The argumentative force of image networks: Greenpeace's panmediated global detox campaign.

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

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

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

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

Econs are rational by this definition, but there is overwhelming evidence that Humans cannot be. An Econ would not be susceptible to priming, WYSIATI [What You See Is All There Is], narrow framing, the inside view, or preference reversals, which Humans cannot consistently avoid, (p. 411)

An extensive body of research in psychology supports the conclusion that judgment and decision-making involve faculties that are not based solely in reason (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996; Gilovich, Griffin, & Kahneman, 2002). Media scholar McLuhan (1964) suggests a similar view, asserting that in our present print culture, we confuse "reason with literacy, and rationalism with a single technology" (p. 30) and that new media foster different forms of thinking.

Such dramatic media and social changes suggest that argumentation scholars need to invent and adopt new concepts and practices of analysis. To this end, we propose concepts and orientations for engaging this torrent of imagistic flows, including panmediated networks, wild public screens, affective winds, and image events. To explain these terms, we explore Greenpeace's global Detox campaign. By campaign, we refer not only to Greenpeace's initiation of the campaign, but also to the users who shared and posted and tweeted, who are integral to the campaign's success. We are not privileging Environmental Non-Government Organization (ENGO)-organized campaigns or professionally manufactured images, as this is but one example in a dense cluster of proliferating image-driven activisms.

TRANSLATING THE VISUAL

Beginning in the 1970s, in the wake of the politically transformative images of the Vietnam War, the student anti-war movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the environmental movement, images began to make their way into conversations at NCA (Foss, 2005), igniting discussions in journals including the 1996 special issue of Argumentation and Advocacy. Scholars were beginning to rethink what we study, and a debate over the study of images and whether they should be considered a form of argumentation blossomed (Barbatsis, 1996; Birdsell & Groarke, 1996; Blair, 1996; Delicath & DeLuca, 2003; DeLuca, 1999, 2006; Finnegan, 2001, 2005, 2006; Finnegan & Kang, 2004; Foss, 2005; Flariman & Lucaites, 2003, 2008, 2011; Hatfield, Hinck, & Birkholt, 2007; Langsdorf, 1996; Shelley, 1996; V.J. Smith, 2007). For those who advocated for the study of images, a debate over how to study them ensued. Many scholars, struggling with how to discuss images, turned to terminologies designed for the verbal to explain the visual. Thus, we were given the "visual ideograph" (Edwards & Winkler, 1997), the "visual enthymeme" (Birdsell & Groarke, 1996; Finnegan, 2001; Smith, 2007), and the use of pentadic analyses to analyze images (Rutledge, 1994). While it is tempting to translate the issues of images into the discourse we have created for words, this disfigures images. As numerous scientific studies have shown, images communicate differently than words. Among other things, they are processed faster than words (images can be processed in a mere 13 milliseconds) (Potter, Wyble, Hagmann, & McCourt, 2014), elicit stronger responses in the brain (Kensinger & Schacter, 2006), are able to be remembered better than words (Grady, McIntosh, Rajah, & Craik, 1998), and are processed holistically rather than linearly. As Latour (2011) argued, "We have the social theory of our datascape. If you change this datascape, you have to change the social theory" (p. 802). We must think, and argue, amidst images.

We can witness the tendency to turn to verbal terminologies in the 1996 special issue on visual argument. Apart from Fleming (1996) who, according to a narrow concept of argumentation, argued that pictures-whatever they are capable of doing-cannot meet the criteria for an argument set out by argumentation experts, the rest of the contributors attempted to develop a means by which to understand images through argumentation by amending and transforming existing concepts. Shelley (1996) suggested that a "rhetorical mode of visual argument is distinguished by a number of properties, such as its closeness to informal verbal arguments" (p. 55). Barbatsis (1996) also linked images with words in her contribution to the issue, calling images "pictorial texti' (emphasis added). She argued that scholars should examine visuals "with reference to a conception of textual structure that extends to equivalent constructions in verbal and musical modes, as well as to the multimodal televisual structure in which they all participate" (Barbatsis, 1996, p. 69). Though Blair (1996) significantly complicated images in productive ways, he answered the question: "Are visual arguments significantly different from verbal arguments?" with the claim "No" (p. 35).

Similar trends can be seen in the Argumentation and Advocacy 10-year anniversary issue in 2007. Birdsell and Groarke's (2007) introduction developed concepts to describe how images make arguments, including the visual metaphor and visual archetype. Smith (2007) turned back to the visual enthymeme to justify images as a form of argumentation and Pineda and So wards (2007) used the visual ideograph to argue how flag waving can serve as a form of refutation, all of which are problematic. The attempt to posit a visual ideograph is especially dubious. McGee (1980) wrote, "An ideograph is an ordinary-language term found in political discourse. It is a high-order abstraction representing collective commitment to a particular but equivocal and ill-defined normative goal. It warrants the use of power . . . and guides behavior and belief into channels easily recognized by a community as acceptable and laudable" (p. 15). Since images are not abstractions but a concrete specificity (Barthes, 2010), they contradict McGee's definition. A photograph is always a photograph of this...

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