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Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It Hardcover – February 24, 2005

42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a deceptively colloquial, intellectually dense style, de Zengotita posits that since the 1960s, Americans have belonged to a culture of reflexivity, and the media in all their forms have put us there. We're bombarded from childhood with so many images putting "us"—the individual person—at the center of the universe that we cannot help thinking that this is where we belong. We live in a Times Square world, says the Harper's contributing editor, and thus we become the ultimate Descartesians: media think only of us, therefore we think only of ourselves. The result of this self-centeredness is that we become increasingly numbed by the bombardment of images and, in a variation on the "if a tree falls in the woods" query, we can no longer imagine our premediated lives. Media imagery has given us an omniscient perspective—we can be on the grassy knoll, by the Twin Towers, on the beach as the tsunami hits—while never having to incur the horrors of being there. "Mediation" inevitably closes us off to the unmediated world, home of those victims of the tsunami whose lives are hideously hard and where no media put them front and center. This provocative, extreme and compelling work is a must-read for philosophers of every stripe. (Mar. 2)
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From Booklist

De Zengotita's style is both reflective and sardonic as he delves into the ways the media has shaped our individual reactions to modern culture and events. Influenced by the media-inspired "culture of performance," we now live our lives as if we are performers practicing method acting, he maintains. We go through the motions of expected reactions to everything from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Princess Diana's death to documentaries of the Kennedy assassination and the civil rights movement. The Internet, satellite television, and a host of technological products and services now give us the impression of participating in current and historical events to such an extent that we can barely distinguish the varying levels of what de Zengotita categorizes as ranging from the real-real to the unreal-real. Analyzing car commercials, cell-phone usage, the social art of teenagers, and other aspects of modern culture, with keen detail and wit, de Zengotita offers an amazing look at how media affects our culture, our choices, and our responses to our media-filtered lives. Completely absorbing, amusing and insightful. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (March 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582343578
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582343570
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 87 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Mediated (at one time titled The Flattered Self), Zengotita shows how a media-saturated culture has created a new breed of narcissists-namely you and me. We are, Zengotita argues, so self-absorbed, so obsessed with our own flattery, so hell-bent on the creation of our own perverse sense of celebrity that we have lost the true measure of greatness. For example, he argues that we can no longer aspire to great heroism because truly heroic figures are no longer relevant in our media world. Heroism, which requires devotion, sacrifice, imagination, and mythos, has been replaced with counterfeit celebrity that makes "heroism" appealing only when it's a consumer product. Literalism, self-aggrandizement, being pandered to by an onslaught of advertisers in every media form, and the resulting delusion that we are always the center of the universe makes us into pseudo celebrities so that we have no room in our consciousness for the real heroes of the world. He makes a great case for the fact that we have become, thanks to the media, more like full-time actors than real humans. All of us, he says, have learned from television "method acting," so that a media person could stick a microphone in front of any Average Joe and that Average Joe would be able to give a polished interview. We're all competing to be the star in a world of wannabe celebrities.

He does a good job of showing how television gives us a God's-eye view of everything so that we have a delusion of omniscience and this false power fuels our delusions of grandeur. Additionally, this God's-eye view spoils us so that we can't live in stillness and see life in the here and now but only media's cheap, hyped representations of life.
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In recent years, Tom de Zengotita has emerged has one of the most ambitious of the Harper's Magazine essayists. Fans of those essays won't be disappointed here. Mediated combines the themes of his Harper's work into a seamless whole. The result is an engaging, funny, and deeply serious meditation on the role of mediation in our frantic postmodern lives.

De Zengotita is an anthropologist by training, but a cultural critic/philosopher by trade-and a damn good one who covers his ground with authority. As a teacher at the Dalton School, he enjoys deep exposure to the trends of teenagers, and as a professor at NYU's Graduate School of Arts & Science, he has his finger on the more absurd developments in the highbrow stuff, too. Both modes of being are beautifully fused in this book, enabling him to tackle his subject from both directions.

The gist of his argument is this: The ultimate (and often intentionally secret) goal of modernity is to get God out of the equation so man can finally become the author of his own being. The terror of arbitrariness-the accident of your race and gender-and the universal pain of anonymity, are cured, superficially, by the freedom to make choices. Mediation steps in to give you "options"-to give you the freedom to choose this or that and pave the way to selfhood. Everything, including the ground and the sky, can be thought of, presented, packaged, and (sometimes) sold in ways that are flattering to You and only You. Forget heroes and idols. You are the center of it all. And celebrities? They need You to buy into their brand, too.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Buck Turgidson on April 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Tired of your newsweekly's glitzy "media" column? Or establishment outlets like CNN Reliable Sources? This book is some non-corporate, free thinking... substance! (at last) Written from a genuinely philosophical bent, informed by history and the social sciences, this is not the kind of analysis you find in the MSM.

But the beauty part is it's all that AND a breeze to read. And covers not just the usual political-media topics, but how media pervades how we live our lives in all the day-to-day banality.

So, great beach reading AND you'll impress your summer dinner guests afterwards with your insights from this book...
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. White on April 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
De Zengotita is a brilliant and elegant writer who is able to put clear words to vast and complex problems you've thought about and struggled with, but were unable to ever properly articulate--problems regarding where our relationship to the ever-expanding media might be leading us. Combining erudite philosophical insight, humanistic anthropological concerns, and highly readable language, he takes the hyper-self-conscious world of reality shows and 24 hour news in which we live, and questions the effects it is having on the way we think about ourselves, and the way we see what's around us.  The examples he uses are absorbing, hilarious, and scarily dead on.  This is the kind of book that changes you, and sends you back to the world with new weapons of perception...
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
Contrary to the last reviewer's posting, this book was not difficult to follow. In fact, De Zengotita's voice is so fresh and clear compared to most academics who have tackled similar topics. And if one thinks his thoughts are "fragmented" - this has more to do with the nature of the topic than anything else. And as for extracting a single sentence quote to make a categorical claim about the overall value or style of a book - well that's just careless use of rhetoric to make a point that most likely doesn't hold.

This book is very well written; it expresses in depth thoughts clearly and with simple yet effective language. However, it is no wonder that there would be resistance from readers - after all, the Modernists convinced us that analytical rigor and stylistic performance were in some sense separable. The old-schoolers claimed that when analyzing world and culture that one must do so with detachment and "objectivity." This book shows that such divisions between "analysis" and "performance" (and that such concepts as "objectivity") no longer hold (or mean the same thing) in a mediated culture. If readers are demanding that De Zengotita's writing be more detached, more logical and analytical and less performance-oriented and less concerned with involved personal experience then they missed the point.

The other thing I want to say about this book is that - yes, it is about the media and its effects - but it is also about something more fundamental. This book is the most clear expression (or demonstration) of what it means to say we live in "the postmodern era." There has been a lot of books written on what "postmodernism" means, and most of them are lofty academic expositions that speak to only a select few. This book speaks to everyone and says some very thoughtful things about what it means to live in a late-capitalist, media-driven postmodern society. If you're interested in that kind of thing, this is a 5 star account that won't disappoint.
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