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Smoking Cessation Ethnography

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This is a deck I did for the Canadian Federal government on the topic of smoking cessation amongst teens.

This is a deck I did for the Canadian Federal government on the topic of smoking cessation amongst teens.

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  • 1. To the students of the MIT ethnography course: Here’s a research report I did in the late 1990s. It may serve as a model for your presentation January 31 st . Please treat as a rough guide. You are free to invent your own form. Best, Grant McCracken
  • 2. Smoking Culture: the real “benefits” of smoking the true costs of quitting
    • text by Grant McCracken, Ph.D.
    • video by Suzanne Stein, M.A.
    • Health Canada
    • March 12, 1998
  • 3. presentation
    • objectives
    • methods
    • research
    • smoking culture
    • section 1
      • cultural meanings
    • section 2
      • cultural practices
    • section 3
      • strategic responses
    • conclusion
  • 4. objectives
    • to investigate “smoking culture”
    • an anthropological account
    • smoking from the respondent’s point of view
    • beyond “peer group pressure”
    • cultural logic of smoking
    • cultural significance of smoking
    • the “benefits” of smoking
    • the true costs of quitting
    • what people are giving up when they quit
  • 5. methods
    • ethnographic interviews
    • open-ended
      • seeking key terms in situ
      • asking for their illumination
      • determination of cultural meanings & logic
    • respondent directed
    • ethnographer a simpleton who knows that he doesn’t know
  • 6. research
    • “intercept” interviews
      • school grounds, street corners
      • 10 minutes (+/-)
    • drop-in interviews
      • schools, skateboard parks
      • 1-2 hour interviews (+/-)
    • prearranged interviews
      • homes
      • 2 hours (+/-)
    • 30 hours of interviewing
    • 50 teens
    • November 1997 - January 1998
  • 7. caveats
    • “ teens” no homogeneous category
      • “ teens” in fact more various than “adults”
    • a dubious category
      • “ teens” not for reification
    • surest way to get this wrong is to talk to teens as “teens” (Jaya)
      • wellspring of bad communications
    • these results speak for
      • some but not all groups
      • some individuals but not all the time
  • 8. shared objectives
    • for all the diversity, there are some commonalities:
    • shared project
    • moving away from parental influences and authorities
    • the end of colonialism
    • a new imperative: how to construct this thing called a self
    • that is externally & internally plausible & habitable
    • esp. in a world without “franchising”
    • when, increasingly, selves are “custom-built” & “hand-made”
  • 9. smoking culture I
    • some liberties with term
    • extraordinary resource
    • rich in definitional elements
    • experimental “routines”
    • the playwright’s chap book
    • not perfectly discrete
    • but robust & resilient
    • not impervious to commercial messages, the “movies.” or public health communications
    • but not changed without extraordinary effort & some cunning
  • 10. smoking culture II
    • an ancient & active culture
    • knowledge passed down from generation to generation
    • a kind of folklore: what’s in a Player’s filter?
    • rituals of initiation
    • a liminal activity
    • a repertoire of behaviors
    • body of meanings, tissue of lies
    • affirmed constantly by marketing, movies, & every school yard
  • 11. preliminary goods news
    • health warnings have had effect
    • as one respondent says
      • “[warnings] scare the shit out of you”
    • years of education have done their work
    • ancient culture penetrated
    • oral tradition has new content
    • given sheer density & power of smoking culture, no small accomplishment
  • 12. enduring bad news
    • Canada > 500,000 teens smoke
    • with knowledge of health risks
    • with repeated warnings from
      • school education
      • print advertising & TV spots
      • pack warnings
    • the oral traditions of smoking culture shot through with new knowledge of hazards
    • but the culture continues, the culture recruits, the culture flourishes
  • 13. smoking culture
    • one way out of the bad news?
