t until 2010 when president Obama signed the new healthcare reform bill, when a nationwide effort was finally made to curb obesity. The reform bill includes funding for task forces and prevention forces for local government (Healthcare Reform Bill Sec. 4108). The ideology behind the bill is that millions can be saved through prevention of obesity. The bill also contains provisions that will enable opportunities for prevention programs at all levels of the economic ladder, with greater focus placed on the poor and the elderly. This is a good provision, because research shows that those affected by obesity are those in the lower class and the elderly.

Obesity doesn’t discriminate; everyone has a chance to be obese. However, research proves that people in poorer neighborhoods have a greater exposure to obesity. Why? There are several reasons for this. First off, people in lower-income neighborhoods just aren’t as educated about nutrition as their high earning counterparts. They are mostly uneducated about how fried foods and sugary drinks don’t exactly constitute a healthy meal (Sturm and Wells 231).

The second factor that keeps the obesity rate high amongst those of lower-income is lack of funding for proper parks or exercise centers. People in lower income neighborhoods don’ t have anywhere to go in order to exercise in a safe and controlled environment. This is mostly caused due to a lack of funding in those neighborhoods.

The last factor that’s to blame for the obesity rates in lower income neighborhoods is the lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables and the high prices attached to the few fruits or vegetables available. To someone living on the edge of poverty, feeding themselves is purely a matter of getting food into their stomachs. Truth is, it is much cheaper to get a can of coke and a hamburger than it is to go to the store and buy a healthier alternative to a quick lunch. This is the reason why fast food retailers are always making sure they build branches near low income neighborhoods. When there isn’t enough money to eat healthy, the next best choice is to eat processed foods which come a lot cheaper and are easier to ration and last longer than fresh fruits. Another down-side with vegetables in low-income neighborhoods is that they tend to spoil after a short period of time. It is a lot more cost effective to buy in bulk and to buy food that will last.

Society’s view on obesity has changed drastically over the years. Initially, fatness was viewed as a sign of wealth; it was common for wealthy people to be plump. In today’s society, however, the stigma is no longer there. In contrast, the majority of obese people are now seen mostly in lower-income neighborhoods and it has become associated with a substandard and unhealthy life-style. To many people, obesity also shows lack of self-restraint in a person’s character. They believe that because the obese person cannot control themselves, they continue eating (Jimenez et al.84). In more recent years obesity has become a disease and is treated as one. The government in particular has taken interest in obesity and has taken measures to counteract the effects it has on American society.


The American society recognizes obesity as a problem. However, instead of taking real, meaningful steps towards finding a way to put an end to obesity, the American society seems to accommodate it. In the future, when people talk about America’s ‘fat off the land’, they most certainly won’t refer to the economic status, or the opportunities found in America, they’ll refer to us, the people of America, because we’ll all be fat. It’s true that America certainly complains about obesity, the American society knows that it is a problem, but what serious steps are being taken to stop it? Well, states are organizing awareness programs in an attempt to make children eat healthier, but it isn’t enough. The rate of obesity is still rising and Americans are unhealthier now than they ever were.


Ahern, Arny L., Kate M. Bennett, and Marion M. Hetherington. “Internalization of the Ultra­ Thin Ideal: Positive Implicit Associations with Underweight Fashion Models are Associated with Drive for Thinness in Young Women.” Eating Disorders 16.4 (2008): 294-307.

Bean, Melanie K., Karen Stewart, and Mary Ellen Olbrisch. “Obesity in America:     Implications for Clinical and Health Psychologists.” Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings 15.3 (2008): 214-224.

Duchovny, Noelia. How does obesity in adults affect spending on healthcare? Washington D.C.; Congressional Budget Office, 2010. Print.

Finkelstein, Eric A., Kiersten L. Strombotne, and Barry M. Popkin. “The Costs of Obesity and Implications for Policymakers.” Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm & Resource Issues 25.3 (2010): 3-9.

Gray, Nigel. “Tobacco industry and EC advertising ban.” Lancet 359.93 14 (2002): 1264.

