Sign for VisRhet course

This is not a completed sign. Since my project is on concert totems and we were told we could create a sign for anything, I would like to propose my own concert totem.

These are materials I received from Bonnaroo. The first is the guide that has general rules for Bonnaroo attendance and camping. The second is the cereal box that contained this guide and the wristband I needed for attendance. The little mascot is Roofus. He is who I would want represented on my totem.

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In the official rules (from the map, not the guide), it states that “all totems must be made of light material.” For that reason, as well as the practicality of carrying the totem and holding it during multiple shows, I would construct Roofus out of inflatables.

The inflatables on the left are soda can pool floaties. I would purchase 3 sets, so I could have 3 of the lime green color, which I would then super glue together.

foam ballI would then purchase foam balls and plastic balls to create a face for Roofus. One purple foam ball would suffice for the nose. For his eyes, I would like to use glow-in-the-dark paint for the white surface, so the eyes will be visible at night. I might be able to use ping pong balls for the eyes and paint purple eyelids on them. My Roofus would be missing the yellow mouth with the tongue sticking out because I think it makes him look like the McDonald’s Hamburglar from my youth. If I was feeling really industrious and crafty, I could crochet little arms/hands for him, inserting stuffing and pipe cleaners, so the positions could be changed. I like the idea of creating a three dimensional sign because it literally stands out. I am not sure how visible my Roofus would be at a distance, but I am confident that he would be easier to carry than some other creations.

If I were to add text to the totem, I would choose “Rooofus” using the bubbly Bonnaroo font below and making the o’s connect as they do in the Bonnaroo logo below. Glow in the dark paint would probably be applied here as well. The text would be a platform of sorts upon which my Roofus inflatable would sit (without hat and shoes because my Roofus is chilling at a music festival and joining me at bluegrass shows, not attending 90’s hip hop). If I had time to crochet arms and hands for him, Roofus would need crocheted legs as well. I think to give him little Teva’s would be too much, so he would be barefoot; I think I saw more people barefoot at ‘Roo than I did wearing high top sneakers. Scratch that– I know I saw more people barefoot at ‘Roo as I do not recall anyone wearing high top sneakers.bonnaroologo2


Ann Bib #2: Situated Learning

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (91-117). Cambridge: Cambridge, UP.

Lave and Wenger examine the ways that newcomers or apprentices enter a community of practice. This chapter focuses entirely on situated learning, the idea that the members of the community learn from one another without being specifically instructed by a master. In fact, most often apprentices learn more alongside other apprentices than from direct instruction from the master (93). “A learning curriculum consists of situated opportunities (thus including exemplars of various sorts often thought of as ‘goals’) for the improvisational development of new practice (Lave 1989)” (p. 97). The social structure in a community of practice allows for participation at multiple levels, participation “in an activity system about which participants share understandings concerning what they are doing and what that means in their lives and for their communities” (p. 98).

The authors explain that one way to engage in the community is to understand and use the tools of the community. To become a full member “requires access to a wide range of ongoing activity, old-timers, and other members of the community; and to information, resources, and opportunities for participation” (p. 101). Further, understanding the technology employed by the community is also important, not only for learning purposes but to “connect with the history of the practice and to participate more directly in its cultural life” (p. 101). Full community members will be able to understand the ways of the culture with transparency. At that point, use of technology, tools, artifacts, etc. becomes not something else to learn but rather a means to learning more and participating more fully.


I will be arguing that the festival itself is a community of practice. Granted, it is one where newcomers do not need to be acculturated should they choose to merely attend as concert attendees and not full community members. Some bring their own mobile communities with them, while others have created temporary communities that are only in play during the time period of the festival each year.Because the festival requires the commitment of living on site for the duration, community is more likely to happen than at other festivals where attendees are more able to opt in or out of the community.

Question for the class: would the concert totems function more as artifact, tool, or technology, or a mixture of items?

I do see the concert totems as enabling a more full participation in the festival community of practice, and I see a difference between the totem-creating skills of a newbie and an experienced old-timer. I will explore further in my project.

Foss’s Visual Rhetoric applied to concert totems

The concert totem I am choosing to analyze using Foss is the Justin Bieber mugshot totem. roo10

The nature of the image: The totem itself is comprised of a color printout of Justin Bieber’s 2014 mugshot attached to a pool noodle with traditional silver duck tape. The image is approximately 11 x 17. It appears to be attached to a thin sheet of cardboard or styrofoam board for support. Regarding the mugshot itself, Justin Bieber is smiling in it and wearing a bright orange prison shirt. The backdrop is gray. What was striking about the mugshot in the first place is the misguided smile. The smile would be much more at home had he been posing for the cover of a magazine than preparing for a day in jail on charges of DUI and resisting arrest. The sign does not present an argument; however, it communicates a general sense of shaming Justin Bieber. Justin Bieber is not an artist likely to perform at Bonnaroo, so attendees could take joy in seeing him brought down a notch in a mugshot. The incident itself occurred a year prior to the festival, so one could argue that it was outdated by pop culture standards.