    • teens look to smoking for something more than
      • nicotine
      • group pressure
      • social accessory
      • dieting aid
    • smoking culture perseveres because it serves as a definitional resource
    • a bundle of ways of thinking, acting, constructing the self
  • 14. true proportions of the problem
    • when we ask people not to start
    • when we ask people to stop
    • we are asking them to give up nicotine, resist group pressure, forgo social accessory & dieting aid
    • but we’re also asking them to give up
    • a smoking culture
    • a chap book and repertoire
    • ways of thinking, acting, constructing the self
  • 15. the strategic challenge
    • assess smoking culture
    • mapping the meanings
    • establishing the “meta-pragmatic” functions
    • what smoking means
    • how smoking is put to work
    • penetrating an ancient culture
    • reaffirmed by marketing, movies, & school yard
    • with communications strategies
    • that acknowledge the culture & the community
  • 16. Smoking culture in 3 sections
    • section 1: cultural meanings
    • section 2: cultural practices
    • section 3: strategic responses
  • 17. section 1: cultural meanings
  • 18. smoking meaningless
    • no intrinsic cultural meaning
    • the Bob Newhart routine
    • “you do what with it, Walter?”
    • well placed incredulity
    • smoking is a peculiar activity
    • we have given it cultural meaning & potency
    • we have made it meaning ful
    • we have made it a definitional resource
  • 19. cultural meanings
    • gender
    • age
    • rebellion
    • style
    • showing cool
    • showing warm
    • mood manipulation
    • (not all of these mutually exclusive)
  • 20. gender
    • smoking gets cultured
    • loaded up with meaning
    • more particularly
    • smoking gets gendered
    • as it turns out, in this culture it begins to take on maleness
    • the military legacy
    • the open range legacy
    • the noir legacy
    • (a partial list and hasty review)
  • 21. a caveat
    • “maleness”
    • just as much a cultural construction as smoking
    • we resist this reading with notions of the biological & natural but culture > nature
    • this analysis treats “maleness” as a cultural construct
    • (indeed the culture of smoking and culture of maleness have helped construct one another)
  • 22. Lucky Strike
    • war good to tobacco
    • took soldiers off to places tobacco cheap & plentiful
    • soldiers treated cigarettes the way prisoners do
    • U.S. Generals Grant & Sherman
    • British battleship Formidable
    • Lucky Strike & US troops
    • a clear cultural formulae
    • war helps define “maleness” and smoking together
    • smoking takes on “maleness”
  • 23. Marlboro
    • the mythical world of wild west
    • more imagined than real
    • rugged individuals
    • rugged individualism
    • freedoms of the open plain
    • several notions of the frontier
    • a clear cultural formulae
    • frontier defines “maleness” and smoking together
    • smoking takes on “maleness”
  • 24. gumshoe tobacco
    • smoking, prop of noir tradition
    • Humphrey Bogart’s transformation: hood to hero
    • defining image: HB squinting through a wall of smoke
    • definition of resourcefulness
    • symbol of self control, detachment, power
    • a clear cultural formulae
    • noir fiction defines “maleness” and smoking together
    • smoking takes on “maleness”
  • 25. tobacco and gender
    • smoking taking on cultural meaning
    • gendered with “male” meanings from domains of war, frontier and noir
      • outside worlds
      • worlds of action
    • places of
      • struggle and contest
      • toughness, aggression
    • smoking a marker of self and other mastery
  • 26. the Camel caveat
    • Camel’s originally an exercise in Said’s orientalism
    • made to evoke not gendered meanings but colonial ones
    • Marlboro began as a “female” brand & was regendered by the marketplace
    • in sum: “maleness” not the only gendered meaning in smoking culture
  • 27. smoking and males
    • smoking puts a repertoire at the disposal of males
    • at crucial developmental moment: when constructing maleness
    • to create/claim certain qualities
    • proof must be forthcoming
    • smoking definitional, helps:
      • “cure” the self
      • burn off eagerness
      • show toughness, aggression
      • self & (for?) other mastery
  • 28. smoking and females (circa 1998)
    • gender under construction
    • a rethinking of femaleness esp.
