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Portfolio brief The portfolio is a collection of visual material, analytical and critical writings and workshop tasks with the intention of demonstrating your understanding of the topics covered each week.

Portfolio brief

The portfolio is a collection of visual material, analytical and critical writings and workshop tasks with the intention of demonstrating your understanding of the topics covered each week.

What should be included:

•    Portfolio tasks (these are weekly assignments that can be found in the MSG).

–    Each Protfolio in a separate page.
–    3 – 4 REFERENCES For Each Protfolio
–    Around 2000 words in total

•    Evidence of research (this should include quotes and paraphrased ideas from the weekly readings but could also include wider reading/research beyond the workshop content)


Your portfolio is to be completed online via Edublogs. You should aim to give full and detailed responses that show evidence of research (primarily, class readings and lectures) with appropriate and effective use of images. Each ‘post’ should include a bibliography that references your textual research and make use of Harvard referencing. Images should have captions and reference the source in preparation for your essay and eventually dissertation.

Portfolio tasks:

2. The Great Exhibition and the Spectacle of Consumption

This lecture will discuss the significance of the Great Exhibition (1851) in terms of ‘spectacle’ and consumerism. We will then trace the development of this ‘spectacle of consumption’ through to the department stores of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, with a focus on their key significance in the development of a new form of consumerism.

Reading: Buss, R. (2001) Introduction (and pages 3-5) to: Zola, É. (1883) Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies Delight), London: the Penguin Group.

Reading: Rappaport, E.D (2000) ‘Selling Selfridges’ in: Shopping for Pleasure, Princeton: Princeton University Press

Portfolio task: For this week I want you to visit the Harrods store on Brompton road before class. I want you to imagine you are in the nineteenth century, you have just arrived in London from a small rural town and you have never before seen a department store. I want you then to write a postcard to someone back home in which you describe all the elements of the department store from its grand architecture to display methods and the products/services available (300 words) . This is an exercise in descriptive writing, pay attention to detail and focus on the display practices of Harrods.

Document your observations in any way you can, (you cannot take photographs in Harrods) for example you may combine sketching with collage to represent your findings.

3. Visit: Westfield’s Shopping Centre – London

This visit develops on from week 2 by allowing us to see how the ‘spectacle of consumption’ exists in a contemporary shopping environment. Key themes include: the phantasmagoria of shopping, leisure and consumption, commodification beyond the product, designing the ideal consumption space, identity construction and the selling of a ‘lifestyle’.

Reading: Crawford, M (1992) The world in a shopping mall, in: Sorkin, M, eds. Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space. Harper Collins Canada Ltd.

Reading: Adamson, G. (2009) If you build it, will they shop? [blog] 30th June, Available at:

Portfolio task: Take or make (you can sketch or collage) an image of a shop window, or interior that demonstrates the selling of a lifestyle that we spoke about last week. Conduct a short analysis (250 words) of how this identity is constructed and made desirable through its methods of display, including such things as: lighting, textures, juxtapositions, imagery, composition, navigation, etc.

4. Taste, ‘distinction’ and spaces for consumption

In this lecture we will be firstly exploring the development of ideas about ‘taste’ from the Kantian (eighteenth century) to Bourdieu in the mid-twentieth century. We will pay particular attention to ‘taste’ as a social construct in relation to ‘distinction’ (Bourdieu) before seeing how his theories may apply to urban sites for consumption.

Reading: Bourdieu, P  (1979) Introduction and The sense of distinction, from Distiction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste In. Lees-Maffei, G., Houze, R. (2010) The Design History Reader, New York: Berg.

Portfolio tasks: Collect and bring to class two magazines; one that is aimed at low-end popular culture and one that is aimed at high end (the weekend pull-outs in such newspapers as the Observer or the Financial Times may be good examples). We will analyse their design, imagery and advertisements in relation to our discussions on taste. You will each conduct a short analysis of your magazines for you portfolios (much of this will be done in class). (300 words)

5. Semiotics and Advertising

The rise of advertising as communication, with the aim of ‘persuading’ consumers, rather than disseminating information about products, parallels the rise of mass production and the modern consumer society. The lecture will explore a number of key ways in which advertising functions e.g. the linkage between advertising and ideology and semiotics.

