Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Speech Communication

First Advisor

Daughton, Suzanne

Abstract

Conscious consumerism is a layered phenomenon. "Going green," "fair trade," "buy organic," "carbon footprint," and "shop local think global" are now familiar phrases in the lexicon of American shopping strategies, and conscious consumerism has a relationship with all of them. Groups defined as socially responsible consumers and trends in ethical consumption have been studied for over thirty years. After decades of consumer research and theories about the effects of mass consumerism in culture, conscious consumerism products and marketing campaigns are now major contributors in redefining consumer practices in a postmodern world. The messages they deliver about the changing roles of consumers and consumer goods makes it suitable for rhetorical scholarship to develop a stronger participatory role in the research. I use theories of style, material, and visual rhetoric to examine conscious consumerism today. The texts I examine were also marketing and aesthetic phenomenon. Chapter Three features the "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" canvas tote designed by Anna Hindmarch that was sold at select stores around the world and was one of the first sensations in the reusable bag industry. In Chapter Four, I compare and contrast two artifacts, the Livestrong bracelet and the Support Our Troops magnetic ribbon. I discuss the issues of disposable display, of plastics as markers of belief, and nationalism in our buying practices. Chapter Five is about (Product) RED not just as design but about what its presence does when recognizing issues of globalization. Chapter Six consists of conclusions, limitations, parodic responses to conscious consumerism, and a call for eloquent consuming. While each chapter has a particular focus in theorizing the material of each case study--the communicative praxis of the material rhetoric of canvas, the relationship between the body and the materials bought to put on the body, and larger global concerns within the fabric of language and T-shirts--all three case studies share connections in terms of style and living in a postmodern age.

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