Daniel SanGiacomo

aka Daniel Aktas

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Media Literacy 2017














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Producerism over Consumerism by Daniel Aktas




Producerism over Consumerism


I entered this project with the desire to respond to the predatory consumerism used in toy advertising for children ages 8 to 11. I responded specifically to a television advertisement for a product called Shopkins, a marble sized toy line that encourages consumption and gambling above play and social interaction.


I designed my response by facilitating a Makers event where children 8 to 11 made their own toys to play and trade with. At the event I showed the shopkins advertisement and an advertisement for lego with no sound playing. I asked the students to tell me how the commercials were different and how the toys were played with differently. The students pointed out the heavy use of animation in the shopkins ad and the use of different sets in the lego ad. The students then began to make their own toys using blank wooden doll pawns and the art materials we had available. Each student made two toys, one to keep and one to trade with a random partner.


To document the process using a visual format that would satisfy the project requirements I created a 13 x 20in poster that would show the advertisement being responded to, the accessible materials used for the project, and the cultural artifacts made by the students. I was inspired by Cherry’s brochure shown in class where she had designed brochure by physically composing a prototype brochure with physically cut and pasted images and then reproduced them it by scanning the collage-like document. I borrowed this method by arranging analog objects like the torn logo of shopkins, yarn, and other materials used in the project and then taking a picture of the scene to produce a finished print design. Additionally I used photoshop to make photos of the students work I took in class to look like polaroid images in order to visually separate the images of the materials used and the images of the students work.


Thank you everyone for your feedback during the in progress critique. The comments about disrupting the branding of the original advertisement was very constructive.


Any comments on the finished work would be appreciated.





Original Shopkins Advertisement


How the Maker Movement Is Moving Into Classrooms | Edutopia


Cultural Production in Theory and Practice | Participate


Maker culture – Wikipedia


What is the Read Only Culture vs. Read & Write Culture? – mediastudentinthegong



Daniel Aktas Reading Response 03

I think the work done by Hans Haacke with Institutional Critique serves as a solid starting point for the wave of Social Justice art that artists like Ai Weiwei and Theaster Gates are engaged in now.

The 1975 work by Hans Haacke titled Seurat’s ‘Les Poseuses’ is a series of ownership documents that mark the transition of a painting by Georges Seurat from an art object to a monetary object of wealth. I think the work is clear and well made because it substitutes the place of an art object in a gallery with these documents that show the transmogrification of a personal art piece to a private vaulted object of wealth but… I think a critique is no longer enough for our generation.

I would like to compare this work by Hans Haacke to Bank Bonds designed by Theaster Gates for the Stony Island Arts Bank. The Stony Island Arts Bank was originally a dilapidated bank given to Theaster Gates who turned it into a public gallery, media archive, library, and community center. During the restoration of the building, Theaster helped finance the project by creating “Bank Bonds” by engraving pieces of marble pulled from the bank itself and sold at Art Basel. I think this inspiring use of materials and the institution of banking serves as both a critique of art objects as wealth and an Art Activists subversion of the institution.

I would like to argue that the work done by Hans Haacke was a wonderful start to thinking and critiquing about institutions but the work performed by artists today takes this one step further by interacting with these institutions through Art Activism. I think another great example is the Sunflower Seeds project by Ai Weiwei. Working on this project Ai Weiwei employed nearly an entire town of 1,700 people to make 100 million seeds to honor the skilled craftspeople working with ceramic for over a thousand years, talk about the hardships of the Cultural Revolution, and the 1.3 billion people that make up the Chinese population. The Art Activist action of working and paying living wages in the Jingdezhen goes beyond a critique of ideas and institutions but acts on a project that produces change

Reading Response Week 03

Read Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics – Jacques Ranciere

Read The Third Citizen: On Models of Criticality in Contemporary Artistic Practices by Vered Maimon


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Shopkins and Addictive Consumerism

Shopkins and Addictive Consumerism by Daniel Aktas



Shopkins Official TV Commercial Ad HD

Link to youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06WUc7y8vak

Watch in slow motion: http://www.youtubeslow.com/watch?v=06WUc7y8vak

Non-Inference Observations

  • Visual
    • Scenes last for 1-2 seconds
    • Scenes lasting for longer than 2 seconds are zoomed into frame
    • Small marble-sized anthropomorphised toys are called “shopkins”
    • This ad features food-related shopkins
    • Ad features animated scenes and girls playing with toys
    • Scenes show excess of 10 shopkins toys in each scene
    • Gold cupcake shopkin titled as “limited edition”
    • Shopkins are displayed with the text “148 to collect”
    • Last scene shows girl with a facial expression of excitement holding miniature shopping bag with shopkin inside
    • Shopkins sub title reads “once you shop… you can’t stop!”
    • Shopkins shown only being played with in store setting
    • “Each sold separately” shown at bottom of screen
  • Audio
    • Melody used throughout ad
    • “There is a surprise in every shopping bag”
    • “Shopkins want to be shopped by you”
    • “I love shopkins to collect”
    • “If you lucky you might find a limited edition one”
    • “There are 148 shopkins to collect”
    • “Once you shop, you can’t stop”

Inference Observation

This series of toy has been around since 2014 and fostered a myriad of spin off ‘collectable collections’. I find this advertisement to be manipulative and consumerist in nature. The advertisement encourages the collection of these items as their purpose. With visuals and audio that say “want to be shopped by you”, “to collect”, and “once you shop… you can’t stop!” all ask the children of this campaign to consume these objects for the joy of consumption. I also see a gambling behavior encouraged with the feature of “limited edition” gold version and the audio that tells the audience “There is a surprise in every shopping bag”. The only scenes of children playing with the collectible objects show them being play-purchased at a supermarket and placed into shopping bags. I can’t stand this trivial gamification of consumption.

