Media – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Murder, Rape, and More Murder on “Quality” TV Mon, 22 Apr 2013 14:00:06 +0000 Bates MotelAs a fan of the program Lost, I was happy to learn that Carlton Cuse was going to be writing and producing a new program that would serve as a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho. Last weekend I finally had a chance to watch Bates Motel on A&E. After fifteen minutes I had to leave the room. I gave up on the show in the middle of episode two. Why? Rape. Graphic, on screen, totally unnecessary to story development, female-character-punishing rape. As an avid television viewer and media studies professor, I try to read about and/or watch a wide variety of programming, usually in the service of facilitating future conversations with students. This scene was finally the tipping point for me.

We are in a moment in which many viewers are turning to basic cable channels like USA, AMC, and A&E for “quality” television programming, including shows such as AMC’s trifecta of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead. While problematic on a number of levels to some viewers, these programs nonetheless attract huge audiences. Recently The Walking Dead in particular broke ratings records with over 12 million viewers for the Season 3 finale episode “Welcome to the Tombs” on March 31st of this year. This season of the program featured the usual violence against the living and undead alike. It also featured an extended sequence of episodes that centered on the threat of sexual violence against Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and perhaps Andrea (Laurie Holden). While these characters somehow fared better than Michonne (Danai Gurira) did in the Walking Dead comic books, it was still a gruesome reminder that this type of onscreen violence is commonplace on contemporary cable programs. Likewise, Bates Motel (A&E), Mad Men (AMC), and Sons of Anarchy (FX) (among other programs that I haven’t watched) have all featured similarly disturbing sequences in their storylines.

This type of onscreen violence against women has made several of these otherwise compelling programs unwatchable. In her December 2012 article “Why American Television Needs a Break from Violence, Conspiracies, and Maybe Even Serialized Storytelling,” Alyssa Rosenberg writes about being “exhausted” by several current television programs that are heavy on “shocking violence.” While she doesn’t specifically address sexual violence, I think she makes an apt point; while neither Rosenberg nor I want to see an end to television programs that have violence at their core, can we all at least discuss its place and purpose? On one hand, programs like The Walking Dead have the potential to serve as brilliant allegorical tales that force viewers to question the relationship between the zombie apocalypse and our fears over the crumbling stability of our own present social/political/economic world. On the other hand, what narrative purpose does it serve to show in detail the Governor’s (David Morrissey) sexual degradation of Maggie? Can these scenes be alluded to and be as powerful?

On Wednesday, a related article by Margaret Lyons made the rounds on Twitter and Facebook. In “Maxing out on Murder: Good Luck Finding a Decent TV Drama Without Rape or Killing,” she writes that she “can’t watch any more murder shows. Or rape shows. I’m maxed out.” This article gets at some great questions to ask about our present (or continuing) fascination with observing violence from afar. Why are these acts so popular on television? What does it mean that television programs continue to use sexual violence to define the psyches of male and female characters? Why is this entertaining?

This discussion is not meant to say that these programs should not be on the air. Nor do I want to suggest that these programs aren’t entertaining—I will continue to watch several of these programs. But I am not drawn to these programs because they feature rape/murder. I am drawn to them because they tell interesting and compelling stories, which sometimes include the darker side of humanity. As well, I hope that the current discussion over the preponderance of graphic depictions of rape/murder is not relegated to female media scholars and critics. This concerns men as well. It is just as disconcerting that the central motivation of several male characters is their murderous bloodlust and/or their desire to enact violence against women. Surely this, too, is a disservice to the male viewers of these programs.

On the other hand, perhaps this situation is good for the networks: these graphic depictions usually fall outside of what is permissible on network television, where FCC regulations—and the Standards and Practices departments who self-regulate in accordance to those regulations—limit what can be shown. This “disadvantage” of broadcast content could be advantageous in this instance, forcing viewers to interpret and use their imaginations and perhaps propelling producers and writers to be more creative with their stories. Will viewers come back to network television if it can promise complicated stories that leave some images to the viewers’ imaginations?

To close, some hopefulness: here is a great follow-up to Lyons’ article, in which Alyssa Rosenberg celebrates some great television programs that break from the rape/murder cycle without sacrificing the level of quality and depth that viewers have come to expect.