    • Mary Tyler Moore  Cybil
    • Marilyn  Madonna
    • Madonna  Courtney Love
    • Donna Reed  Roseanne
    • Joan Baez  Ani DiFranco
    • Phyllis Diller  Janeane Garofalo
    • Barbara Walters  Kathy Griffin (updated)
    • Ike & Tina Turner  Tina
  • 29. gender breakout
    • breaking out of the prison house of gender
    • systematic refusal of old meanings assigned by gender
    • systematic survey of new definitional opportunities
    • taking possession of new meanings
    • some of them apparently “male” meanings
    • these will do nicely, thank you
  • 30. Boy Capel’s pants
    • long standing strategy
    • Coco Chanel
    • the designer btw the wars
    • wore her lover’s riding pants
    • the world held its breath
    • a strategy to accompany that of the suffragette
    • power of the vote
    • power of rights of property
    • now, the secrets of hegemony
    • the very language of power
  • 31. smoking and females
    • Ani DiFranco as the key text
    • coming of age in NA society
    • the horrifying discovery
    • “ that i live in a breakable, take-able body
    • an ever-increasingly valuable body” (My IQ, Puddle Dive)
    • the traditional qualities of “femaleness” are
      • assumptions of vulnerability
      • invitations to harassment
    • coming of age as exposure to risk
  • 32. smoking culture in action
    • meanings of smoking useful
    • allow females to summon cultural meanings against sexist definitions of the self
    • allow construction of new selves with defensive properties
    • several interpretive possibilities:
      • I refuse trad. gender defs. (&?)
      • I show invulnerability (&?)
      • I corrupt myself before you do
      • I corrupt myself so you cannot
    • more work needed but one “benefit” of smoking culture
  • 33. age
    • age a matter of culture
    • some cultures usher people into adulthood upon sexual maturity
    • our culture makes a space between childhood & adulthood
    • & provides no rite of passage
    • always a contested transition
      • “teen” claiming early entry
      • parents demanding late
    • people must fashion own passage
    • claim & construct their maturity
  • 34. smoking and age
    • many things make smoking redolent of maturity
    • one of the viseral experiences of the adults around you
    • cigar smoke and starch
    • but we are always saying “this is for adults”
    • and now we do it as health policy
    • smoking always forbidden fruit
    • now especially so
  • 35. vexing paradox
    • the more we decry smoking
    • the more we declare not for children and teens
    • the more we mark it off as risk and danger
    • the more attractive it becomes
    • much of the health policy that has worked so well
    • has only helped to increase this particular cultural meaning
    • cause for other and new strategies
  • 36. the promethean factor(?)
    • it’s almost as if...
    • (anthropological heresy)
    • smoking is the fire/power of the Gods
    • to steal this substance
    • is to steal this power
    • the thrill of that first cigarette
    • the cunning, stealth, the liminal space, the stolen cigarette
    • as close as anything gets to a rite of passage
  • 37. the post-promethean factor(?)
    • it’s almost as if...