Helyar, John, Ann Hattington, and Sol Price. “The Only Company Wal-Mart Fears.” Fortune148.11 (2003): 158-166

Jimenez -Cruz, Arturo, et al. “Strong beliefs on personal responsibilities and negative       attitudes towards the child with obesity among teachers and parents.” Revista Biomedica 19.2 (2008): 84-91. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 7 Dec.   2010.

Loonin, Meryl. Overweight America. Detroit; Lucent Books, 2007. Print.


Cultural and Societal Impacts of the Selfie

For almost two decades, the act of taking and sharing selfies through technological devices is continuing to thrive as a digital ethnographic routine. Producing this type of photo is such a straightforward process, but there is certainly a more complex individual and cultural understanding behind the purpose of these visual expressions. This essay will examine the cultural and societal aspects that are incorporated into selfies with references to anthropological theories as well as examples from my personal experience (referencing my attached photos before the bibliography). In the first section, I will go over some essential Anthropology theories by Stuart Hall and Erving Goffman and explain how they can be applied to the task of analyzing selfies. Afterwards, I am going to explore how this method of photography is strongly linked to our individuality in both the public and private spheres of society. This segment will be followed by an evaluation of how selfies represent our political identity as well as other important visual signifiers. Lastly, my conclusion is going to reflect on why the combination of all of these factors play a significant role in determining how we wish to portray ourselves to others via the selfie platform.

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     One of the well-known models of Anthropology that correlate with selfies and visual messages comes from Stuart Hall’s research on representation. He established three academic approaches as a way to comprehend the meaning of language and symbolism. First, the “reflective approach” which suggests the producer is using examples of true information and recreating it with encoded messages (Hall 1997: 24). In opposition to this is the “intentional approach” which explains that media portrayals are specifically encoded with the intents of the producer who created it. In this case, it is not about the messages that are shown, rather the individuals who are showing it (Hall 1997: 25). Thirdly, the “constructionist approach” combines the properties of reflective and intentional representations to create a sense of meaning that is interpreted as both denotative and connotative (Hall 1997: 25). Hall’s theory can certainly be applied to the cognitive process of taking a selfie because when we do this activity, we are sending a message that reflects who we are and that conveys our current intentions. For instance, my selfie from the workplace confirms that I was some sort of security employee who worked outdoors.

     Erving Goffman is another theorist who is strongly applicable to this topic and he presents an alternative interpretation of the relationship between culture and imagery. This theory looks at how we perform our identities within controlled environments from the viewpoint of individuals, others, real, and unreal performances. First of all, he defines performance as “any form of activity by a given participant on a given occasion that can influence other participants in a particular way” (Goffman 1959: 10-46). This main subject extends further into three additional notions about the theory of performance which Goffman classifies into separate categories.

     First “dramaturgy”, a term that compares social interactions to the metaphor of being a stage that recreates scenery into a composition consisting of primary identity performance in the foreground region and additional interactivity in the background. Next, “dramatic realization” is a phrase used to describe when someone feels the need to express a more dramatic form of identity depending on the type of social interaction that they are involved in. Lastly, “idealization” occurs when we want to establish an ideal social performance that includes trending narratives about common values in culture or society (Goffman 1959: 10-46). It can be understood that selfies are a presentation of ourselves since we are essentially framing a particular theme through the use of facial expressions, clothing, location, and background props.

     In addition to representation and performance, selfies allow us to share an extension of our individuality in a more intimate way than traditional photos. Through the interactivity of this medium, we are sharing the qualities that define who we are as an individual and what makes us stand out from others (Veum and Undrum 2018: 87). According to academics Michael Koliska and Jessica Roberts, “people use selfies to express a particular notion of the self or to convey a certain impression: Through the clothes one wears, one’s expression, staging of the physical setting, and the style of the photo, people can convey a particular public image of themselves, presumably one that they think will garner social rewards (Koliska and Roberts 2015: 4)”.

      In ‘How the World Changed Social Media’, the authors present a similar argument, “selfies are more engaged in acts of sharing and circulation”, and “because of this it may represent a more socialised and less individually focused activity than traditional photography” (Miller et al. 2016: 158). However, they also imply that researchers are critical on how we digitally express our identity, stating that they believe this form of self-expression is an example of narcissism (Miller et al. 2016: 158). In some cases, it is likely that observers will interpret a person’s image of self-expression as a display of selfishness, but with the appropriate context, it can be seen in a more positive aspect.