Function of the image: The function of any totem is to allow others to locate a person in a crowd. As such, it is successful. First of all, it was the only Justin Bieber mugshot sign at the festival that I saw. Proper totems should be unique. The bright orange of the prison shirt allows the sign to be perceived and recognized from a distance. A secondary function of a totem is to contribute to the ecology of the festival. In this case, the sign may send a message that pop stars are open to ridicule in this context, particularly this pop star, particularly a pop star who is arrogant or naive enough to smile the smile of a celebrity in a mugshot. There may be an intended ironic use as well. The festival’s motto is “Radiate positivity”; well, Justin Bieber’s smile does that even when it perhaps should not.

Comments on design: The pool noodle “stick” of the sign makes the totem both lightweight and safe to carry. If the pool noodle does not have a stabilizing feature, it could be unwieldy to carry as it weeble wobbles with the wind. I cannot tell if the duck tape is an original design feature or an addendum added once the carrier discovered a flaw in a previous design. The duck tape and the crinkled edges of the image suggest that the creator/carrier of the sign was less concerned with professional presentation and more focused on functionality.

Commentary on the approach:

I chose Foss because images without definitive arguments are as open to analysis as true visual arguments. The methodology permits analysis when little to nothing is known about the creator of the image while also allowing for context to be considered. The totems I will be analyzing for this project may be two dimensional images or three dimensional objects; they are all on posts of some sort, so there is a design element that will be discussed as well.

One concern I have is that Foss says that scholars “do not see the creator’s intentions as determining the correct interpretation of a work” (p. 146). I am not sure if that means supposition about the creator’s intentions is off limits or not. I found myself drawn to possible motivations or possible intent in part because I cannot speak to the myriad ways the image could be regarded by the people in the audience for this image.

Because this methodology is more of a lense or perspective, it is difficult to know if one is applying it correctly. I utilized the parts of the chapter that I found relevant to my purposes. Design wasn’t a specific methodology element, but it was also generally included in the purview, so I felt confident including it.

About Visual Argument

A visual argument is entirely possible, and, yes, it is also possible to have an entirely visual argument without text, although I agree with the authors that this is more difficult to do so in a way that allows multiple audiences to experience the same argument in the same way. From the Blair reading, the Benetton ad is a great example of a visual argument that is possible without a linguistic reference. As with traditional arguments, the visual argument must make a claim and somehow support that claim. I agree with Blair that the visual arguments even moreso than linguistic arguments depend on the unconscious identifications they make. These identifications require the creator of the visual argument to be cognizant of potential identifications and how the context of the visual argument will assist or work against the identifications.

Last week, I shared Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement as an example that could be used with Cultural Studies methodology. The announcement was posted on Instagram which means the immediate audience for the announcement were the legions of fans who follow Beyonce on Instagram. The larger audience was the whole world because anyone could recognize that Beyonce’s announcement would be likely to go viral (although not viral enough, apparently; when watching the Grammy’s this weekend, my husband had to ask me if she was pregnant). The announcement is just that: an announcement, first and foremost. There’s not much argument in: “Hey, guess what? I’m having two babies!” (The words of the post were unnecessary to help make the announcement that she is pregnant; they did, however, add the additional detail that she is pregnant with twins)
But this announcement is also a celebration. It is a personal celebration for Beyonce and JayZ: they are “blessed” to be expecting twins. Some would argue (have argued– see earlier post with links to sources) that the announcement is also a celebration of black motherhood particularly. A claim could be made that Beyonce is reclaiming pregnancy for all women instead of all white women. Again, this all depends on identification, though.
As I said in class last week, some looked at the image and thought it looked like a cheap J.C. Penney portrait. Others, though, saw Madonna (the mother of Jesus, not the singer) imagery. Anyone used to classic art would recognize the veil as a religious accoutrement. This is all to say that the extent to which something is viewed as an argument often depends on who is doing the viewing and how much they know about the context of the imagery and/or the intent of its creator. It turns out that the announcement image was only the beginning. It was a prelude of sorts to Beyonce’s Grammy’s performance where motherhood was celebrated to a higher degree and with additional religious imagery.
When it comes to my project for the course, I do not see concert totems as attempting to persuade. They are signposts to alert people to the location of one person. I would argue that the totems do send various messages, though. For instance, the sign on the right (“Send Red Bull”) sends the message to me that this person intends to be seen on videos and streaming services of the concerts in addition to allowing his friends to locate him. The creator of this sign likely thought, “Hey, this will be funny if it appears in a video.” The audience for this sign is the world outside of the festival in the same way that a “Mom, I’m having a good time” sign would be intended to be funny to people viewing from home– funny as well to people in attendance but is it possible to argue it is funniER to people outside? It’s interesting to note that the flipside of the Red Bull sign is meant for those at the festival as its message is “Puke and Rally,” which also suggests the holder might be drinking more than the requested Red Bull. My identification of an audience for this side once again depends on the claim that this side of the sign would be funnier to people in attendance who might have experienced a similar sentiment during the festival.
The signs in the left-hand picture (Doge and Rodney Dangerfield) will also be visible on streaming services because of their size. They have a low-lying claim of Doge and Rodney Dangerfield being cool in some sort of offbeat way. I’d argue that by creating a very large sign, the creator is also sending a message that their enjoyment of the show is more important than the enjoyment of people in the 2-5 feet directly behind them, as the sign has the potential to block the view of the stage for a swath of people in that area. But overall, I do not think argument is the main goal for these totems, as not much is at stake when claiming that Doge and Rodney Dangerfield are cool or strange enough to merit the expense of a large sign from Kinko’s. So, I guess you would say that I am arguing that a true visual argument has stakes attached to the outcome of the argument’s reception by the audience.
I’m tacking on a post-script. I created the following visual argument a few weeks ago and I am inordinately proud of it. My claim is that Trump has signed so many executive orders he is as bad as Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. (I do not claim credit for the image of Trumpbridge; I merely put the two images together with the text) A working knowledge of Harry Potter movie #5 is needed in order to understand the meme. True Harry Potter fans would understand the meaning without the included text.

