Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ready to Roll

In ten days we'll be off to Istanbul and then after two nights there, recovering from the flight, we'll fly to Tehran at 11:30 PM, arriving at 3:50 AM.  Making arrangements with the professor in Iran who is taking care of various matters has taken around eighty emails so far...I finally met my match when it comes to sending emails.  But we needed all those emails to take care of everything from our hotel in Tehran, trips to Isfahan and Shiraz, meetings I'll be having with various individuals and groups...and
so the emails mount up, until we're around eighty (if not more) emails.

I was looking through my files and came across a very nice review of my book An Anatomy of Humor.  I'm attaching a paragraph from the review, which makes very strong claims for the model of humor I elaborated in the book...and other books, as well.

I am having trouble uploading it...for some reason.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Visit to Iran


Our trip to Iran is just a couple of weeks away.  And suddenly, something that seemed in the
distant future, is upon us.  I have spent weeks creating and revising nine or ten PowerPoint presentations on topics I'll be lecturing on/conducting workshops/learning games on...and now am done with my preparations.  Until tomorrow, that is...though now I'm tired of working on the
presentations.  So far, when I think I'm done with working on a lecture, something else
comes to mind and so the next day I'm back revising the presentation.

I have a little red bag and am bringing eighteen of my books to Iran as gifts to the
university there.  Eighteen different books.  I know it is difficult to get books
in foreign countries and, by chance, we are flying on Turkish airlines which allows
passengers two suitcases free.  So one of my bags is the red one with books...and other
stuff I'm putting in the bag so the books don't shift around and get damaged.

I don't know how many students I'll have or any other details.  I will be giving a lecture
to some cultural studies professors, who are having a banquet in my honor.  That
should be very nice.  This Iran trip is an adventure that I could never have anticipated,
until I was invited.  From what I've read in books, etc. Iran is a fabulous tourist destination
and now the New York Times and various tourism companies offer trips to Iran.  And, if
you like pistachio nuts, it is--so I've been told--the center of the world.

Below is the Iranian translation of my academic murder mystery, Durkheim is Dead:  Sherlock
Holmes is Introduced to Sociological Theory.  The face on the cover is not Sherlock Holmes, or
so I imagine.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


I'm now working on the fourth edition of my book Media and Communication Research Methods: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches.  The first edition was published in 2000 so I've been working on the book for fifteen years.  The third edition was published in 2014 so the fourth edition will be appearing two years after the third edition--a bit of a speed up.

Here are the covers of the first three editions.  You can see how cover art has evolved over the years.  I wonder what my publisher will  have in store for me for the fourth edition cover.  They give me a few choices but I don't think my decision  about which cover I like best is final.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015


That is the title of my blog on Facebook...I send stuff to it from my
smartphone but find this blog easier to use and it has some virtues
the Facebook blog doesn't have.

It seems that the Iranians have translated four of my books into Farsi:

Media Analysis Techniques
Cultural Criticism and
Durkheim is Dead.

I find it interesting that any of my books were translated--it was a big
and pleasant surprise to me, and that one of my academic mysteries
was translated...though it is a didactic mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes,
and not my usual detective, Solomon Hunter.

I've written a number of mysteries when there was an editor at one
of my publishers who liked them.  When she left that was the end of
my career as an academic (didactic) writer of mysteries.

The Chinese have translated four of my mysteries including:

The Hamlet Case
Durkheim is Dead
Postmortem for a Postmodernist

I forget the name of the fourth one.  They've translated something like a dozen
of my books.  Amazing.. But so far, nothing in French or Japanese.


Thursday, April 02, 2015


I've just reviewed my chapter on content analysis for the fourth edition of this book.
How I was able to write this book still mystifies me.  A number of  years ago I attended
a conference (maybe it was the International Communication Association) in Boston
and was having lunch with the communications editor for Sage publications when
she pulled a communications research book out of her briefcase.  "This book isn't
selling well," she said.  "Why don't you do one for us.  60,000 words.  Due in a year."

I looked over the book on the plane back to San Francisco and noticed a
number of things I would do differently.  Then I assembled all the books I had
on research methods and put them together on a shelf.  And I asked my
colleagues for their syllabi for the version of the course they taught.

Then I sat down and wrote the book--a book unlike any other I'd ever written,
except that I brought my style of writing to the book.  And so, unlike any
other research book I know of, I have comedy inserts in every chapter...
inserts which many students describe as "lame."

There was one topic in which I needed help.  I mentioned to a friend of
mine, a professor in Bulgaria, that I was having  trouble doing the chapter
on statistics and he said "My wife teaches statistics.  She'll do it for you."
And so my chapter on statistics was written by a Bulgarian statistician,
who did a wonderful job.  I added some material in the second half of the

Since this is the fourth chapter, I've been rewriting and revising this book
for a dozen years...I suspect this will be my last revision of the book--but
who knows.  I only have a few more chapters to review and then I'll send
it off to my publisher, Sage Publications, which has published something like
ten of my books over the years.''