     Furthermore, “visual tropes” add another potential layer of creativity to the practice of photographic self-expression. They are considered to be commonly used themes or visual cues that a generic audience can easily recognize (Zarzycka 2013: 178). A person may incorporate some kind of trope into their selfie to identify the most important details of their individuality. In ‘American Anthropologist, Shipley implies that this is because “digital images are easily detached from original contexts and recontextualized, in the process critically challenging the basic aesthetic principles presupposed in the images’ earlier incarnations” (Shipley 2015: 404).

     Another key factor regarding individuality is the separation between public and private realms since there is always going to be content in your self-photography that you are either open to revealing or preferring to keep hidden. This is similar to the concept of keeping our work life and social or family life compartmentalized from each other. This predicament can potentially affect the quality and quantity of selfies that we post on social media because concealing information will make our representation seem less authentic.   

     Some of the images that I have added in this essay were taken during my teenage years because I determined that they provide a good illustration of the individuality complex. In the one with a short-buzzed haircut, blue filter, slightly angled pose, and simple background, it conveys that I wanted to replicate the tough male stereotype. The second image has more imagery and symbols throughout the foreground and background which creates a composition of my typical living environment. The clothing and personalized room setting of this selfie contain clues that signify my demographics such as current age (physical appearance), where I might be living (Toronto shirt), and the weather conditions (winter hat).

     From a more social perspective, the information that we display in a selfie contributes to the framework of our identities such as our interests, lifestyle, opinions, and values. We want others to know what we care about by visually associating ourselves with it as if it were an advertisement. It is also an ideal strategy for supporting or protesting against the causes that you directly care about such as campaigns, social movements and other topics of concern. Within this context of society and relationships, Dr.Swaminathan contends that “the selfie becomes a construction of the self and selfhood that’s constitutive of the processes of conformity and non-conformity, of strangeness and alienation, and of identity and rootedness (Swaminathan 2014: 5)”. In other words, when we choose to communicate through this medium, there is confliction between making the decision to share ideals that follow cultural norms or go against popular trends.

    In support of this theory, I found that several attributes of my identity are visible in the majority of the selfies that were included in this essay. For instance, my political interests were exhibited by the city of Toronto shirt that I was wearing in one image, as well as a Canadian leaf symbol on the neck pillow in my workplace selfie. It might also be interpreted as an act of non-conformity to reveal myself relaxing on the job rather than being hard at work. My interest in pets (or specifically cats) is also evident because of the photo that I took with my cat. It gives off the impression that I am a pet owner who is comfortable with animals.

     With all of these ideas in mind, the ultimate objective that people are trying to accomplish by posting selfies is to suggest that everyone else should recognize them as to how they personally want to be perceived. It is a message that is assembled for the purpose of being evaluated by someone else, yet the person in the photo is envisioning themselves as their imagined persona. This is further supported by another section of Jesse Weaver Shipley’s photo essay. He insists that “the selfie, rather than a singular form of technologically driven self-portraiture, is a multimedia genre of autobiography or memoir that makes the image maker into the protagonist of stories of his or her own composition (Shipley 2015: 404)”.

     On the other hand, there is also statistical data on selfies which suggests that they are primarily uploaded by people for entertainment, information storage, and relationship development purposes (Williams, Stohlman, and Polinsky: 81-82)”. However, when I reflect on the reasons for choosing to take these five particular selfies, they all revolved around an event or personal statement that I wanted to share with others. From an Anthropological perspective, the aspect of initiating social interactions quickly came to mind, but it took an analytical approach to determine how I attempted to represent my individuality.

          It is evident that the selfie has effectively maintained its status as a central part of our customary social media activities. Sometimes this form of photography appears to be generic or repetitive with no meaningful intention, but even under these circumstances, there are many subliminal connotations to be observed. My paper went over how certain characteristics of ethnography are constantly integrated into the creation and circulation of selfies. I referenced the work of some credible anthropologists as well as my firsthand experiences to provide additional justification on this matter. The beginning of my essay summarized the concepts of representation and performance from an Anthropological context and described how they deeply inspire our visual expression choices. Then, I outlined how selfies are connected to our personal and public personas, which also lead to an explanation on why selfies embody our political identity, lifestyle and values. These sections were supported by image samples which were drawn from my first-person experience. In the conclusion of this paper, I reasoned that the convergence of these ethnographic elements has a substantial impact on the outcome of our selfie decision-making process.