    • (caveat goes here)
    • one respondent:
    • it’s like fire coming out of your mouth
    • is this a claiming of powers beyond the parental
    • a claiming of powers beyond the bourgeois
    • a claiming of powers unknown or repudiated by the adult
    • a suggestion only
  • 38. claiming age
    • single most telling marker of youth, childhood is eagerness
    • the way teens know children is by the latter’s excitableness
    • the most embarrassing moment is the irruption of excitableness
    • smoking a superb device for extinguishing eagerness
    • at a stroke (?) eagerness is gone
    • a useful way to prevent irruption
  • 39. smoking culture in action
    • cultural meanings of tobacco
    • make smoking an opportunity to claim maturity
    • to prosecute the case for new freedoms and privileges
    • and new autonomy from parental control
    • smoking culture provides home-made, self bestowed rite of passage
    • another “benefit” of smoking culture
  • 40. rebellion
    • smoking as the badge of refusal
    • the American cult of the outsider
    • a James Dean Legacy
    • now stock Hollywood image
    • at the movies still
    • “the villain always smokes”
    • once largely male, less and less gendered (cf. Thelma & Louise)
    • rule breaking
    • the self damage logic (tattooing)
  • 41. familiar paradox
    • the more we decry smoking
    • the more we declare not for children and teens
    • the more we mark it off as risk and danger
    • the more it becomes an opportunity to break rules
    • to play out the outsider’s posture
    • much of the health policy that has worked so well
    • cause for other and new strategies
  • 42. cosa nostra
    • one respondent: It’s our thing
    • do not tell us what to do
    • inverted refusal
    • under “age:” adults saying it’s our thing
    • here: teens saying it’s our thing
    • our badge of refusal
    • we refuse your terms of engagement
    • we will make our own way
    • a key “benefit” of smoking culture
  • 43. style and pattern
    • the great induction
    • to an arbitrary system
    • the things you have to learn
    • how to
      • hold in hand
      • hold in mouth
      • to open, extract, hide, exchange
      • to inhale, exhale
    • highly patterned, specific
    • big penalties for error
    • getting to sprezzatura
  • 44. messages in the bottle
    • style the medium of many messages
    • i.e., gender, age, rebellion
    • place of hiding (see section 2)
    • the opportunity for scrutiny: the line of tin cans
    • marker of membership
    • texture of social experience
    • the stuff of an ancient culture
    • ritual architecture of the moment
    • sub-group differences: ravers...
  • 45. smoking culture in action
    • not hard wired but hot wired
    • repeated until burned into muscle memory
    • habitual knowledge
    • difficult to learn
    • deeply comforting to know
    • a useful marker in the world
    • the very door of induction
    • the very stuff of “our thing”
    • a “benefit” of smoking culture
  • 46. the construction of cool
    • a moment in the field
    • very young teen makes mistake
    • an error actually of style
    • cigarette mishandled, disappears
    • the collapse of the managed self
    • momentary panic: coat in flames?
    • then surveillance
    • had cool produced by smoking been damaged by smoking?
    • were friends smirking? yes!
    • remarkably, his cool held
  • 47. cool and power
    • “ cool” in our culture several origins, several meanings
    • our concern, disengagement
    • Elizabethan cool
    • men’s hearts be free and they will love whom they lyste
    • we don’t have to show our compliance
    • we may offer up obedience, but we will withhold this
    • smoking as a show of withholding
  • 48. cool as contract
    • smoking invested with cool by military, Western, & noir trads.
    • Humphrey Bogart as an early creature of cool
    • self control at work in our culture, this community & incident
    • but, more pressingly, cool is:
    • distance and disengagement from the social moment
    • a withholding, a show of discretionary power
    • that participation is not coerced
  • 49. smoking culture in action
    • another message of messages
    • distance from childhood
    • refusal of parenthood
    • protective barrier behind which the difficult business of self construction can be conducted
    • a political message
    • a statement of structural place in the world at the moment this place is disputed and negotiated
    • a “benefit” of smoking culture
  • 50. construction of warm
    • smoking culture a rich one
    • contains X and not-X
    • easy to make too much of cool
    • smoking also a means to be “warm”
    • a way to show engagement, vividness
    • to be present, engaged, excited
    • more on this in section 2