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Revisiting the Political Dimensions of John Fiske’s Work Wed, 05 Sep 2012 15:19:15 +0000 On (the) Wisconsin Discourses: Part One (Part Two, Here)

Why has the term discourse served as such an influential moniker in Madison for the analysis of cultural phenomena?

This series will look at an overarching research theme pursued by Media and Cultural Studies faculty over the past 25 years at the University of Wisconsin. While faculty topics have varied widely from media theory to industry history to the study of content reception, a shared current can be found through the overlapping interrogation and usage of the concept discourse. “Discourse” has been used in multiple theoretical systems since the 1960s, perhaps most famously by Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Stuart Hall, and Raymond Williams, each who hold contrasting views regarding its meaning. To attempt a general and overlapping definition of the term (that’s open to debate), a discourse refers to: 1) material and ideological practices coordinated by coherent and often non-dominant systems of belief and affiliation, and 2) the structure of internal reference points, assumptions, and reasoning patterns endemic to a specific group, communicated with reference to and relative autonomy from an economic ‘base’. Discourse has not only acted as a concise descriptive marker for cultural phenomena but has exemplified a social justice orientation to qualitative research deserving of continued attention.

The term appeared with earliest regularity during the tenure of John Fiske—a foundational figure in American cultural studies who taught in the Media and Cultural Studies program at the University of Wisconsin for 12 years. Fiske holds the unusual distinction of being both a deeply influential and widely disparaged figure in the field of media studies. Many of the criticisms of Fiske have stemmed from the notion that he depoliticized the overtly political methodologies of the Birmingham School. Yet a revisiting of his corpus, especially how he utilized the concept discourse in Power Plays, Power Works and Media Matters, reveals genuine engagement with the political dimensions of culture. Whether or not he succeeded at formulating a sustainable argument is certainly open to debate, but the widespread assumption that his work lacked an ethical agenda demands reinvestigation and close reading.

What are the political dimensions of institutional, textual, and receptive mapping?

While Vincent Mosco has persuasively pointed to overlapping socio-ethical goals between political economy and cultural studies, there are genuine differences. Central to the political economic tradition is an examination of the political effects of industrial practices. By looking at how laws and examples of institutional sustainability create tangible precedents for future regulatory and informational approaches, political economy endeavors to address policy deliberations and effect change in the present. Cultural studies, in contrast, calls upon a current of cultural Marxism that believes in change as slowly elicited through interventions over spheres of identity formation.

According to this position cultural formations monitor and adjust to available meanings, practices, and affiliations, which Raymond Williams calls determinants. Determinants are learned through evaluation of the circulation of information by cultural spheres over educational, communicative, and public spaces. A discourse forms, aligns, and reforms when necessary through selective self-structuring in response to circulating determinants. A discourse positions itself in regard to circulating determinants, and in turn circulates its own beliefs among informational spheres. Eventually determinants take a life of their own through circulation as active, tacit, and hybrid forms that can then be selected by future groups as conditions for consciousness. Consciousness is an emergent condition that signifies awareness of available meanings, but it can also be located in tangible real-world practices and relationships as a motivational logic.

Rather than asking how consciousness is mediated into circulation, Fiske offers the unusual reversal of assessing how circulation is mediated to other discursive formations. In other words a discourse must circulate into informational spheres to persist. A discursive formation is not a tangible social force until it has been recognized as circulating. Mediation, in contrast, occurs as the condition of social recognition, or reception, within a broad social sphere.

Hence a central tenet of Fiske’s work is the argument that political change takes place foremost through processes of circulation to other proximate cultural groups. Examination of the ‘distance’ between sites of circulation and specific discursive formations, or mapping, helps to identify what groups and messages are visible in circulation, and helps to measure general conceptual proximity between groups. Indeed the strongest legacy of Fiske’s work, also to be attributed to David Morley, has been empirical analysis of the matrices in which media is disseminated and received.

Admittedly hilarious roasts such as David Bordwell’s—that there is an element of cultural studies that believes it can change the world by watching television—are not entirely incorrect. The goal of such an approach is that it conceives of consciousness as something that can be evaluated in its traces amongst sites of circulation, especially media. The will to change cultural inequities is directly tied to what circulating determinants groups have access to during the political act of identity selection. Political economy’s attention to regulatory and institutional practices are crucial terrains of analysis; cultural studies additionally looks to every sphere in which consciousness may be mediated, especially widely circulating meanings found in popular culture.

