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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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
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