    • another “benefit” smoking culture
  • 51. the construction of threat
    • the visual preemptive strike
    • a way not just of declaring toughness (within or without gender idiom)
    • also a way of declaring malevolent intent
    • sometimes merely preemptive
    • if you attack me, you can expect response in kind
    • but sometimes more forthright
    • I am to be feared
    • “benefit” of smoking culture
  • 52. mood manipulation
    • respondents clear on use of smoking for “self medication”
    • smoking as calming
    • creates a place in space
    • creates a moment in time
    • creates a focus
    • creates justification in a culture that treats inactivity as idleness
    • creates an “away” experience
    • change in focal plane
    • disengagement not as politics but as palliative
  • 53. mood manipulation
    • highly structured, ritualized
    • breaks individuals out of time and space
    • gives pretext
    • forgives, allows disengagement
    • an opportunity to reestablish self possession and/or cool
    • meanings working in concert
    • smoking as place of respite
    • smoking as reliable companion
    • key “benefit” of smoking culture
  • 54. section 2: cultural practices
  • 55. smoking useful
    • gets “social work” done
    • from Canada’s contribution to social sciences: Irving Goffman
    • highly strategic device in “impression management” & the presentation of self
    • from Michael Silverstein
    • highly strategic “meta-pragmatic function”
    • how smoking helps get work done
  • 56. sociality
    • solitary smoking
    • ticket of admission
    • meeting someone (micro)
    • license to join (macro)
    • sustain self/role/occasion/face
    • the problem of social smoking
  • 57. solitary smoking
    • solitary smoking is a social act
    • there is a relationship between smoking and smoker
    • writing, thinking, walking
    • giving respite, separation, pacing, concentration
    • “ portable world” phenomenon
    • the companionable cigarette
    • whatever happens at least I have my smokes
    • building and maintaining the rlts with the self
    • self management, meta-pragmatic function & benefit
  • 58. ticket of admission
    • smoking has still more powerful uses as instrument of sociality
    • for some a ticket of admission
    • one respondent: “I never came out here before I started smoking because I found everyone so intimidating”
    • some spaces & friends off limits to many non-smokers
    • cigarettes work crudely as badge of membership
    • meta-pragmatic function & benefit
  • 59. meeting someone
    • a more micro social device
    • smoking as pretext & text for meeting
    • style and pattern of smoking offers permission and script
    • you may approach to ask for a cigarette/drag/puff
    • how you approach to ask for a cigarette/drag/puff
    • & then manage relationships through exchange of smokes
    • some social circles a Kula ring
  • 60. sustaining performances at risk
    • Goffman argues every social actor (teen or not) constantly at risk of error and loss of face
    • what is not successfully “in process” at risk of coming undone
    • nothing is utterly, definitively said or done in social life
    • everything must be renewed and acquitted
    • everyone inclined to social error, some teens esp. inclined to it
  • 61. when things to wrong
    • we are gifted with impression management strategies
    • & meta-management strategies
    • what to do when things go wrong
    • pea on table; you cannot bale
    • smoking as a perfect place of first resort
    • finding, lighting, smoking all give pretexts for the removal, renewal, repair
    • strategy and benefit without which you’re vulnerable
  • 62. sustaining role/occasion in danger
    • Goffman argues every social moment (teen or not) constantly at risk of error and loss of face
    • what is not in process at risk of dissolution
    • when things go wrong, they can get bad
    • a great sliding into difficult
    • arrest the slide or ...
    • smoking culture to the rescue
  • 63. section 3: strategic responses
  • 64. smoking culture
    • meanings in review
      • gender
      • age
      • rebellion
      • style
      • cool
      • warm
      • threat
      • mood
    • real “benefits”
    • true costs
  • 65. smoking culture II
    • practices in review
      • solitary smoking
      • joining a group
      • establishing a relationship
      • sustaining performances at risk
      • smoking as text and pretext
    • real “benefits”
    • true costs
  • 66. communications caveat I
    • this group deeply suspicious
      • of an adult world
      • and more particularly of
      • medical authority
      • government authority
      • marketing “persuasions”
      • social scientists
      • journalists
      • popular culture makers (Hollywood, music...)