Goffman, Erving. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor Books.

Hall, Stuart. 1997. Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices. London: Sage in association with the Open University.

Koliska, Michael and Jessica Roberts. 2015. “Selfies: Witnessing and Participatory Journalism with a Point of View,” In International Journal of Communication, Vol. 9: pp. 1672-1685.

Miller, Daniel, Elisabetta Costa, Nell Haynes, Tom McDonald, Razvan Nicolescu, Jolynna Sinanan, Juliano Spyer, Shriram Venkatraman, and Xinyuan Wang. “Visual Images.” In How the World Changed Social Media, 155-80. London: UCL Press, 2016.

Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2015. “Selfie Love: Public Lives in an Era of Celebrity Pleasure, Violence, and Social Media.” American Anthropologist 117 (2): 403–13.

Swaminathan, R. “Self, selfhood and a selfie: the anatomy of a virtual body and digital identity.” Strangers, Aliens and Foreigners: A Diversity and Recognition Project, Czech Republic, Prague (2014).

Veum, Aslaug, and Linda Victoria Moland Undrum. “The Selfie as a Global Discourse.” Discourse & Society 29, no. 1 (January 2018): 86–103. doi:10.1177/0957926517725979.

Williams, Patricia, Trey Stohlman, and Heather Polinsky. 2017. Me, My “Selfie” and I: A Survey of Self-Disclosure Motivations on Social Media. Vol. 2.

Zarzycka, Marta. 2013. “The World Press Photo Contest and Visual Tropes.” Photographies 6 (1): 177–84.


Economic and Societal Impact of American Immigration

As of 2018, researchers estimate that the total amount of immigrants that are active DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients are somewhere between 699,000 and 800,000 people. This is a lot of people. There are two possible scenarios circulating in politics, in accordance to what to do with the large number of DACA recipients: have them deported, or have them remain protected under the Dreamers Act.