Yet, while I would argue that Robert McChesney has underestimated this method, he and (Fiske student) Aniko Bodroghkozy are correct to voice concern that no inherent impulse is present in mapping to foment capacities for change. Mere mapping of phenomena in the cultural sphere, as Meaghan Morris points out, falls into the danger of reinforcing banal practice of dominant paradigms. Indeed it is a mistake to argue that the complexity of discursive circulation and selectivity is naturally subversive, and that the political project of cultural studies ends with a descriptive assessment of circulating messages.

But a much needed distinction needs to be made between critical evaluation of Fiske’s politically-directed empirical model for discursive analysis, and differences over political strategies on the left. A depoliticized form of mapping would be rightfully subject to many of these received criticisms. Fiske’s work relies upon the assumption that change in the cultural sphere cannot be elicited without a rigorous understanding of the contradictory beliefs and practices that allow for strategic intervention.

Part two of this series examines John Fiske’s method for political research on aesthetic circulation.


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Convergent Media Policy: The Australian Case Thu, 31 May 2012 14:00:14 +0000 2012 has proved to be a remarkably busy year in Australian media policy. There have been three reports released that address the future of media policy and regulation in the context of convergent media: the Convergence Review; the Independent Media Inquiry (Finkelstein Review); and the Review of the National Classification Scheme undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

It has been the most significant moment in Australian media policy since the early 1990s, when the Broadcasting Services Act and the Telecommunications Act, as well as the Classification Act, were legislated. While these were major initiatives at the time, they were pre-Internet forms of media law that did not anticipate the tsunami of change associated with digitalization, convergence and the globalization of media content.

While other countries are considering changes to adapt their media laws for convergence, Australia has been a world leader in commissioning such major studies that address these challenges head on. A common theme of these reports is that incremental change and policy “muddling through” are no longer sufficient.

In particular, media regulation continues to be primarily based upon the platform of delivery (print, radio, television, telephony, the Internet), whereas media convergence has dislodged the technological bases that tied content to platforms. The Australian Communications and Media Authority has referred to a resulting series of “broken concepts”, ranging from the truly anachronistic, such as the ban on live hypnosis on television, to those which addressed a once-important concept that has been overwhelmed by new developments, such as the separation of carriage and content.

The Convergence Review identified three areas where continued government intervention is justified. First, there is the need to maintain a degree of diversity in media ownership and control. Second, there is the question of content standards, both in terms of news standards and classification of media content in line with community standards. Finally, there are expectations that Australians have around the continued availability of locally produced content that is broadly reflective of Australian culture, identity and diversity.

The question of who should be regulated has become much more complex in a convergent media environment. In discussions of media influence, a distinction is commonly made between “big media” on the one hand who should be regulated more – the name “Rupert Murdoch” will often appear at this juncture – and the Internet on the other, which should not be regulated at all.

But “the Internet” is as much The Guardian Online, BBC World or as it is blogging, citizen journalism, or online mash-ups. The commercial mass media and non-commercial user-created content co-exist in the online digital space, so questions of media influence return in a different form.

The Convergence Review sought to address that question of when a media organization becomes “big”—and hence appropriately subject to regulations based on its potential for influence—with the concept of a “Content Service Enterprise” (CSE). The Review defined a CSE as a media content provider that has over 500,000 Australian users per month, and $50m per annum of revenues from Australian-sourced professional content. Interestingly, the 15 companies that met these guidelines are all conventional media businesses, but the CSE label could in principle be extended to companies such as Google and Apple.

If the CSE concept were extended to global media companies, the question would arise of Australian jurisdictional authority over these businesses. At present, there is a regulatory stand-off, but it may be that future jurisdictional authority will be shared and brokered between Australian agencies and other authorities. In the ALRC Review, this was referred to as deeming, where the classifications given to media content by online “stores” such as Apple ITunes or the Google Android platform could be recognized under Australian media law, subject to approval by the Australian regulators.

Much attention has been given to the question of “who regulates”. One of the difficulties with these discussions is that we think of regulation in terms of how much, rather than in terms of the relationship between its instruments and its outcomes. One message that came through from the ALRC Review was that Australians were less concerned with who classified different media than with the question of trusting those doing it to have an appropriate professional distance from corporate self-interest.

Another difficulty is that convergent media policy brings together different organizational cultures and traditions of regulation. Whereas it is still pretty clear who constitutes the television industry or the newspaper industry, it is less clear what constitutes the Internet, digital content or social media industries.