Annotated Bibliography #1

Gee, C., & Bales, S. (2012). Manchester Tennessee’s assimilation of the “Bonnarite”: A qualitative analysis of the “other” in local press on Bonnaroo. Studies in Popular Culture, 34(2). Retrieved from

Bonnaroo is a modern music festival described as “an event where certain behaviors traditionally considered ‘deviant’ (e.g., rebellious or sexually charged music, recreational drug use, etc.) receive social sanction within the temporal and physical confines of the event space” (p. 73). The authors contrast this space to Manchester, TN, a small, southern town of 10,000 that gets overtaken by Bonnarites (an odd term since the current parlance is to call them Bonnaroovians) each year with 70,000-100,000 tickets sold. Manchester is defined as “typical of the small rural towns found throughout Middle Tennessee: close knit and traditional” (p. 75).

Gee and Bales performed a qualitative and quantitative study of what was printed in local Manchester newspapers about the influx of festival attendees for words that indicated the alien or the accepted. They collected published stories about Bonnaroo and examined perceptions of outsiders through grounded theory and also quantified terminology used for both outsiders and authority figures. After applying open coding, they found that the articles largely referred to the outsiders as a homogenous mass even though diversity was often also mentioned. The outsiders are not referred to as tourists at all; instead they are linked to music: fans, enthusiasts, spectators, etc. (p. 78). (Sidenote: You know the paper is from the South when it never refers to outsiders as tourists but manages to refer to them as “folks” a couple of times).

This study uses the same methodology as a previous study of a Knoxville World Fair with different results. Most notably, the rhetoric around the World Fair made it sound more like the town was being invaded and mentioned the number of “undesireable” attendants, whereas the language surrounding Bonnaroo makes it sound more like Manchester becomes a temporary metropolis instead of being overtaken. The language often de-emphasizes the negative aspects of the festival (drug use is one example given) and instead celebrates the communal aspect. The articles do not emphasize youth but rather the range of ages that attend the festival (Sidenote: The majority of attendees in 2015 were traditional college-aged fans, but one could readily find people of all ages including a group of grannies who attend each year) The concert-attenders are also referred to as being socially responsible.

The overall conclusion of the study is that the locals are glad to welcome the festival attendees as the festival is now a leading industry in the town, even though it lasts a mere four days out of the year. The festival organizers work with the community, and the community extends their hospitality to the festival.

The article will be of use when defining the festival and its place in Manchester as well as perception of the communal aspect of the festival.

**The articles I am finding for my research about festivals mostly pertain to the community aspect as well as analysis of what festival attendees are seeking. I am not finding anything directly written about signage at festivals.

Concert Totem Rhetoric

A new day, a new topic, a new mood board.


2012 was my first music festival experience. My friend picked the wrong time to use the restroom and had trouble getting back to me. I had a yellow rain poncho that I held up as high as I could for her to locate me. Since then, I’ve been interested in concert totems. The following pictures were all taken by me in 2015 at Bonnaroo:

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There are countless tutorials for creating a totem: from The Scene is Dead, DJ List, Complex, Insomniac.

This Guide to Bonnaroo is what I used when planning to attend.

For more concert totems, this is a list of the 10 Coolest Totems at Coachella. (after totems were banned)

The goal of most concert totems is to allow large groups to reconvene at different shows amidst huge crowds. The totems need to stand out from the crowd while being easy enough to carry and meeting the specific festival’s restrictions. The only totem I have created was to locate our tent (pool noodle shark, playing a banjo). It was effective for that use. The totem was deconstructed on day 3 and taken to shows (less effective, but it was fun). My friend took the pool noodle shark and ended up appearing in a video that was filmed for Mumford & Sons (precisely at the 1 minute mark). My cardboard banjo might be in it for a millisecond– I’m still not 100% sure that’s my sign, but I think it is. If you’re curious and would like to see the video montage my friend made of the many pictures and videos of her days at Bonnaroo, click here. It features additional totems and festival visual rhetoric.

I am interested in the design and construction as well as the affordances of concert totems. Additionally, the signs should fit the ethos of the festival and be employed according to concert etiquette. I do not know for sure what form my project will take.