Progress: The MTA as a Model for Positive Corporate Propaganda

My website hosting this project is live and can be viewed at any time at https://jacksnyderdh.wordpress.com/

My projects purpose is to highlight a subtle aspect of New York City life that I find intriguing – the MTA’s advertisements. These advertisements work as a positive form of corporate propaganda to build a sense of community amongst riders, reinforce continued use of the subway, and unconsciously and subconsciously promote better ecological habits. This project examines a handful of advertisements to break down how the MTA does this and the impacts these advertisements have on riders. I also conclude my project by suggesting that others could emulate the MTA’s types of advertisements for a number of reasons that benefit both the company and its target audience.

This project adapts traditional humanities work by analyzing the inner workings of how the MTA establishes a unified community of commuters, exposing and unpacking some factors that hold the subway riders together in the community, and suggesting how this community could be replicated by others.

Traditional work in humanities could not analyze photos like I plan on doing in this project. The digital tools I am using (WordPress, StoryMapJS, Photoshop) allow me to make an intuitive platform for graphical analysis that could not be achieved as well on a non-digital platform. The one-page homepage format of navigating my topic also allows for more fluid ingestion and perusal of the information contained than could be grasped from skimming a research paper or a book. Aside from benefits to presentation, these digital tools allow for a wider sphere of access to my project. In paper format, it would be difficult to find a publisher to spread my ideas to others. An easily sharable website allows for widespread distribution and direct engagement with the readers through comments or my contact form.

I had touched on this earlier, but by the end of my project I hope that my readers can understand how the MTA builds and maintains such a strong and ecologically aware community through advertisement, and can be able to see similar elements and methodologies in other types of advertisements in order to appreciate them as positive. The project concludes that other companies can attempt to replicate such a style of positive corporate propaganda with advertisements on the internet or on television to the benefit of the company, their consumers, and the environment.

There are a lot of toxic commercials in our world and on the internet that leverage stereotypes, gender norms, unhealthy attitudes, or other unethical means to sell a product. I hope that through this project, readers will be able to differentiate positive advertisements from toxic advertisements, understand how positive corporate propaganda can benefit both the provider and the consumer, and will leave with an increased ecological and communal awareness that positively influences their lifestyle and mindset.

 

The site is designed to be fully experienced from the homepage, although there is a quick links tab on the left side of the page to provide hyperlinks to the introduction, each individual advertisement, and the conclusion. I chose this homepage format because I think it lends itself to the natural progression of analyzing photographs as well as keeping all the main information centralized and easily digestible.

The about section will be filled with a general outline of my process through making the website and the final list of tools used. The references tab contains MLA formatted references to the photos, informational resources  and digital tools used throughout the project. The contact section is a simple form to send me an email.

When clicking onto a single section from the homepage, the site redirects you to the individual post and allows for sharing options, leaving a comment or response, and shows the titles of both the previous and next section, with links to each respective one’s individual post. I think its important to have a comments section for each individual post so that readers can interact with me and each other on the topic of the subject matter. Each of the posts can also be edited and updated if there is something worth adding later on, making it easy for me to update the website and keep it up to date.

 

One problem I had was the need to find a good theme in WordPress that lends itself well to a one-page design and allows for showcasing photos in that one-page design. There are a finite amount of free WordPress themes, and it is quite easy to preview them with posts you have made already, so I was able to privately upload a number of posts and see how various formats handled the simple text and photo combinations. I eventually settled on the WordPress team’s theme “Twenty Fifteen” due to the simple solid color background, clean side bar, and the clarity each post had from another while showing the full text and photos.

Another problem was figuring out how to annotate my photos in a more intuitive and interactive way than just referencing parts of the photos in the text. I initially considered using an image map generator or the HTML <map> tag, although these are highly antiquated, non-user friendly, and unintuitive methods for annotating photos. Next I considered simple photoshopping of the photos with arrows or isolating elements and inserting them in-text. This can always be an idea I return to for highly important elements of the advertisements, but working with these pieces of the photos while still editing the text analysis for each photo makes it difficult to keep re-editing and orienting the elements properly in the text as I develop my ideas. Finally, I had tried using StoryMap JS earlier  in the semester to make annotations on my photos instead of a map, but I found trouble with the interface and could not figure out how to replace the map. I picked the effort back up after Dr. Schacht showed me a website proving that this was possible. I am currently making no headway on getting this to work, but it is ideal for what I want to do so I will be figuring it out.

A final problem I am having is finding good stock photos to include in my about section, references section, and contact form. Right now they are the theme’s default photos, but I plan on finding different cool stock photos related to subways or the environment or communities or something of the sort. I did use photoshop to combine a photo of a green earth and the MTA logo to make a logo for my site (shown left) which is featured on the top left of the homepage and in the site’s icon.

Through working on this project I have gained a better sense of how to work with WordPress, learned what HTML <map> tags are and why they are obsolete, and developed my understanding of aspects of graphical construction in building an easy to browse website. I also learned that there is a lot of information on the internet to help with any digital tool you need, so resorting to a google search is nothing to be ashamed of.

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