Wednesday, April 01, 2015


The first of April is devoted to nonsense, comedy, jokes and laughter...
when we recognize the role that fools play (and foolishness plays) in
our lives and society.  We play tricks on one another, find ways to
inject an element on frivolity in our daily routines and relationships,
and often make fools of ourselves.

I'm waiting for American consumer culture to find ways to monetize April
Fool's the same way our consumer culture has monetized
our holidays and other kinds of days, such as mother's day, father's day,
and--especially (as of late)--Halloween.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Some drawings



I am now finishing up the revision of my book Media and Communication Research Methods.
This will be the fourth edition of the book, which means I've revised, added to, etc. four times.  To do a new edition, you need around 15% to 20% of new material, so over the course of my revisions, I've written close to the equivalent of a new book.

I've done five editions of Media Analysis Techniques and five editions of Ads, Fads and Consumer I've written the equivalent of a new book for both of those books.  I've also done
two editions of several other books.  So I've spent a lot of time rewriting my books.  As things
stand now, I don't have any new rewriting assignments...and hope I'm done with them.  At least
for a while.

Monday, March 30, 2015


I'm still not sure how to use this site, other than scribbling some ideas and attaching
images.  But maybe that's what
blogging is all about?

I'm too lazy to bother attaching URLs or whatever to my blogs so they show up
on Facebook.  I'll just mention this blog every once in a while.  I'm not sure how
anyone finds this blog, even if I've told them it exists.  It does tell me how many
people have seen something I've posted....which is a step up from not knowing
if anyone has seen something I post on Facebook.  But the numbers are not anything
to get excited about.  There's something to be said about writing a post and not
knowing whether anyone will read it...a Quixotic exercise????

Below:  SuperNoble meets SuperBerger.  Created 30 or 40 years ago.


I've been keeping journals since 1955 and have now written 94 journals and am almost
finished with journal number 95: Messages.  I give all my journals names.  I called this
journal Messages because I was working on a book about communication with Messages:
An Introduction to Communication as the title.

I'm going to Iran in a month to give nine lectures and hope to get my students to try their
hands at keeping a apply what they learn in the lectures to Iranian pop culture,
media, material culture, etc.

Testing.  Will this item go to my Facebook pagea?

I didn't post anything on the blog because I had problems using it
and so I moved to Facebook where I have a blog "Arthur Asa Berger
and the Literary Life."  But now I'm learning how to use Blogger
and will spend some time with it....linking it to my Facebook
blog if I can figure out how to do this.

I also want to find out how to attach articles to the blog
without reprinting the whole article--if that is possible.
Below is the first edition of my Media Analysis Techniques,
first published thirty years ago for $7.95.  Now, the fifth
edition...which is much larger, costs around $60.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Did a post and lost it.  Let me try again.  Mary 29, 2015.

Drawing of myself as "Decoder Man"

Here is a drawing I made of myself as "Decoder Man."  The term suggests that one of the things I like to do is "decode" aspects of media, pop culture and everyday life that interest me.  For example, I wrote a book, Bloom's Morning, that "decodes" the hidden significance of items like electric toothbrushes, gel toothpaste, pajamas, etc.

I am just learning how to use the new Blogger so it will take a bit of time until I am comfortable with it.

I don't think I wrote anything on this blog since 2013...maybe even before that.  I want to
learn how to transfer articles to the blog next....but not long articles that will take up twenty
pages or so....maybe via an icon that can be used to download the article.

So I'm experimenting now.

