Hello Kitty: the Work of Nature in the Age of Digital Communication

November 19, 2007

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. | Ponderosa Centre, Cedar Room

Dr. Jody Berland, York University, Canada

Organized by the Centre for Culture, Identity and Education, and the David Lam Chair in Multicultural Education.

This presentation addressed the increasing visibility of animals in contemporary image culture. Berland argued that it is ironic and poignant that such images are so closely aligned with the signs and practices of technoculture. Her presentation examined some of these images and commented on them as pedagogical events conveying paradoxical messages about the relationship between human beings and nature. Specifically, Berland focused on the relationship between young people and cell phones, a subject of interest to corporate planners, educators, and parents alike, with a growing body of research emerging to address it. In order to do so, she took as her starting point the current advertising campaign using pictures of animals to market cell phones and other mobile digital communication devices. Her strategy was to resituate the relationship as a form of triangulation: human, animal, phone. Why do young people connect to animals via phones, or to their cell phones via pictures of animals? What are the implications of this ménage a trois? She offered a “reading” of this campaign and then proceeded to critique the limits of such analysis. Her central argument was that teaching and learning in cultural studies needs to elaborate and complicate its perimeters to accommodate the challenges of both cell phone culture and environmental crisis.