    • they have seen the “man behind the curtain”
    • they are not impressed
  • 67. communications caveat II
    • this is not a group
      • that can be patronized
      • that can be “played”
      • that will respond to threats
      • that will respond to promises
      • that will respond to blandishments
      • that will suffer fools gladly
    • this group possesses media literacy
    • they will spot artifice, stratagem
    • all but the most candid, transparent strategies ill advised
  • 68. communications caveat III
    • they do not wish to be called “teens”
    • they do not wish to be treated as a group (Jesse)
    • they do not wish to be “played back” to themselves
    • esp. not by an art director’s (or anthropologist)
    • most important: don’t try to be one of them
    • don’t try to be “cool” (or “warm”)
  • 69. existing communications strategies
    • government efforts in general
    • recollected advertising
    • health warnings on packages
  • 70. government efforts in general
    • evidence of accomplishment
    • “scare the crap out of you and that’s good”
    • “I remember the first time I saw the woman withering away, I went whoa”
    • “they should go extreme, otherwise kids won’t here, they’re listening to MTV”
    • mixed reviews
  • 71. health warnings on package
    • some approve:
    • warning on boxes is good, a second thought
    • some disregard
    • some mock
    • some collect and mock
    • some rework to mock
  • 72. problem with health warnings on package
    • voice of authority
    • voice of adult authority
    • voice of adult government authority
    • voice of adult government and medical authority
    • “don’t tell me what I can and can’t do”
  • 73. new communications strats
    • when to intervene
    • older to younger
    • ad busting
    • new warnings on pack
    • media literacy
    • website
    • CD ROM
    • anthropologist
    • noticing how people smoke
    • noticing all the things noticed here
  • 74. when to intervene
    • a crucial summer
    • a liminal time
    • no longer the lord of junior high
    • no longer the captive of day care
    • newly attentive to popular culture
    • between programs
    • a moment of vulnerability, opportunity, curiosity
    • the moment to make contact
  • 75. new strategies: older to younger
    • it is clear that some younger teens smoke to establish credentials to join older teens
    • they believe that they look older
    • collect video of older teens saying otherwise
    • e.g., “they look disparate to me, like they are trying to hard”
    • this is teens talking to teens through intermediary of government
  • 76. new strategies: ad busting
    • we know that the corporate connection helps sensitize teens to smoking
    • we know there is activism here
    • we know there is an “anti-smoking culture” in the works
    • encourage “anti-smoking culture”
    • encourage ad busting ideology
    • this is teens by teens for teens
  • 77. new strategies: health warnings
    • design according to teen suggestions, e.g.,
    • person’s face before and after smoking
    • tongue cancer, throat cancer
    • x-ray of cancerous lung
    • wake-up stupid
    • cancer cell mutating
    • a crowd of people standing around a hospital bed
    • you’re cool
  • 78. new strategies: noticing media (media literacy)
    • create materials for school boards and websites
    • encourage media literacy courses at younger age
    • supply movie footage, advertising reels, print ads
    • supply some “things to look for” possibilities
    • leave it to teens to instruct teens
    • wait for adbusting perspective to emerge
  • 79. new strategies: noticing smoking culture (anthropology)
    • create materials for school boards and websites
    • encourage “culture busting”
    • a sensitivity that encourages self consciousness and intervention
    • supply movie footage, etc.
    • supply some noticing possibilities
    • leave teens to instruct teens
    • wait for culture busting sentiment to emerge
  • 80. new strategies: website & CD
    • delivery vehicle for classrooms & noticing media and noticing smoking culture programs
    • archive
      • movie clips
      • TV & print tobacco ads
      • ethnograpic video
    • critiquing opportunities
      • old communications
      • proposed communications
      • voting & comment systems
    • (for CD) chat line
  • 81. new strategies: “smokes and booze” strategy
    • Avi Lewis’ New Music treatment “Smokes and Booze”
    • new penetration of beer & cigarette marketing in rock
    • clear discomfort on part of musicians & fans
    • create “musicians against tobacco” campaign fund
    • each band contributes % of tobacco supported work
    •  bands come clean
    • creates a concert system that needs no Tobacco Ind. support
    •  industry/fans come clean
  • 82. summary
    • objectives
    • methods
    • research
    • smoking culture
    • section 1
      • cultural meanings
    • section 2
      • cultural practices
    • section 3
      • strategic responses
    • conclusion

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