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The DACA bill, a bill passed to allow and protect the working rights of illegal immigrants, was first passed and placed in full effect in 2012, at the end of President Barack Obama’s first term and the start of his second. Obama’s goal with this program was to primarily secure the safety of those who were undocumented in the U.S., but it was also to provide them the grant to work legally in the United States.
A large majority of immigrants working in the U.S. illegally tend to find alternatives to being hired, for example: “borrowing” other people’s social security number. By passing DACA, Obama envisioned that no illegal immigrant should go through this burden, but rather apply for permission that would protect them from deportation. This program was a huge success in the beginning and up until the end of his second term.
It wasn’t until President Donald Trump stepped in that the dreamers started to see the light at the end of the tunnel slowly turn into pitch darkness. Although all DACA recipients are illegal immigrants, the Dreamers Act should be kept in motion because they bring a lot to this country like: they help stabilize the U.S. economy, bring innovative ideas, and bridge the gap between illegal workers and the laws that shape immigration.
During President Trump’s current presidential term, a large number of Latino’s are going against their own race at the fault of Trump’s argument against the Latino community. Twenty six percent of Latinos voted for Trump in 2016 because they believed that if immigrants wanted to be part of America, then they needed to do it the right way; the legal way (CBS News 2016).
Latino communities have fallen for Trump’s arguments, making them go against their own race.​ Although President Trump’s bias is clearly about race, he repeatedly states, “This isn’t about race”. If it weren’t about race then why is he vigorously fighting to eliminate the Dreamer’s Act which consists of 76% Latinos, according to the Migration Policy Institute?
The reason a lot of Latino individuals leave Mexico (or any Latin American country) is to pursue and experience the American Dream. This dream that consists of a country where you can speak freely and be who you want is what drives many people to America, although America right now isn’t the America that we know. While in the term of Trump’s presidency, we have digressed backwards in terms of racial politics.
The argument against immigration has dominated the nation’s conversations now that President Trump is running for the second term of his presidency. One argument Trump was really adamant about during his electoral campaign in 2015 was that Mexico is only sending over their worst citizens. He stated, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best.
They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting” (CBS News 2016). Trump, with his despise for illegal immigrants, tends to focus his arguments on Mexico’s shipment of young, marginalized men to the United States. Much of his anti-immigrant rhetoric is solely focused upon men. Although we can categorize many Americans as the “bad people” he is worried about, Trump is more focused on blaming illegal immigrants. He fails to accept the fact that America has pre-existing problems unrelated to America’s immigration such as education and healthcare. According to the article The Business Outsider​ ​, America’s education and healthcare system currently rank 27th in the world, when it was once at the top. In the last 30 years, America has fallen 26 spots behind where they once were and that is solely due to the fact that money isn’t being invested the way it should be for these programs.
US News notes fell by 3% from 2010 to 2014, even as its student population grew by 1%. In Turkey — the nation with the most dramatic improvement in healthcare and education levels, according to the study — education spending rose by 76%. This decrease in spending seems to have had a significant impact on America’s educational attainment, which also declined over the last few decades. The US may also have a problem with the way it is spending money. The countries with the most significant improvements in education and healthcare — namely, Turkey, China, and Brazil — also saw quicker GDP growth on a per capita basis.
This leads the study to conclude that education and healthcare investments could be tied to a country’s economic performance, and improvements in these areas could lead to faster economic growth.
Education is the most important tool for a country to thrive. If there is no good education, a country can’t thrive and expand. America has dropped 26 spots in just 30 years but yet Trump’s focus is to get rid of immigrants and not help America thrive. Although Trump notes that some immigrants are good people, he also fails to see the importance of immigrants in the United States and how they keep the country thriving.
Although the American economy is already strong, the help of illegal and legal immigrants helps it thrive. Trump believes the opposite when he quotes, “People living in the​ U.S. illegally take jobs from native-born American citizens” (CBS News 2016). This, in fact, is not supported. Based on economic research done by the National Foundation for American Policy, 760,000 new jobs were created by immigrants in 2016. They also stated that at this rate, annually, new jobs created by immigrants would increase by 121,000. With the creation of all these new jobs, “Money in the economy would lead to a cumulative increase in GDP over the next 10 years of 862 billion dollars” (NFPA). This would benefit not only immigrants but the United States as a whole. These statistics contradict Trump’s belief that illegal immigrants are taking American jobs, but they are, on the contrary, creating more jobs annually. Trump is short to recognize what a benefit illegal immigrants are to this nation. The increase of 862 billion dollars over 10 years can be used to help America get back to the top in education and healthcare.
Trump and his followers believe that ordering the deportation of all illegal immigrants back to their countries would resolve the surge of “bad” immigrants, which is not the solution.
What good is sending 11.6 million immigrants back home? ProCon​ ​, a website that talks about the pros and cons of immigration in America agrees with me in that getting rid of all immigrants, would only harm the economy, contradicting Trump’s solution of deportation by stating this excerpt,