Meeting with Apple, Google, Facebook or Microsoft introduces you to very different corporate entities, with very different organizational cultures, business models, and relationships to their consumers. Establishing a new regulatory framework for convergent media raises not only the challenges of established media operating across different platforms, but the ever-growing fluidity attached to the concept of “media” itself.


The Rise and Fall of @Sutterink: Showrunners [Off] Twitter III Sun, 14 Aug 2011 12:55:48 +0000 With Sons of Anarchy showrunner Kurt Sutter’s announcement on Saturday that he would be “pulling the plug” on his now deleted Twitter feed, it is the end of an era (albeit a short one).

When I looked at Sutter’s twitter feed in the first installment of this series last fall, I posited that there might come a time when Sutter’s brash online persona would overshadow his own show, and it seems that we have reached that point. However, while it was perhaps inevitable that Sutter’s lack of a filter would result in his Twitter account becoming a liability, I can’t shake this feeling that the rise and fall of “@sutterink” has more to do with public perceptions of Twitter than with his actual commentary.

In recent months, online media outlets have taken a sudden interest in Sutter’s Twitter feed, with sites ranging from The Hollywood Reporter to TMZ taking series of tweets and presenting them as news. It started in July when Sutter went on an extended rant regarding the Emmy nominations (where his show, including his wife Katey Sagal, was ignored), and it continued last week, when Sutter shared his opinion on the recent controversy surrounding AMC and The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont. TMZ shared the former story with the headline “’Anarchy’ Creator PISSED Over Emmy Snub,” while pitched the latter tweets as “‘Sons of Anarchy’s’ Kurt Sutter Goes Off on Frank Darabont’s Firing,” and both stories were picked up by multiple outlets.

What’s interesting is that Sutter’s rants have not really become more prominent in the past year. As I noted in my initial post, Sutter has ranted about the Emmys before, just in the form of a blog post instead of a series of tweets. Sutter has even recently added outlets for his rants, including a YouTube series entitled “WTF Sutter” that features the same kind of profanity-laden honesty his fans have come to expect. However, Sutter’s blog has not been subject to the same media scrutiny, and these outlets have also ignored his YouTube videos.

In what Sutter has pitched as his final tweet, he suggests that Twitter is simply the wrong outlet for someone without a filter. He writes that “ultimately, me having an instantaneous outlet for my darker impulses is not a good thing. i’m a guy who needs filters. lots of them.” In his latest WTF Sutter video, where he foreshadowed his departure from Twitter, he expands on this logic before answering some fan questions:

Sutter’s departure from Twitter says less about Sutter and more about the ways in which Twitter is perceived by media outlets and by the public at large. Over the course of the past year, we’ve seen the media start to notice Twitter, and they’re starting to find ways to use it: the service has become a resource for cable news outlets (which Jon Stewart has criticized on The Daily Show), and I’d argue that the increased attention to Sutter’s tweets is a product of the media’s search for the best way to leverage this form of social media.

However, I’d also argue that the way Sutter’s tweets were presented is a reflection of a public understanding of Twitter as a soapbox. Sutter’s lament in his YouTube video is that he is no longer able to have a “conversation,” which might refer to the fact that the reports about his tweets rarely include any discussion of the context in which they appeared: TMZ wasn’t talking about the people on Twitter who were encouraging Sutter’s comments about the Emmys (including critics and other showrunners), and The Hollywood Reporter wasn’t interested in the fact that Sutter retweeted a number of critical responses to his AMC-related comments in the days following his initial statements.

I would not necessarily say that this has resulted in Sutter’s comments being taken “out of context,” because even he argues that he has not necessarily been misrepresented by these reports. What I would say is that Sutter’s comments have been filtered through a perception of Twitter as a place for rants and provocations, a place where a Twitter feed is a direct glimpse into the Id (as reflected by coverage of the Anthony Weiner scandal). The story isn’t the actual nature of Sutter’s comments or what they say about the Academy system and the situation at AMC: rather, the story is that someone famous has said something controversial in an outlet that has become known for its controversy, and that has now become publicized based on this perception.

As someone who has written about Sutter’s tweets in the past, I am not suggesting that his tweets should be beyond reproach: he is responsible for what he says within this online space, and I think holding him accountable for that is perfectly reasonable. However, these news reports aren’t interested in holding him accountable; they’re interested in exploiting his comments as gossip, turning them into news without exploring the context of the conversation or even considering their veracity.

