Accepted Paper:

Domesticating the oil sands: A semiotic analysis of visual food analogies  
Adam Thomlison (Carleton University)

Paper short abstract:

Food analogies have become a theme in the promotional material of companies extracting oil from Canada's oil sands, with the products being compared to yogurt, cupcakes, and peanut butter. The aim seems to be to domesticate these products in the public eye as the extraction debate continues.

Paper long abstract:

Comparisons to food have become a theme in the promotional material of companies working in Canada's oil sands, with the products being compared to yogurt, cupcakes, coffee, and peanut butter. The desired effect seems to be to domesticate the products in the eyes of a public still weighing the benefits of oil-sands development. However, opponents argue the comparisons are a deliberate miscommunication of the ecological reality. Domestication theory looks at the practices involved in incorporating innovations into users' lives; the term refers to outside innovations being brought in to the domestic sphere, and food is a strong symbol of domestic comfort. This study undertakes a visual social-semiotic analysis of four ads by companies involved in oil-sands extraction to examine their use of food analogies in the debate over the resource's development, and to situate that use in the field of visual environmental communication. It looks specifically at instances where there is a visual representation of food in place of, or in tandem with, oil sands.

Panel P32
Visualizing Climate - Changing Futures?