Locating millions of immigrants for deportation would take a very dramatic increase in domestic surveillance and enforcement, including door-to-door roundups. Mistakes would inevitably be made, with legal immigrants and citizens swept up in the process. Courts that handle immigration cases would be overwhelmed. Mass deportations would also harm the economy. Most undocumented workers are in relatively low-skilled jobs, but about a quarter are in white-collar jobs. Of those, about half are in management, finance or professional careers. Removing large numbers would have a very significant impact on the businesses that employ them. Undocumented workers make up about 5.1% of the American workforce at a time when a 4.9% unemployment rate shows that labor markets are growing tight. (ProCon 6)
This is what the United States would be losing if Donald Trump were to deport all illegal immigrants. Not only would there be mistakes made that would inevitably sweep legal citizens that appear to be Latino(a) away, but the economy would be harmed dramatically. The economy in America is pretty strong but if all immigrants go away, then so does the five percent of American workforce that undocumented immigrants bring. The five percent workforce that would eventually be able and help America gain 862 billion dollars in GDP over just 10 years proving that undocumented immigration workers, would help the economy. Only five percent of American workforce is made up of undocumented immigrants, but with the decontinuation of DACA, these immigrants will slowly start to fade away which would only decrease the amount of money America gets. At least with the DACA program, these undocumented workers have a permit that grants them permission to work which means its a win win scenario for America and the immigrants.
According to The Atlantic,​ President Barack Obama stated, “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation… nations with the ability to innovate are better poised to nurture entrepreneurship, attract early-stage risk capital and sustain a diversified ecosystem that bolsters long-term economic growth.” This is true as we have seen many other countries benefit from innovative ideas that are based around immigrants. For example, The​Atlantic ​states,
In 2010, Canada welcomed 280,636 immigrants while the U.S. accepted 1,042,625 — on a per capita basis less than one-half of the Canadian figure. Canada, with a population one-tenth that of the U.S., accepted 186,913 “economic immigrants” in 2010, accounting for 66.7 percent of its total. These immigrants unquestionably contribute to economic growth, job creation and increased demand for housing. In contrast, the U.S. currently caps employment-based visas, including those with extraordinary skills, professionals holding advanced degrees, skilled workers and professionals, special immigrants (e.g. religious workers), and investors, at 140,000, or just 13.4 percent of all immigrants.
Other countries have seen and experienced first hand what immigrants can bring to the table and none have reported that they have damaged the country, mainly their economy. Rather, they have implied how much growth immigrants have brought for their economy and just all around. Canada is just one of many examples of how an innovative idea, such as adopting a better way to treat immigrants, has helped benefit their country rather than bring it down.
Aside from bringing economic opportunities to American citizens, immigrants also bring new ideas to this country. Trump is quick to target these immigrants and classify them as worthless, even though he knows exactly the contribution they bring to this country. “The economic impact of illegal immigration in the U.S. is costly and impacts the financial security of the county’s legal residents… Illegal workers are often underpaid, which keeps wages lower in a particular occupation and region… Illegal aliens can put a financial burden on local and federal law enforcement (ProCon). Although they are underpaid, undocumented immigrants​ are trying hard and are still in America rather then being back in their home country. The problem of being underpaid doesn’t seem to scare them away but rather motivates them to work harder, leading to the acceleration of our economy.
Throughout his first term, Trump has really tried to put an end to DACA and the program’s aim to keep insightful immigrants in the country. His main argument as to why they should terminate the program is because they are all illegal immigrants whether it be by choice or not. DACA recipients who were brought to the U.S. at an early age, were likely brought here by their parents. To most recipients, the U.S. is the only home they have ever known.
Trump fails to realize that the new ideas that immigrants bring are helping progress this country, as a lot of innovative ideas have come from other countries.
According to The Insider, ​ ​in 1902, a New Zealand farmer “took flight for roughly 350 yards–months before the Wright brothers nailed down a more sustained flight.” Airplanes are very important because they provide an unprecedentedly rapid delivery of passengers and goods across the globe which allows for a greater cultural and intellectual exchange.
Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish born American invented the telephone. A life without a cellphone is no life at all, as all teenagers would probably say today.
In 1866, Karl Benz (Mercedes Benz) was the first person to register a patent for a gas-fueled motorwagen.
Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist invented the first electric battery in 1800.
X-Ray radiation was invented in Germany in 1895 by a German mechanical engineer known as Wilhelm Rontgen. Without this, the healthcare system, not only in America would not be as efficient. It would be impossible to see hairline fractures which cause more pain than an actual bone break.
These are some of the many ideas that have come outside of America and that are pretty crucial to the efficiency of today’s world. By neglecting immigrants, America could lose the potential expansion on an important discovery that could benefit the world in the future.
Whatever one’s view is upon immigration, it is important to understand that immigrants help America thrive with their biggest needs such as the economy. The leader of America needs to be one who is willing to say that undocumented immigrants don’t hurt the society but rather stregthen it. By taking away DACA, millions of opportunities to strengthen the country would be lost and a major economic downfall would happen in America. Immigrants are the biggest source that a country can use to help them progress. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
Works Cited
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“Transcript of Donald Trump’s Immigration Speech.” ​New York Times​, 1 Sept. 2016. ​New York Times​, ml?mcubz=1. Accessed 24 Nov. 2019.
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