Kurt Sutter hasn’t changed since his Twitter feed first appeared, or since my first Antenna piece about it was published. What has changed is the amount of attention paid to Twitter outside of Twitter – Sutter has four times as many followers now than he did then, but that doesn’t take into account (as Sean Duncan noted in the comments on the initial piece) the people who are made aware through outside sources reporting these tweets. And now that this includes major media outlets interested in tapping into the zeitgeist, public figures like television showrunners must reconcile their comments with a mass media that is still trying to figure out what Twitter is, what it’s used for, and how they can best exploit it.

And when you’re Kurt Sutter, that’s a situation in which pulling the plug might be the only viable option if you don’t want your Twitter feed to become a story in and of itself. While it’s possible that Sutter is simply posturing, and that this is a bluff designed to reframe the media narrative (and draw the sympathy of his followers who are pleading him to reconsider), it nonetheless reflects on the changing state of Twitter as discourse.

Addendum – September 7th, 2011

Today, after the ratings for the fourth season premiere of Sons of Anarchy showed a 20% increase, Sutter officially returned to Twitter – this was after an initial pledge to return at 250,000 followers and a subsequent pledge to return at 66,666 were both suggested and then altered.

On his blog, Sutter discussed his logic behind his early return before it happened, suggesting that “I’m…looking for a graceful re-entry into Twitter that doesn’t make me look like a complete f**king douchebag for pulling the plug, then a month later, coming back.  Truth is, I miss the fan interaction and since my Facebook hacking, unplugging from Twitter has been counter-intuitive to keeping an SOA presence in social media.”

While his return does reflect the performance elements of Sutter’s Twitter feed which led to the media attention and the earlier departure, and could be considered hypocritical by some, his justification focuses on the importance of social media in terms of communicating with fans and promoting the series to potential viewers within these social media spaces.


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Spaces of Speculation: How We Learned Osama Bin Laden Was Dead Mon, 02 May 2011 05:24:52 +0000 At around 10pm on the east coast on Sunday May 1st, 2011, news broke online that President Barack Obama would address the nation at 10:30pm. This news surprised the American public, but it also surprised the press: they had been told earlier in the day that there would be no more appearances by the President, which meant that most of the press corps were rushing back to the White House to report on…something.

That uncertainty became a fascinating exercise in media speculation, taking place within both traditional and social media outlets. While speculation is prevalent and even natural within social media, traditional media did everything within their power to avoid such speculation; this contrast played out in the television coverage of what was eventually revealed to be the death of Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by American forces in Pakistan.

On Twitter, speculation began immediately: as soon as the pending speech was announced, my Twitter stream – and I presume most Twitter streams – exploded with predictions on what the news might involve (which included both real speculation and discussion of aliens and zombies). Social networks like Twitter are built for this kind of uncertainty, able to offer a sense of community for an announcement that fostered both interest and concern during its early moments given its sudden nature.

By comparison, while networks like CNN and MSNBC went to live coverage of the events as soon as possible, their coverage actively resisted – or at least tried to resist – any form of speculation. I was tuned into MSNBC, and watched a fascinating dance with actual news reporting. The anchors consistently emphasized that they were not speculating, even as they participated in what to my mind was speculation (such as presuming it dealt with something overseas). On CNN, meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer said that he had his own educated opinion on what the announcement was about, but he refused to reveal it to the audience (resulting in much frustration among those livetweeting the CNN broadcast).

Of course, as MSNBC was “not speculating,” Twitter was alight with actual reporting: while the actual timeline is nearly impossible to pin down, reports that Osama Bin Laden had been killed and his body recovered began to break on Twitter around 10:30pm. Two early tweets came from two different sources: the earliest I’ve found was from Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for Fmr. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who reported this news based on word from “a reputable person,” while the first media-related tweet came from CBS News Capitol Hill producer Jill Jackson based on word from a House Intelligence committee aide. These (and others) began to spread among other reporters and other news outlets, but only on Twitter.