The Plan!

Why do advertisements need to sell you something? Shopkins take advantage of children ages 8 to 10 tendency to collect.

My plan is to encourage children to make and share their own collectibles using cheap wood doll pawns and ephemeral materials.


  1. Find three children ages 8 to 10
  2. Give each child 3 pawns to decorate
  3. Ask children to trade their two spare pawns with each other

Document the Activity and Maybe make an anti-advertisement out of it.

Resouce: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292992719_Collect_’em_all_Gender_consumerism_and_the_Shopkins_phenomenon


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Daniel Aktas Response 02

Lessig’s video about creativity, culture, and law was Awesome! I appreciated his explanation of read-write culture vs read-only culture. In my elementary school placement this past semester I worked with a S.T.E.A.M. teacher who felt it was necessary to introduce students as young as possible to the S.T.E.A.M. curriculum. Keywords like “makers”, “tinkering”, and “exploration” were present in almost every lesson and all worked to encourage the students to be active creators. At my this placement I saw the encouragement for students to try new things, to experiment, and to solve problems. I loved watching the students try to create drawing machines with legos or make a dog leash that would set off an alarm if the leash detached using wires and circuits. In both cases the students were not consumers of ideas or objects but active creators! I think S.T.E.A.M. like art has the opportunity to encourage students to be creators of culture.

The Ted talk by Lessig also brought up the topic of “top down” culture. Attached is a link by the Nerwritter1 to a youtube video called ‘How Stories Control Our Economic Reality’ https://youtu.be/exdR6lhN4bk?list=PL6xKqgA7bj6mDXH1KSwbIeyIyLJDiZBdy . In the video, the author outlines the origin and application of what has been considered a sound economic strategy, ‘trickle down economics’. In a nutshell, the concept reads that by allowing the richest segment of Americans tax breaks and greater wealth they will invest their monetary surplus into the economy and thereby drive/ power the economy. Nerdwritter1 critiques the ‘trickle down economy’ story as a system that convinces the majority of Americans that the solution to sustaining an economy is the exploitation of the lower and middle class. Nonetheless, this story has taken root and continues to be told by those in power down to those who do not have power. I see the power to change this inequality in the same way that S.T.E.A.M. is taught to 3rd graders By encouraging people to be creators of stories and not passive consumers.

Reading Response Week 02

Read Astra Taylor The People’s Platform (Intro + Chapter 1).

Watch Larry Lessig’s ‘How Creativity is being Strangled by the Law’. http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html


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Daniel Aktas Reading Response 01


I loved this reading! This specific passage stood out to me about the power of naming something. In the text Kevin Kelly talks about the advent of naming ‘technology’ and giving everyone the power to recognize technology (instead of creations that existed as a collection of random inventions and good ideas) and then begin critique it.

The power of naming something before it can be named called me back to the story of Odysseus in Homer where he blinds Polyphemus, the one-eyed giant. When Polyphemus calls out to his attacker and demands his name, Odysseus responds that his name is ‘nobody’. Polyphemus calls out “Nobody has blinded me!”, “I will kill Nobody”, and “Nobody is here!”. The giant’s relatives disregard his exclamations because nobody has acted against Polyphemus. To me, the implication here is that naming something is a power in itself. Without a name to call something, nobody can listen.

The power of naming.

I. A bill has been put on the floor that will create 50 LGM-118 intercontinental ballistic missiles. An LGM-118 missile has successfully completed its first test launch. The LGM-118 missiles will now be put into service.

II. A bill has been put on the floor that will create Peacekeepers. A Peacekeeper has successfully completed its first test launch. The Peacekeepers will now be put into service.

In real life, this weapon was referred to as the LGM-118 Peacekeeper and I think it is worth considering the effect the naming of this ballistic missile had on recognition and critique.

I think this leads to the problem that we are facing today, the face of Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer.

“That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.” – Sean Spicer

“There’s one (study) that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who voted were noncitizens.” – Sean Spicer

“Here’s the fact: The No. 1 source of income into Mexico are Mexicans working here and sending the money back.” – Kellyanne Conway

These are three examples of lies that we don’t accept, names of ideas that were so off that it made headlines and we can reject them. I see it as our job as Artists and Educators to call out these lies and these false names each and every time it happens. I refuse to allow either of these people to place an uncertainty on facts.

450,000 people showed up to Trump’s inauguration. 1.8 million people showed up for Obama’s first inauguration. – http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/24/14354036/crowds-presidential-inaugurations-trump-average

A voter roll (electoral roll) is a record keeping list of people registered to vote and not a tally of people who have voted. – http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/25/sean-spicer/sean-spicer-wrongly-uses-pew-study-bolster-claim-n/

The biggest income of Mexico are from exporting Cars and Electronics. – http://www.worldstopexports.com/mexicos-top-exports/

Reading Response Week 01

Read Kevin Kelly What Technology Wants (Intro & Conclusion).