Reading: Barthes, R. (1964) The Rhetoric of the Image. In Image-Music-Text (1977) trans. S. Heath. London: Wm. Collins Sons and Co., pp. 32-51 (Read the introduction and the section ‘three messages’)

Reading: Williamson, J. (1978) A Currency of Signs. In Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, London: Marion Boyars, pp.20-39. Available online at:

Portfolio task: Provide a short semiotic analysis (250 words) of an advert/image of your choosing, using the language that Barthes provides us (sign, signifier, signified, myth, coded message, linguistic message etc.). Make sure you consider all the aspects of the image/video including language and typography. Source your advertisements/images correctly, if it is a print advert make sure you analyse it in the context of the magazine it was published. If it is a television advertisement then provide screenshots and consider the target audience and such details as when and where it was screened.

6. Subcultures, Style and Consumption

Today’s lecture will explore the significance of subcultures and street styles in regards to consumption, advertising and fashion. We will look at the relationship between high and popular culture and the appropriation of street styles into mainstream and high fashion.

Reading: Cosgrove, S. (2000) ‘The Zoot-Suit and Style Warfare’, In,Scanlon. J, eds. The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader, New York: New York University Press.

Reading: Bracewell, M. (2003), Punk. In Kerr, J., Gibson, A. eds London: from Punk to Blair, London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

Portfolio task: Source images that relate to a subculture of your choosing. Discuss and show evidence of the fashion, objects, customs and social behaviour that help define your chosen subculture. If you belong to a particular subculture a self reflective analysis could be great, but be clear on how you define a subculture in relation to the lecture. Do not choose examples that were discussed in the lecture unless you can provide significantly more depth to that which was shown. Try to research as widely as possible in regards to the evidence you select and take care in the selection of credible sources (for example, instead of just selecting images of punks from Google, perhaps see if there are any photographers/ exhibitions/ texts that have explored this subculture), this may not be possible for the lesser known subculture groups. (300 words)

7. Men Act, Women Appear

This lecture will serve as an introduction to the representation of gender in visual culture, with particular emphasis on the representation of femininity (we will explore masculinity in more detail next week), using John Berger’s Ways of Seeing as its primary reference.

Reading: Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing, London: The British Broadcasting Corporation.

Reading: Williamson, J. (1983) Images of Woman

(I would highly recommend reading the whole book, it’s very short and his writing style makes for an easy and enjoyable read but we will be focusing on chapters 2-3)

Portfolio task: Source 2 contrasting examples of gender representation in visual culture (think about what ‘visual culture’ means and explore this widely) and analyse in relation to the reading. Do not select the same images as Berger. You may wish to identify images that perhaps challenge this traditional gender representation and can bring them in for discussion in class. (250 words)

8. Masculinity Walk

Since the 1980’s masculinity is said to have been in a state of ‘crisis’ as a reaction to what Frank Mort describes as the “loss of traditional gender certainties” resulting in a confusion over how men should define themselves in contemporary society. This is perhaps mostly apparent in our visual culture with the increasingly sexualised representation of the male form but we must also consider spaces as carrying meanings which shape our identity.

This week we are going to take a walk around different consumption spaces in London – Piccadilly Arcade (Jermyn Street entrace) -, to address and consider the different masculinities we might encounter there. Key themes include: the representation of masculinity, gender as performance and designing gendered spaces.

Reading: Mort, F. (1996) ‘New Men and New Markets’ In. Cultures of Consumption, London: Routledge.

Reading: Breward, C. (2003) ‘The London Suit’ In Kerr, J., Gibson, A. eds London: from Punk to Blair, London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

Portfolio task: Your task is to document the different sites we visit today considering the differing representations of masculinity at each site and how these ‘masculinities’ are constructed. Reflect on what you see here considering our discussions on gender in the previous week. You will of course take or make images along the way but try to think beyond this; you may for example collect fragrance samples from Jermyn Street, or make note of the price labels (or lack of) whilst always considering what is signified. Also, be sure to think beyond the stores themselves and consider the wider context of the street. As always, be sure to reference relevant readings and/or the lecture in your analytical writing. (300 words)



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