On television, at least on MSNBC, the challenge of reporting in the digital age was on display for all to see. Mike Viqueira was live on the air trying to avoid saying anything concrete when he appeared to be handed a note, a note we presumed would include the news that we had learned ten minutes before on Twitter. However, while Viqueira initially suggested that he saw no reason not to announce this piece of news, others seemed to disagree: he was stopped in his tracks, silenced briefly while producers tried to decide how to proceed. About fifteen seconds later, they settled on revealing that the announcement would involve “a grave and serious CIA operation” – Viquiera then asked his off-screen producer if he could say it was overseas, as if the audience at home could not hear this question and learn this piece of information.

Viquiera was eventually replaced by David Gregory, who was authorized to reveal that the news involved Osama Bin Laden, but those early moments reflect the level of caution still prevalent within the media regarding Twitter and other forms of social media. I would normally applaud their caution, but there was something very strange about seeing my Twitter feed flooding with what seemed like fairly legitimate sources while MSNBC and CNN acted as if they still had no idea what was going on. And with the camera turned on Viquiera as he received that note, we saw a journalist weighing the nature of the source and the ethics of reporting it live on our television screens while other reporters were sharing this same information widely.

This evening was obviously more important than this brief moment of uncertainty: the real meaning was in President Obama’s speech, and the spontaneous gathering outside of the White House and at Ground Zero to celebrate this news, and the media discourse which emerged after confirmation was received. I am hopeful that other contributors will be offering analysis of these elements in the days ahead here at Antenna and elsewhere.

However, in this speculation we are able to see both the growing presence of social media and the traditional media’s tentative engagement with the form, as well as one of the first events of this magnitude that has taken place squarely within the Twitter era. While we will all likely remember where we were when we heard this historical news, for many the question of who we learned it from is somewhat less clear: while I learned about September 11th from a high school classmate as we walked to class after our lunch break, I learned about Osama Bin Laden’s death from an endless number of mostly anonymous individuals broadcasting news that was probably ten times removed from its original source.

It is likely much too early to properly historicize what impact Twitter might have had on how we experienced this piece of news, but it feels like an important and potentially ephemeral element of this historical moment.


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Through the Lens: The Wisconsin Protests in Photos Mon, 21 Feb 2011 14:47:28 +0000 Over the course of the past week, I’ve been in and around the Capitol Square capturing as much of the story as possible with my camera – this is something I tend to do in most situations, but it felt particularly necessary here. For a few days, my photos went unshared thanks to a misplaced card reader, and it felt like some form of injustice – now, having found what had been lost, it’s been almost thrilling to share pictures from “on the ground” with those who may not be in Madison, or who may have seen only parts of the goings-on at the Capitol.

Admittedly, this is not quite a journalistic perspective: most of the pictures share my own experience, or the experience of those I know personally, rather than that of the thousands who have their own stories to tell. However, I feel as though the pictures were taken with an objective eye, offering a glimpse of the overall atmosphere more than any one particular point of view.

All photos were taken between Wednesday February 16th and Saturday February 19th in Madison, Wisconsin.

Inside the Rotunda: The Capitol

Writing Testimony
A graduate student prepares to give testimony to the Democratic representatives who continued the public hearings after Republicans chose to end the hearings after a single day. Testimony only stopped late Friday night, as Democrats went home to visit their ridings.
Protesters camped out in the Rotunda – this photo was taken at around 4:15am on Thursday, but people have been sleeping in the Capitol since Tuesday evening.
The bust of former Governor Robert M. La Follette Sr. is adorned with a common t-shirt during the protests, a more direct example of the building’s history and meaning being co-opted by the protesters to bolster their message.
Thousands gather on all three floors in the central Rotunda – later in the day, capacity on the bridges was limited out of fear for their structural integrity.
The capitol was filled with signs and stray personal items throughout the week – this jacket and sign were left in an alcove on the third floor.
What's Jesse Jackson's GamerTag?
The volunteer-run Information Station is part of a central infrastructure which has emerged this week – here, function mixes with comedy in an example of the high-spirited atmosphere in the Capitol.
Peace Room

A third floor conference room has become headquarters for the TAA (Teaching Assistants Association), which works around the clock on data entry, communication (through both traditional and social media), and general support.

