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Best Laid PlansCultural Entropy and the Unraveling of Aids Media Campaigns$
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Terence E. McDonnell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226382012

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226382296.001.0001

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Displacement and Decay: Materiality, Space, and Interpretation

Displacement and Decay: Materiality, Space, and Interpretation

Chapter:
(p.120) 5 Displacement and Decay: Materiality, Space, and Interpretation
Source:
Best Laid Plans
Author(s):

Terence E. McDonnell

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226382296.003.0006

AIDS media lead unexpected lives once diffused through urban space: billboards fade, posters go missing, bumper stickers travel to other cities. In this chapter I argue that the material qualities of AIDS campaign objects and the urban settings in which they are displayed structures how the public interprets their messages. Interview data and ethnographic observation of AIDS media in situ reveal how the materiality and circulation of objects and their sites of reception shape the availability of AIDS knowledge in Accra, Ghana. I find that the decay and displacement of these advertisements enable new meanings (e.g. when red ribbons fade to pink) and give audiences the opportunity to use these posters creatively (e.g. as interior decoration). Material qualities disrupt campaigns by undermining their perceptibility and legibility. Significantly for AIDS organizations, these material conditions often systematically obstruct access to AIDS knowledge for particular groups. In this sense, cultural entropy is as much a material condition as a symbolic one.

Keywords:   materiality, cultural objects, perceptibility, legibility, reception theory, meaning, diffusion, circulation, sociology of knowledge, cultural entropy

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