Arthur Asa Berger                        

Travelers as Collectors, Collectors as Travelers

                        Recently I read a message on Facebook from someone who said he has now been to ninety countries and was hoping to reach one hundred countries in the near future.  I can also recall conversations I’ve had on my travel with travelers who told me they had been to six continents and were going to visit a seventh soon.  Their goal was to have been to all seven continents.
                        These conversations made me think about travel in a new way.   We know that there are many reasons why people travel—such as to have new experiences, to see interesting and beautiful places, and to get away from their routines and the crush of everyday life. So tourism marketers have designed their advertising campaigns to resonate with these aspects of travel.  But what about trying to appeal to the collector mentality in people?  That seems to me to be a neglected area.
                        What, we may ask, are the components of what we might call the collector personality?  What motivates people to become collectors of whatever they collect:  Tibetan scrolls, seashells, erasers, comic books, sexual partners, classic automobiles, or cities, beautiful places, or countries that they have visited. 
                        There more certainly is an element of pleasure in obtaining examples of whatever collectors are collecting.  One of my grandsons is a collector and he told me, recently, of how much pleasure he got from a box of seashells we sent him.  He went over every shell carefully and sent us an email saying he has almost all the shells he’s looking for.
                        One thing collectors want is completeness…to have as many, if not all, of good if not the best specimens of whatever it is they are collecting.  Some people derive pleasure from collecting, realizing they can never will get all of whatever it is they collect.  Collecting for them is a quest that, in curious ways, gives some purpose to their lives.  Some people collect things because they think they can eventually make money from their collections.  Children who collected comic books when they were young and during their adolescence may have collections worth a great deal of money. 
                        That’s because collectors are willing to spend money for things they want.
So some collectors, we may say, make money from other collectors.  Collecting may be a way of fighting off the strictures of the superego in the service of id functions—a desire for things, or in the case of travelers, experiences.  People who are collectors want to have many things, but by being, a collector disguises their lust for acquisitions by papering it over with a coating of fastidiousness and expertise.  If you collect thimbles (which, I discovered, are a very popular collector’s item) it won’t cost you very much, but if you collect classic automobiles, it can be very expensive.  Some people incur great debts to obtain items they feel they need to complete their collections.  Sometimes marriages fail because of the zeal of a collector.  Some collectors, as the result of the number of divorces in many countries, collect new wives and husbands, one after the other.
                        Freudians would suggest that the collector mentality stems from infancy when, at certain times, infants desire to hold onto their feces.   It then manifests itself in the momentous battle in western countries between children and their parents known as toilet training. Most children eventually overcome this fixation, but this residue from infancy, what Freud called the “anal retentive” stage, lodged in the unconscious, may be at work on collectors of all ages who never resolved their anal-retentive desires.  For some, in curios ways, their sense of loss of what went into the toilet and was flushed away, leads them to try to make up for their losses as infants and children.  Freud, himself, it turns out, was a collector of oriental rugs.
                        If many travelers are motivated, unconsciously of course, by the collector mentality, advertisers should find ways to appeal to this dimension of their personalities.  They must find some way, subtly, of touching this “I’m a collector” responsive chord in travelers.  The product advertisers are selling is not only places but places that enhance the feelings of a collector that this place is a valuable “part” of the collection—going to Antarctica or Tibet or Bali or wherever--is important and will enhance the collector’s desire for completeness.   
                        What travel marketers have missed, I would suggest, is recognizing what many traveler collectors feel they are missing—the right place to complete the collection of important places to visit, that will enhance their feeling of wellbeing and their status as a collector of the best places.  Matthew Arnold talked about knowing “the best that has been thought and said.”  We can add to this, the best places to have visited.
                        For some traveler collectors, numbers count.  And if a traveler collector has been to one hundred countries, that is quite an accomplishment.   For other traveler collectors, going to the right places is crucial, so one’s collection of places visited is as important as the number of places visited.  In the course of my travels, I had occasion to lecture on some cruise ships where I met people who told me, proudly, that they have been on seventy cruises.  I could describe this as an example travel collector connoisseurship, with the emphasis here on ships.
                        Mary Douglas, an English social anthropologist, developed a theory she described as grid-group theory.  It argues that everyone in modern societies belongs to groups with either few or many rules, which she called grid, and weak or strong boundaries, which she called group.  So we can have strong boundaries and many rules, strong boundaries and few rules, weak boundaries and many rules, or weak boundaries and few rules.  This leads, then, to four social groups or lifestyles in all societies, which we can describe as elitists, individualists, egalitarians and fatalists. 
                                                                        Group Boundaries
                                                            Weak                           Strong
Rules                           Many               Fatalists                      Elitists
                                    Few                 Individualists              Egalitarians
                                                            Four Lifestyles

                        Everyone, Douglas argues, belongs to one of these four groups, even though they may not recognize the fact.   Her point is that it is membership in these lifestyles that shapes our behavior.  In her article “In Defence of Shopping” in Pasic Falk and Colin Campbell’s The Shopping Experience (London: Sage) she writes (1999:17):
            We have to make a radical shift from thinking about consumption as a manifestation of individual choice. Culture itself is the result of myriads of individual choices, not primarily between commodities but between kinds of relationships.  The basic choice that a rational individual has to make is the choice of what kind of society to live in.  According to that choice, the rest follows.  Artefacts are selected to demonstrate the choice.  Food is eaten, clothes are worn, cinema, books, music, holidays, all the rest are choices that conform with the initial choice for a form of society. 
(My italics)
What is crucial, she argues, is the lifestyle with which we identify, even though we are not conscious of being a member of a given lifestyle.
                        Her theory is important, for our purposes, because it helps us understand why people collect certain things.  Collecting, if Douglas is correct, is also not a manifestation of individual choice.   People who are elitists collect different things from people who are egalitarians.  And elitist travelers, out to collect experiences of the right places, tend to visit places where they hope they won’t encounter egalitarians, individualists, and fatalists, who are collecting different kinds of places and experiences that are congruent with their values and beliefs.  And income.  All four groups are in conflict with one another but need one another to survive.
                        All collectors, if the Freudians are correct, are ultimately motivated by their childhood experiences and the psychic trauma of their infancies, when so much of their precious poop was dumped into the toilet.  They spend their lives as collectors making up for their tragic losses and, when they are travelers, searching for reparational experiences.  The child is not only the father of the man, but also of the traveler.


            Arthur Asa Berger is Professor Emeritus of Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts at  San Francisco State University.  He has published more than one hundred and thirty articles and more than seventy books on media, popular culture, humor and tourism.