Capitol Square: Marching in Madison

Sign Station
While filled with people later in the weekend, the West Entrance to the Capitol was an information hub and sign-making station on Thursday afternoon.
Marching in Solidarity
Although unaffected by most of Governor Walker’s efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights, local Firefighters have been a constant presence at the Capitol; here, their bagpipes lead a Saturday afternoon parade.
While many of the coverage of the event has focused on less flattering comparisons to Wisconsin’s governor, some offer a more aspirational role model.
Many of the meme-driven signs feel as though they are explicitly designed to try to make it into online galleries of meme-driven signs – this individual was clearly successful.
"Wash Me": Protest Style
Protests can tend to feel fairly ephemeral, but this “Wash Me” style graffiti offers a unique example of temporary expression.
Air Support
The “We” here refers to no one in particular, at least as far as the crowd was concerned – the lack of branding raises questions of who sponsored the banner (The pilot? The banner company? A local business? A local union? An out-of-state union?), but it also renders it a selfless show of support rather than a shameless bit of self-promotion, which has been common throughout the rallies.
Young protesters may not have a full grasp of the reasoning behind the rallies, but this young demonstrator’s correlation between Wonder Woman, government, truth and justice seems to indicate that their involvement is opening their eyes to the political system (and the real world allegorical value of superheroes).
Of the various pop culture-oriented sign trends, Star Wars seems to be the most prevalent – our own Jonathan Gray has written about the proliferation of pop culture-themed signs at the rallies, although only a few took it to the level of cosplay.
Finishing Touch
They remain the minority, but the signs comparing Walker to Mubarak or Hitler were present throughout the week – here, a protester adds a finishing touch to their Photoshopped dictator.
While Saturday’s rally began at 10am, thousands were still on the Capitol for a second rally as the sun began to set later in the afternoon.
Sign Bins
Signs on sticks were not allowed inside the Capitol, which meant that those waiting in line (as if at Disney World) could see evidence of those who went before them.

An Alternate Voice: The Counter-Protest

Tea Party
While the Tea Party rally was not expected to start until noon, a small contingent were on the Capitol when the main rally against the Budget Repair Bill began on the opposite side of the Capitol.
A Peaceful Debate
While most of the Walker supporters stayed on the East side of the Capitol, some mingled among their “enemies” in order to discuss the bill and its implications – heated words were exchanged, but not a single arrest was necessary to calm the crowd.
As the Tea Party rally began, hundreds of anti-bill demonstrators moved to the other side of the capitol to attempt to drown out the much smaller group of Walker supporters (which generous estimates placed at about 2500).
While the group was smaller, the Tea Partiers operated much the same: various different flags and slogans were common, while representatives from both genders and from many generations were present (albeit in much smaller numbers).
By the Time I Finish My Song
As the evening waned, the Tea Party rally became considerably smaller, having not scheduled another speaker-supported rally later in the day – based on this picture, their smaller size emboldened some of Walker’s critics to wade into the fray.

Eye on Wisconsin: The Media in Madison

Truth and Lies
As the media narrative was being formed earlier in the week, this particular pair took to the streets to try to take it back – they were seen with the same sign on Saturday.
Schultz Show
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz was the first major media figure to arrive in Wisconsin on Thursday, and was met with a fairly raucous crowd still finding the media’s presence novel – it would seem commonplace by the weekend.
ABC News
News crews were camped out around the Capitol, although finding a place to set up was challenging as the various rallies were still somewhat spontaneous. Here, ABC News deals with constant traffic and considerable noise, as well as concern for the safety of their lighting setup which led me to serve as a human sandbag for ten minutes.
Media Outreach
On Saturday, the media seemed more integrated with the protests, looking to capture the intimacy and atmosphere more than (perhaps) the scale of the proceedings.
"Wash Me": Current Events Style
Another example of graffiti, although this one seems well-intentioned (and was left, fittingly enough, on a CBS News truck parked off the Capitol).
This is...
There were a few curious onlookers later on Saturday as CNN prepared their report on the rally, but for the most part the media presence had become a non-event compared to the novelty of Ed Schultz’s presence on Thursday.
Wisconsin Eye
Wisconsin Eye, the state’s online streaming service for public proceedings, was given new function and purpose during the ongoing testimony. Sitting in the room, it was always unclear whether anyone was watching from home, but even at 4am the Representatives would acknowledge their potential presence.
Love Notes for a Refugee
While Senator Lena Taylor has received various notes of support online, through both Facebook and Twitter, her office door has also become a real-life guestbook where visitors to the Capitol demonstrate their appreciation without the use of a ‘Like’ Button.

[For more photos from the week’s protests, feel free to peruse my “Wisconsin Protests – 2011” set on Flickr]